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History of the Energy System

In the Beginning: Pre-Industrialization

The muscle power of human beings and animals was the first application of energy
by humans and the food chain was the energy system in use. Humans have long
"designed" energy systems with the goal of producing the most work possible with
the least amount of human effort to generate the energy.
Pre-Industrial society depended primarily on muscle power and biomass for their
energy needs. Biomass consisted primarily of wood or peat and its energy delivery
had a low efficiency. Amory Lovins, an expert on energy, states, "Most of the energy
generated by wood or peat went up in the chimneys rather than into the room or
cooking pot of pre-industrial societies."
Animal power in the form of horse mills, wind power in the form of windmills, and
water power with the use of a water wheel were major energy sources harnessed
until the 19th century; especially for "industrial uses." Wood and charcoal were the
main fuels for cooking, heating, and other domestic uses, but coal and oil were
available as well. "In the Middle East crude oils have been known for millennia from
natural seepage and pools, but they were used only rarely as fuels, and more
frequently as protective coatings."1 Coal has its origin in "the lithification of peats
produced by accumulations of dead plant matter in wetlands. Difference in original
vegetation and, more importantly, in magnitudes of durations of transforming
temperatures and pressures, have produced a large variety of coals."2 As early as
the 13th century, coal pits were mined and coal energy was used specifically for the
forcing and smelting of metals. In the 1600's, England experienced an energy crisis
due to a shortage of wood and began using coal as a substitute fuel source for
domestic purposes. Even in the 1700's, wood was the major fuel source in colonial
The Industrial Revolution
The quest for more powerful energy sources was propelled by the inventions and
discoveries of the Industrial Revolution. As sophisticated mechanical inventions
were made, a large reliable and seemingly inexhaustible source of energy became
necessary for industrial uses, and transportation. The need for large quantities of
accessible, dependable, and transportable energy encouraged the exploration of
energy sources. The inventions of the Industrial Revolution provided the equipment
to further mine or drill the already visible deposits of coal and oil.
Steam power was developed in the 1600's in conjunction with coal mining to help
pump water out of the mines. It had been known since ancient times that heat could
be used to produce steam, which could then do mechanical work. However, it was
only in the late eighteenth century that commercially successful steam engines
were invented. The first commercially successful steam engine was invented by

Thomas Savery (1650-1715), an English military engineer. In 1712, this engine was
refined by Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729), another Englishman. The Newcomen
engine was widely used in Britain and Europe throughout the eighteenth century,
but had very low energy efficiency.
A greatly improved steam engine was designed and built in 1763 by James Watt
who was asked to repair a Newcomen engine. Watt built and then sold or rented his
engines to mining companies, charging them for the "power" in the rate of work the
engine produced. Today, the unit for power is called a Watt.
The sun was also studied as an energy source in the 18th century. In 1767, the first
solar thermal collector was developed by the Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure.
Solar thermal power was used in the American west as an energy source for cooking
until oil and natural gas became a more reliable way to generate energy. For simple
cooking solar energy was absorbed by black cast iron pots. Solar thermal collectors
were also used in the form of hot boxes to cook food.
In 1839, Alexandre Becquerel discovered that an electric current could be generated
when certain elements were exposed to light. The scientific explanation of this
phenomenon by Albert Einstein, called photoelectricity (light-induced electricity),
came much later in 1905. Photoelectricity is the basis of the photovoltaic cells, now
used to convert light into electricity. Despite the century and a half since it
discovery, photovoltaic means of generating electricity have not been developed
with enough vigor for it to become a major source of electricity. This is because the
material technology for photovoltaic panels developed slowly. As coal and other
fossil fuels were easier to use, and available in plenty, not much effort has gone into
photovoltaic research.
Until the early 1800's our understanding of the science of energy was not well
developed. The theory at that time was the caloric theory, which said that heat is a
substance called "caloric" that flowed from hotter to colder bodies. In the 1840's the
English physicist James Prescott Joule did a long series of experiments that showed
that heat is a form of energy. Joule found the relationship between a unit of
mechanical energy and a unit of heat. This helped Joule finalize what chemists and
natural philosophers had come to believe--that the total energy in the universe is
constant, although energy is continuously changing forms.
The study and invention of the heat engine and steam power established and
confirmed the Laws of Thermodynamics. From 1840-1880, Joule, Lord Kelvin, and
James Clark Maxwell in England; Sadi Carnot and Rudolf Clausius in France; and
Ludwig Boltzmann in Austria formulated a theory of heat engines, laying the
foundations of Thermodynamics, literally the science of "motion from heat."
(Thermo=heat and dynamics=motion).
In 1820, the advances in mechanical and materials engineering made the railroad
the most efficient and fastest means of transportation. Coal and wood were used as

the primary fuel source for the steam engine. The locomotive also changed society's
perception of travel and transportation.
Wind energy was developed on a large scale in the United States as an energy
source for farms and railroad stations, using tall windmills to pump water from
underground wells. There were specific design developments that made these
windmills more efficient, although they still generated relatively little power. The
height of these windmills helped to ensure they caught the wind and a tailfin
generally kept the fan facing the wind.
Another result of the Industrial Revolution was an energy distribution infrastructure
built into cities that promoted domestic convenience. As early as 1816, natural gas
was piped into cities for domestic uses such as cooking, home illumination, and
street lighting. The steam engine was used to pump water into homes and sewage
away from homes. The city was undergirded with networks that usually began with
water pipes and gas lines and gradually expanded to include sewers, electrical
conduits, and telephone lines.3
In 1859, when petroleum was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, an apparently
plentiful energy source began to replace coal. Oil was distilled into kerosene
(referred to as coal oil) and used as a lamp oil. It replaced dwindling supplies of
whale oil used for lamps. There were many reasons oil became a more desirable
fuel source than coal: it was easy to obtain and transport; it emitted less particulate
pollution than coal; it replaced scarce whale oil as a fuel for lamps; and coal had
become an unreliable fuel source because of the labor issues surrounding the
mining of coal. Miners were striking for safer work environments and more money,
which affected the amount of coal available to the consumer.
But the most significant use of crude oil was as the liquid fuel for the internal
combustion engine, designed in 1861 by Nikolaus August Otto. The internal
combustion engine became one of the most influential inventions of the Industrial
Revolution. Although this engine is low in efficiency, it could produce enough work
to move a large metal vehicle far distances. The fuel of the internal combustion
engine was also easier to use than, for example, shoveling coal into a furnace to
power a locomotive. This was the beginning of the use of liquid fuel to advance
In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb -- a major step in the
human use of storable energy leading eventually to large-scale electrification.
Electricity is similar to a liquid fuel in that it can be transported easily (although not
efficiently) from one place to another. One of Edison's goals was to make electricity
affordable for all homes. Edison began with the distribution of electricity through a
direct current (DC). This meant that electrons would flow one way through a wire to
bring electricity to a home; however, a good portion of the energy was lost as the
electrons moved through the wire. This loss of energy using direct current to move

electricity meant that power plants had to be built close to the homes the plant
serviced and was eventually considered impractical.
Nikola Tesla, an inventor employed by Edison, discovered that electrons would
alternate or travel back and forth on a wire and travel longer distances with less
energy loss. This was called alternating current (AC) and had an advantage because
AC could be more easily generated. Edison had so much money invested in his DC
power plants that he discredited Tesla's alternate current as dangerous -- thus
beginning a "war of the currents." Tesla eventually joined forces with George
Westinghouse and began developing power plants using alternating current (AC).
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the steam turbine, using coal as a fuel, was
developed as a cheap power source that generated electricity. In 1882, the first
functional steam turbine was designed by Charles Parsons, an English engineer. He
used the high pressure of steam to hit the blades of a rotor. The principle of the
turbine was a major step toward today's production of electricity.
In 1893, Westinghouse demonstrated a "universal system" of generation and
distribution at a Chicago exposition. The universal system meant that power or
energy could be used in a variety of ways at many different voltages. Westinghouse,
using Tesla's invention of the transformer and the electric motor, as well as steam
turbines, transformed Niagara Falls into one of the first hydroelectric plants in the
In 1910, Henry Ford opened the 60-acre Highland Park automotive plant with a
moving assembly line. This was the beginning of an eventually enormous use for
fossil fuels. Fossil fuels were used not only to propel the automobiles that were
made at the plant, but also to generate electric power for the automotive plant.
Energy technologies developed rapidly during the 20th century. Although the
current version for solar thermal collectors was designed in 1908, they were not
developed well enough for mass distribution. In the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, there
was large-scale construction and development of hydroelectric plants/dams to
support increasing population in the Southwest.
In 1938, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman demonstrated nuclear fission and within
four years (1942), Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was chosen as the site for the first
functional nuclear reactor plant, and for the preparation of uranium and plutonium
used to the create the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. The first nuclear chain reactor
was demonstrated at the University of Chicago in December 1942. In July 1945, the
testing of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico, demonstrated the
technology used to release nuclear energy on a large scale. In 1957, the first
commercial nuclear power plant opened in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.
The first large scale use of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy in conjunction with
satellite technology developed in the 1950's. The United States Vanguard I was the

first PV-powered satellite.

By the early part of the 20th century, crude oil and its products had become an
indispensable part of the industrial economy. James Young had patented a process
in England in 1850 to distill oil from coal and shale. Oil refining is not just about
gasoline. The distilled chemicals from crude oil have many purposes -- for example,
petroleum is used for plastics manufacturing. Young's process of fractal distillation
forms the basis of the world's oil refining industry.
Figure 4 shows the

oil reserves that we know for sure as of 1987.

Figure 9: Proven Oil Reserves as of 1987 (billions of barrels)
Source: Energy, John Helm, ed.. National Academy Press: p. 268. (awaiting
While a large amount of oil occurs in many parts of the world, the largest stores are
located in the regions governed by the Arab countries. The Oil and Petroleum
Economic Cartel (OPEC) is the economic coalition of these countries that control the
flow of that oil. In the 1970's, OPEC placed an embargo on their oil sales. This
"energy crisis" brought energy scarcity to the consciousness of all nations -- and
especially the U.S., with its higher dependence on imported oil. This crisis began to
generate interest in the exploration of renewable energy sources for large-scale
generation of electricity and other energy needs.
Energy engineering or Energy systems is a broad field of engineering dealing with
energy efficiency, energy services, facility management, plant engineering,
environmental compliance and alternative energy technologies. Energy engineering

is one of the more recent engineering disciplines to emerge. Energy engineering

combines knowledge from the fields of physics, math, and chemistry with economic
and environmental engineering practices. Energy engineers apply their skills to
increase efficiency and further develop renewable sources of energy. The main job
of energy engineers is to find the most efficient and sustainable ways to operate
buildings and manufacturing processes. Energy engineers audit the use of energy in
those processes and suggest ways to improve the systems. This means suggesting
advanced lighting, better insulation, more efficient heating and cooling properties of
buildings.[1] Although an energy engineer is concerned about obtaining and using
energy in the most environmentally friendly ways, their field is not limited to strictly
renewable energy like hydro, solar, biomass, or geothermal. Energy engineers are
also employed by the fields of oil and natural gas extraction.[1][2]
Energy minimization is the purpose of this growing discipline. Often applied to
building design, heavy consideration is given to HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, to both
reduce energy loads and increase efficiency of current systems. Energy engineering
is increasingly seen as a major step forward in meeting carbon reduction targets.
Since buildings and houses consume over 40% of the United States energy, the
services an energy engineer performs are in demand.[3]
Human beings have been transferring energy from one form to another since their
use of fire. The efficiency of the transfer of energy is a new field. The oil crisis of
1973 and energy crisis of 1979 brought to light the need to get more work out of
less energy. The United States government passed several laws in the seventies to
promote increased energy efficiency, such as United States public law 94-413, the
Federal Clean Car Incentive Program.[4]
Power engineering
Considered a subdivision of energy engineering, power engineering applies math
and physics to the movement and transfer of energy to work in a system.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design[edit]
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a program created by the
United States Green Building Council (USGBC) in March 2000. LEED is a program
that encourages green building and promotes sustainability in the construction of
buildings and the efficiency of the utilities in the buildings.
In 2012 the United States Green Building Council asked the independent firm Booz
Allen Hamilton to conduct a study on the effectiveness of LEED program. "This study
confirmed that green buildings generate substantial energy savings. From 2000
2008, green construction and renovation generated $1.3 billion in energy savings.

Of that $1.3 billion, LEED-certified buildings accounted for $281 million." The study
also found the summation of all green construction supported 2.4 million jobs.[5]
Energy efficiency
Energy efficiency is seen two ways. The first view is that more work is done from the
same amount of energy used. The other perception is that the same amount of work
is accomplished with less energy used in the system.[6] Some ways to get more
work out of less energy is to "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" the materials used in
daily life. The advancement of technology has led to other uses of waste.
Technology such as waste-to-energy facilities which convert solid wastes through
the process of gasification or pyrolysis to liquid fuels to be burned. The
Environmental Protection Agency stated that the United States produced 250 million
tons of municipal waste in 2010. Of that 250 million tons roughly 54% gets thrown
in land fills, 33% is recycled, and 13% goes to energy recovery plants.[7] In
European countries who pay more for fuel, such as Denmark where the price for a
gallon of gas neared $10 in 2010, have more fully developed waste-to energy
facilities.[8] In 2010 Denmark sent 7% of waste to landfills, 69% was recycled, and
24% was sent to waste-to-energy facilities. There are several other developed
Western European countries that also have taken energy engineering into
consideration.[7] Germany's "Energiewende", a policy which set the goal by 2050 to
meet 80% of electrical needs from renewable energy sources.[9]
Man and energy
The importance of energy
Energy growth is directly linked to well-being and prosperity across the globe.
Meeting the growing demand for energy in a safe and environmentally responsible
manner is a key challenge.
Modern energy enriches life. There are seven billion people on earth who use
energy each day to make their lives richer, more productive, safer and healthier. It
is perhaps the biggest driver of energy demand: the human desire to sustain and
improve the well-being of ourselves, our families and our communities. Through
2040, population and economic growth will drive demand higher, but the world will
use energy more efficiently and shift toward lower-carbon fuels.
Here are some other findings to consider:
In developing countries, energy demand will grow close to 60 percent as five-sixths
of the worlds population strives to improve their living standards. In developed
economies, energy demand will remain essentially flat.
Growing electricity demand will remain the biggest driver of energy needs, with
electricity generation accounting for 40 percent of global energy use by 2040.

Natural gas which emits up to 60 percent less CO2 emissions than coal when used
for electricity generation will be the fastest-growing major fuel. Unconventional
gas from shale and other rock formations has helped unlock up to 250 years of
global gas supply at current demand levels.
Gains in efficiency across economies worldwide through energy-saving practices
and technologies will significantly reduce demand growth and
curb emissions.
Keeping pace with energy demand growth will require unprecedented levels of
investment and
the pursuit of all economic energy sources.
In 2040, global energy demand will be about 30 percent higher compared to 2010
as economic output more than doubles and prosperity expands across a world
whose population will grow to nearly nine billion people.
Global Energy Demand by Fuel Type

These key findings first appeared in ExxonMobils 2012 The Outlook for Energy: A
View to 2040. ExxonMobil and its affiliates use the Outlook to guide their investment

decisions and to encourage a broader understanding of the energy issues that affect
all of us.
Mismatch in supply and demand of energy

What is the Energy Crisis?

The energy crisis is the concern that the worlds demands on the limited natural
resources that are used to power industrial society are diminishing as the demand
rises. These natural resources are in limited supply. While they do occur naturally, it
can take hundreds of thousands of years to replenish the stores. Governments and
concerned individuals are working to make the use of renewable resources a
priority, and to lessen the irresponsible use of natural supplies through increased
The energy crisis is a broad and complex topic. Most people dont feel connected to
its reality unless the price of gas at the pump goes up or there are lines at the gas
station. The energy crisis is something that is ongoing and getting worse, despite
many efforts. The reason for this is that there is not a broad understanding of the
complex causes and solutions for the energy crisis that will allow for an effort to

happen that will resolve it.

An energy crisis is any great bottleneck (or price rise) in the supply of
energy resources to an economy. In popular literature though, it often
refers to one of the energy sources used at a certain time and place,
particularly those that supply national electricity grids or serve as fuel for
How Real is the Energy Crisis?
During election years there is a renewed debate on how real the energy crisis is in
the world. One side will always say it is based on faulty science and politics; the
other will say that the other side is basing their findings on junk science and
political interests. The best way to sum up the reality of the energy crisis is that you
cannot have growing demands on limited resources without eventually running out
of the resource. That is just common sense. What is really at play in the discussion
about how real the energy crisis is concerns the perception of responsibility for the
future. There is no real energy crisis if you are not concerned about life after your
time on Earth is gone. There is a very real energy crisis if you care about the future
that the next generations will inherit.
Causes of the Energy Crisis
It would be easy to point a finger at one practice or industry and lay the blame for
the entire energy crisis at their door, but that would be a very naive and unrealistic
interpretation of the cause of the crisis.
1. Overconsumption: The energy crisis is a result of many different strains on our
natural resources, not just one. There is a strain on fossil fuels such as oil, gas and
coal due to overconsumption which then in turn can put a strain on our water and
oxygen resources by causing pollution.
2. Overpopulation: Another cause of the crisis has been the steady increase in the
worlds population and its demands for fuel and products. No matter what type of
food or products you choose to use from fair trade and organic to those made
from petroleum products in a sweatshop not one of them is made or transported
without a significant drain on our energy resources.
3. Poor Infrastructure: Aging infrastructure of power generating equipment is yet
another reason for energy shortage. Most of the energy producing firms keep on
using outdated equipment that restricts the production of energy. It is the
responsibility of utilities to keep on upgrading the infrastructure and set a high
standard of performance.
4. Unexplored Renewable Energy Options: Renewable energy still remains unused is
most of the countries. Most of the energy comes from non-renewable sources like
coal. It still remains the top choice to produce energy. Unless we give renewable
energy a serious thought, the problem of energy crisis cannot be solved. Renewable
energy sources can reduce our dependance on fossil fuels and also helps to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Delay in Commissioning of Power Plants: In few countries, there is a significant

delay in commissioning of new power plants that can fill the gap between demand
and supply of energy. The result is that old plants come under huge stress to meet
the daily demand for power. When supply doesnt matches demand, it results in
load shedding and breakdown.
6. Wastage of Energy: In most parts of the world, people do not realize the
importance of conserving energy. It is only limited to books, internet, newspaper
ads, lip service and seminars. Unless we give it a serious thought, things are not
going to change anytime sooner. Simple things like switching off fans and lights
when not in use, using maximum daylight, walking instead of driving for short
distances, using CFL instead of traditional bulbs, proper insulation for leakage of
energy can go a long way in saving energy. Read here about 151 ways of saving
7. Poor Distribution System: Frequent tripping and breakdown are result of a poor
distribution system.
8. Major Accidents and Natural Calamities: Major accidents like pipeline burst and
natural calamities like eruption of volcanoes, floods, earthquakes can also cause
interruptions to energy supplies. The huge gap between supply and demand of
energy can raise the price of essential items which can give rise to inflation.
9. Wars and Attacks: Wars between countries can also hamper supply of energy
specially if it happens in Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait,
UAE or Qatar. Thats what happened during 1990 Gulf war when price of oil reached
its peak causing global shortages and created major problem for energy consumers.
10. Miscellaneous Factors: Tax hikes, strikes, military coup, political events, severe
hot summers or cold winters can cause sudden increase in demand of energy and
can choke supply. A strike by unions in an oil producing firm can definitely cause an
energy crisis.

Possible Solutions of the Energy Crisis

Many of the possible solutions are already in place today, but they have not been
widely adopted.
1. Move Towards Renewable Resources: The best possible solution is to reduce the
worlds dependence on non-renewable resources and to improve overall
conservation efforts. Much of the industrial age was created using fossil fuels, but
there is also known technology that uses other types of renewable energies such
as steam, solar and wind. The major concern isnt so much that we will run out of
gas or oil, but that the use of coal is going to continue to pollute the atmosphere
and destroy other natural resources in the process of mining the coal that it has to
be replaced as an energy source. This isnt easy as many of the leading industries
use coal, not gas or oil, as their primary source of power for manufacturing.
2. Buy Energy Efficient products: Replace traditional bulbs with CFLs and LEDs.
They use less watts of electricity and last longer. If millions of people across the
globe use LEDs and CFLs for residential and commercial purposes, the demand for
energy can go down and an energy crisis can be averted.

3. Lighting Controls: There are a number of new technologies out there that make
lighting controls that much more interesting and they help to save a lot of energy
and cash in the long run. Preset lighting controls, slide lighting, touch dimmers,
integrated lighting controls are few of the lighting controls that can help to conserve
energy and reduce overall lighting costs.
4. Easier Grid Access: People who use different options to generate power must be
given permission to plug into the grid and getting credit for power you feed into it.
The hassles of getting credit of supplying surplus power back into the grid should be
removed. Apart from that, subsidy on solar panels should be given to encourage
more people to explore renewable options.
5. Energy Simulation: Energy simulation software can be used by big corporates and
corporations to redesign building unit and reduce running business energy cost.
Engineers, architects and designers could use this design to come with most energy
efficient building and reduce carbon footprint.
6. Perform Energy Audit: Energy audit is a process that helps you to identify the
areas where your home or office is losing energy and what steps you can take to
improve energy efficiency. Energy audit when done by a professional can help you
to reduce your carbon footprint, save energy and money and avoid energy crisis.
7. Common Stand on Climate Change: Both developed and developing countries
should adopt a common stand on climate change. They should focus on reducing
greenhouse gas emissions through an effective cross border mechanism. With
current population growth and over consumption of resources, the consequences of
global warming and climate change cannot be ruled out. Both developed and
developing countries must focus on emissions cuts to cut their emission levels to
half from current levels by 2050.

What is Being Done Today?

There are many global initiatives that are working towards resolving the energy
crisis. This has taken the form of increased regulation and restriction on carbon
emissions, the promotion of greener manufacturing and construction projects, the
funding of research into hybrid technologies and more sustainable technologies and
more. Locally, more communities are seeing beyond the recycle bin and recognizing
that how the community uses their local resources is important too. More
community gardens, parks and farmers markets are springing up not only as a
means of introducing more sustainable elements into peoples, but as an important
part of educating the public about the importance of resources.