In order to meet our energy requirements, whether from fossil fuels or other sources, we rely on technology to create workable plant, in particular power stations. Whilst some energy sources can be used more directly e.g. geothermal energy for domestic heating in Iceland or the use of gas in the UK, in practice energy production concerns the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. It is the technology which determines the efficiency with which we extract the energy from the fuel or energy source, and connect this to existing infrastructure e.g. the national grid. It is also the technology which determines the quantity and nature of other outputs in particular pollutants and waste. Recently much focus has been on how to reduce these, render them less harmful or ideally convert them to something useful.
It is important to distinguish between fossil and non-fossil carbon based fuels. Currently fossil fuels dominate but e.g. bio-ethanol from wheat, methane from silage or even rapidly grown willow could fuel energy production and would not add to the carbon emissions problem.
In this section we initially consider the dominant energy production from carbon based fuels before then considering alternatives. However technology also offers new opportunities through innovation and further development which will lead to novel solutions to energy problems including those which will enable hitherto inefficient or uneconomic approaches to be entertained.
Fuel input for UK electricity generation: 1990 and 2005
Possible industrial uses of non-food crops
Association of electricity producers
Germany plans C02-free power plant
Impact of Soot on Global Warming
Impact of Soot on Global Warming (2)
Particles Change How Much Carbon Plants Absorb