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Energy - Global Patterns

The global patterns of energy supply and Demand

In the UK use energy in our lives on a daily basis, and energy is needed for a whole range of daily activities in HICs;
• Transport
• Industrial activities
• In our homes for lighting, heating etc.
• To communicate with one another
• For producing food
• In public utilities such as street lighting, hospitals and schools

The demand for energy is rising across the globe.
The availability of energy resources is unequal, and the consumption of energy varies hugely across the globe.  According to the International Energy Agency, the richest countries in the world of around 1 billion people consume 50% of the world’s energy, while the poorest 20% consume only 4%.  These patterns are clear on the energy consumption map. Indeed, it appears that as countries become more developed they consume more energy.  The availability of energy also has a big impact on the economy of a country.  Countries need to provide reliable accessible energy to businesses for those industries to function effectively.

The graph opposite shows that energy demand is going up, this is because energy consuming technologies are more readily available and many more countries are moving from Low Income Countries (LICs) and developing into Newly Emerging Economies (NEEs - such as China and India).  These countries require lots of energy in this process and have developed many industries that are energy intensive.  Couple this with existing high demand in High Income Countries and there is increasing pressure on our energy resources.

Energy consumption graph

The global distribution of energy consumption and supply
As can be seen on the map below  generally the wealthier High-Income Countries (HICs) consume the most energy.   Throughout North America, Western and Eastern Europe, some Arabic countries, developed and upcoming Asian economies and New Zealand and Australia we see high levels of consumption of energy.  Many Low-Income areas, such as sub Saharan Africa, and the poorer South Asian economies such as Myanmar have lower consumption of energy per capita (person).

Energy consumption map

In terms of supply, having the ability to provide energy depends heavily on geological and geographic factors.  Few countries actually have supplies or deposits of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for example.  Not all countries have the best climate conditions for solar or wind energy, Geothermal requires proximity to underground sources of heat (as found in Iceland) and tidal power is only available in countries with a coastline and sufficient tidal range (such as the UK).  Given that most of the world’s energy is produced from fossil fuels this means that much of the energy supply comes from those countries with abundant resources of those fuels.  The UK has some reserves of coal left, and some oil and gas in the North Sea.  These are small compared to reserves in places like the USA, Saudi Arabia and Russia (and other central Asian countries) for oil and Gas.  Australia still has large reserves of coal.

Fossil Fuel reserves

The energy gap, energy security and insecurity

Therefore, the world’s largest consumers of energy are therefore also the places with the greatest supply in general. These places mainly have ENERGY SECURITY, they can provide energy for their citizens at an affordable price.  Energy security can also be achieved in countries with smaller reserves, but often at higher prices (as in the UK) as some energy needs to be IMPORTED at higher costs.  They are also more vulnerable to rises in price or suppliers reducing supplies meaning that energy insecurity becomes an issue.
Many Low Income Countries (LICs) have low reserves and low ability to produce energy for their citizens.  This means that the have ENERGY INSECURITY.
Countries such as these have what is known as an ENERGY GAP.  This is the difference between the energy that countries can provide for their citizens (the supply) and how much energy is actually needed (the Demand)

Energy Gap = Energy available as supplyEnergy demand of citizens and industry

This gap is getting bigger in many countries, as supplies of fossil fuels slowly exhaust and countries look to replace those supplies with renewable energies or imports.

Where does our energy come from?
Much of our energy comes from fossil fuels (non-renewable fuels such as coal, oil and gas) use but an increasing amount is coming from more renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and Hydro Electric Power.  We have also seen the development of other fuel types such as biofuels (fuels derived from plants) and the use of nuclear fuels. Many countries look to have an energy mix – a range of different types of energy so that supplies can be ensured.  It would not, for example, be prudent to rely solely on wind turbines for energy, on calm windless days people would have to go without electricity. You can look at pages 14 and 15 for the UK’s energy mix.

Wind turbine

Wind turbines in the North Sea © Hans Hillewaert / , via Wikimedia Commons

Texas Oil pump


Texas Oil pump jack By Eric Kounce

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