The Value of Energy Resources
Some energy resources (i.e., the sources of energy supply) exist in great abundance, but are difficult to tap. Others are easy to tap, but not particularly efficient to convert to useful energy. Yet others are easy to tap, relatively efficient to convert, and currently abundant, but are not viable as long-term energy options. Factors such as these set a value to a particular resource that must be measured in a fashion relative to the service it provides within existing infrastructures, and the overall viability as a long-term and dependable, that is, sustainable, energy source.
For example, the well-known depletability of fossil fuels sets limits on their future value, as they cannot be replenished, while their present value is extremely high, due to the abundance of energy that can be readily accessed from them right now to serve existing infrastructures. On the other hand, solar energy’s value right now is marginal due to the issues of intermittency and storage, and lack of an extensive infrastructure. Yet, the raw energetic content and long-term prospects of solar’s utilization make it highly valuable going forward, probably most valuable when fossil resources begin to dwindle rapidly.
Indeed, myriad differences between the energy resources make it difficult to place set, comparable values on them. Estimating raw energetic content and abundance is relatively simple to do, but determining other essential factors such as availability and social value can be challenging. Thus, a key is to isolate core qualities that can then be used to assess an overall value for each energy resource.