Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - Introduction



Energy is defined as the ability to do work and provide heat. There are different ways in which the abundance of energy around us can be stored, converted, and amplified for our use. Energy sources can be classified into three groups: fossil, renewable, and nuclear (fissile). Fossil fuels were formed in an earlier geological period and are not renewable. The fossil energy sources include petroleum, coal, bitumen, natural gas, oil shale, and tar sands. The renewable energy sources include biomass, hydro, wind, solar (both thermal and photovoltaic), geothermal, and marine. The main fissile energy sources are uranium and thorium. Despite adequate reserves, some classifications include fissile materials along with the nonrenewable sources.

For over ten thousand years, humans have used biomass for their energy needs. Wood was used for cooking, water, and space heating. The first renewable energy technologies were primarily simple mechanical applications and did not reach high energetic efficiencies. Renewable energies have been the primary energy source in the history of the human race. But in the last two hundred years, we have shifted our energy consumption toward fossil fuels. Industrialization changed the primary energy use from renewable resources to sources with a much higher energy density, such as coal or petroleum. During the last century, the promise of unlimited fossil fuels was much more attractive, and rapid technical progress made the industrial use of petroleum and coal economical.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO