Electricity is the main form of energy that is widely used all over the world; thus, when we talk of power generation, we are basically referring to the process of generating electricity. Electricity generation is the process of converting different forms of energy into electric energy. We have different sources of electric energy because of different technologies that are used in its generation.
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Moving water, fossil fuels, nuclear fission, and wind and solar are only some of the sources of generating electricity. These sources provide kinetic energy that is used to move the electromechanical generators which convert this energy into electricity. This is then transferred to the consumer, a process which is known as power transmission (Grigsby, 2007).
The main objective of this research is to find out how power is generated in OECD countries and its contribution to the world’s electricity needs. The study also aims to find the quantity of electricity that is generated from different sources.
In the year 2008, the contributions of the different energy sources throughout the world to the World total were as it is shown in table 1 below.
World Electricity Production in 2008
|Total Electricity (TWh/year)||8,263||1,111||4,301||2,731||3,288||568||20,261|
Source: International Energy Association, 2008a
The OECD countries generate power from different sources and in different quantities. This is highly dependent on the availability of resources. For instance a country that does not produce coal is not likely to generate electricity from coal. Likewise a country that has many rivers is most likely to rely on hydro electricity. Table 2 below shows the amount of electricity generated per country. The amount is broken down as per the source.
Electricity production per country in 2008, in terawatt hours
|country||Coal||Oil||Gas||Nuclear||Hydro||Geothermal||Solar PV||Solar thermal||Wind||Tide||Biomass||Waste||Other||total|
Source: International Energy Association 2008b
Graphical presentation of electricity production in OECD countries in 2008
Generation of electricity in Canada is managed at the provincial level; this prompts the need to consider each province as a separate entity. The main sources of electricity here are water, nuclear fission and fossil fuels. Hydro electricity covers the bigger percentage of the total production.
It accounts for about 60 percent of the total. This places Canada at the top of the list of hydroelectricity producers in the world. Hydroelectric power stations have been developed in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Labrador. The second major source of power is Fossil fuels with coal leading in this group accounting for about 16.5 percent, natural gas providing 5.2 percent and roughly 1.9 percent from petroleum.
This form of generation is mainly developed in Alberta and Saskatchewan although it is also found in Ontario and Atlantic Provinces. Thirdly we have nuclear power accounting for about 15.6 percent of the total production. Ontario hosts 20 nuclear power installations with the remaining two in Quebec and Brunswick.
As International Energy Association reports, about 1.6 percent comes from non-hydro renewable sources, primarily biomass. Other sources such as, wind and solar are still in the early stages of development; they contribute a small amount of electricity but they are on the upslope in production quantity.
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Hydro power generation can be dated as early as the 19th century when a small water wheel was built on Chaudière Falls by the Ottawa electric power company to supply power for street lighting and local mills. From then, hydro electric dams were developed over the years. Other plants using different sources such as coal, petroleum and others were also constructed. Nuclear power is the new direction for Canada’s electricity generation.
Different provinces major their production on different sources; this depends on availability of the particular source. For instance, coal producing provinces generate the greater part of their total electricity from coal. We have Alberta Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia producing 73.6%, 61% and 56.8% respectively of their total generation from coal.
We have provinces with large water resources generating their bigger percentage from water (International Energy Association, 2010). These are Quebec, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories 94, 94.8, 96.8, 97.7, 93.2 and 75.1 percent respectively. Ontario province has the better part of its electricity generated from nuclear fission. Nuclear power accounts for more than 50% of the province’s production.
The table below shows the electricity produced in 2009 from each province, comparing the different sources of fuel.
Electricity production in Canada per province in 2009, (terawatt hours, TWh)
|Hydro||Conventional steam||nuclear||Internal combustion||Combustion turbine||wind||tidal||total|
|Prince Edward island||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.1||0.0||0.1|
Source: Statistics Canada, Survey 2151, 2009
Graphical presentation of electricity production in Canada in 2009
These different sources contribute to the total amount of electricity generated. Different countries generate different amounts of power, which sometimes is in excess of consumption while others the supply is less than the demand either permanently or temporarily.
This means that trading in electricity exists between countries or regions. Electricity cannot be stored but the consumer should be able to get it when they need it; and as we know demand and supply are not dependent on each other, one can change without affecting the other, but they have to be maintained at par.
This calls for some way to control the transmission of electricity to the consumers. This is done by the transmission system operator through the transmission grid, (Voorspools & D’haeseleer, 2002). If the demand exceeds the supply, the system cuts down on the load automatically and if supply exceeds demand, the frequency of generation is slowed down.
The readings may not remain like that throughout the years since some new resources are being discovered and exploited each day. Also the existing sources are under constant improvement changes mainly to increase production so as to meet the world’s rising needs. Each source has its advantages and disadvantages, but the major concern is on the environmental impact.
Some sources such as fossil fuels emit a lot of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect and also contributing to global warming. This is a major concern and hence the need to exploit other sources whose impact is not so severe (Allenby & Graedel, 2010). Renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar and geothermal are more environmental friendly especially due to the fact that they do not emit greenhouse gases.
They may have some other negative impacts such as on wildlife but they are still much preferable. Biomass releases the same amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as it absorbed during its growth hence the balance is maintained. Biomass can affect biodiversity and also affect wildlife habitat negatively. This can be curbed by use of the appropriate technology.
The future of electricity generation
Renewable energy sources are the way to go. This is as a result of considerably lower negative impact on the environment. The effect of greenhouse gases which is a major concern in electricity generation is greatly reduced in the use of these sources.
There may be other impacts on the environment, but most of them can be reduced by the use of appropriate technology for generation. Nuclear power is also becoming a major investment in large scale manufacture of electricity. Its use has reduced environmental impact, no greenhouse effect and the fuel used is not expensive.
Conclusion and Recommendations
From the findings of this research, it is clear that coal is the major source of electricity globally. It accounts for almost half of the power generated in the world. Other sources such as wind, tidal and solar are still in the early stages of exploitation and this explains why they account for a very small fraction of the total.
According to World Nuclear Association, Nuclear power generation is well established and it accounts for about 24% of electricity in OECD countries and about 13.5% of the world’s total. Its use is on the rise and in future it is expected to provide more. As a recommendation it would be more advantageous to use sources such as nuclear power whose impact on the environment is not as severe as the greenhouse effect; and they can generate power on a large scale.
Allenby B. R. & Graedel T. E. (2010). Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Engineering. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Canadian Electricity Association (2009). Statistics Canada, Survey 2151. Web.
Grigsby, Leonard L. (2007). Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. (2nd ed.) New York, NY: CRC Press.
International Energy Association (2008). Energy Statistics of OECD Countries: 2005/2006. Energy 2008, 2008 (11),1 – 434
International Energy Association, Key World Statistics (2008). Web.
International Energy Association, (2010). Renewable energy essentials. Web.
Voorspools K. R. & D’haeseleer W. D. (2002). Distributed generation and the grid integration issues. International Journal of Energy Research, 26 (13), 1175–1190. Web.
World Nuclear Association. (2011). World energy needs and nuclear power. Web.