An “Energy Mix” is simply the representation of energy portions generated from different sources. The sources of energy could be Renewable or Non Renewable. Occasionally the term energy mix is also used to represent the portion of energy consumed. The scope of the energy mix can vary i.e. It can range from an individual’s perspective to an organizational level or to a national scale.
Furthermore, it can be used to further scrutinize the energy usage through a particular fuel, technology, sector or segment. For instance, an Electricity energy mix can tell how much electricity is coming from hydro, CCGT, Wind, Nuclear etc. On a national level, the total energy mix can represent how much energy has been consumed in the domestic, commercial and Industrial (C&I) and transport sector.
It is interesting to note that for most OECD countries, the energy mix is even distributed between transport, C&I and domestic consumption (almost 33% each). On the other hand for poor countries, transportation can account more than 50% of the overall energy usage. Therefore for such countries the relative percentage of carbon emissions is also high as transportation relies mainly on Fossil fuels.
The electric grid often gets its energy from various sources. It is often the case that more than one source of energy contributes to the grid on a national scale. The energy mix simply represents how much portion of energy is coming from each source. The energy mix is often represented in the form of a pie chart. Since the Kyoto protocol, every country has been specified targets for reducing carbon. The most effective way of reducing carbon di oxide emission is to reduce the overall energy usage and improve process efficiencies. The second most effective way is to increase to portion of renewables in the energy mix at the cost of fossil fuel energy.
People today are conscious of their environmental footprint can obtain get information on their electricity energy mix from their utility company website. It is often printed on the bill. In the UK , certain energy suppliers get bulk of their energy from Nuclear power plants while others from Fossil fuels (coal etc). There are however utility companies like Ecotricity, which endeavour to have 100% of their energy from renewables. The energy mix for all utility companies can be obtained from price comparison websites.
Although it might be possible for an energy company to have an energy mix that is all renewables, however it is certainly not possible at a national scale. This is because of intermittent nature of renewables and lack of grid level energy storage options make it mandatory to have other sources for stand-by generation. Secondly, transportation energy required will always be made up of high percentage of fossil fuel usage (for the foreseeable future).
Contrary to the popular belief, there are countries that have come close to achieving 100% renewable energy for thier grid electricity. For example Norway and Iceland get over 98% of their electricity from hydro power. Even the likes of Bhutan and Afghanistan get over 80% of their electricity from Hydro power. This renewable source is the best to counter intermittency as it provides options for storing energy storage (through pumped storage).
The energy mix of a country hardly remains the same year on year. Climatic conditions, security of supply and commodity prices all impact on the usage of energy. For example if gas prices rise compared to heavy furnace oil, energy generators will ditch the former and prefer the cheaper option. Similarly if a Nuclear power plant requires maintenance, its contribution of energy drops. If windy weather persists for long durations during the year, the percentage contribution of renewables goes up.
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