In rich countries like Australia, our standard of living is dependent on easily available energy. Every time you catch a bus, turn on a light or watch television energy is being used up.
Over the past 30 years, total energy consumption in Australia has more than doubled, while energy consumption per person has increased by almost 40%. Between 2006 and 2020, as Australia’s economy continues to grow, our energy consumption is likely to increase by 26%.
So, where does all this energy come from? There are two types of energy sources: nonrenewable and renewable. Non-renewable sources of energy come in the form of coal, oil and natural gas. They took millions of years to form, under conditions that may never be repeated. Because we are running down the nonrenewable stock in the world very quickly, sooner or later they will run out. Fossil fuels are formed from deposits of plants and animals that lived more than 250 million years ago and are found beneath the earth. Fossil fuels must be produced from coal mines, oil or gas wells and burned in order to release the energy they store. Australia currently relies on nonrenewable energy from fossil fuel than 95% of its energy needs. Of this, coal provides 41%, all 36% and gas 19%.
When fossil fuels are burned the carbon and hydrogen in them combine with oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide produced is one of the biggest problems with the use of fossil fuels.
Renewable energy. On the other hand, uses natural energy sources that are inexhaustible or naturally replenished on human timescales. Renewable energy sources include solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity. All of these can be captured in different ways. For example, an increasing number of houses in Australia now have solar thermal panels on their roofs to heat water, and many also have photovoltaic panels to convert the energy in the Suns rays directly into electricity. Ballarat electricians are busy installing these on Australian homes all throughout the year.
Biofuels are also a form of renewable energy. They are made by converting the solar energy trapped in vegetation, such as sugar cane stalks and corn into a form of alcohol. Unlike most nonrenewable energy sources, the generation of energy from renewable sources releases little or no greenhouse gases will stop renewable sources provide around 5% of energy used in Australia. Our main renewable energy sources other biofuels and water. Solar and wind energy account for only a tiny fraction of Australia’s energy use. There are currently no nuclear power plants in Australia.
All energy sources have their advantages and disadvantages. The major issues when weighing up the pros and cons of an energy source our cost, availability and environmental impacts (particularly greenhouse gas emissions).