The energy system

Energy has by now become an inseparable partner of human beings, who use it at any time every day in all their activities. To ensure the possibility of benefiting from that resource in a simple, stable and constant way, mankind had to conduct studies and research for a long time, and only during the last decades of the 19th century did many nations, but not all, succeed in developing “energy systems” ensuring the quality and quantity of energy necessary for development.
The term “energy systems” usually describes the set of production, transformation, transport and distribution processes of energy sources. Energy systems usually are very complex and call for knowledge deriving from all scientific fields to be developed and managed. Although using the energy available in our homes is easy (we push a button and the light is switched on), producing that energy and conveying it into our homes is an extremely difficult and complex task.
The difficult and complex nature of the production and distribution of energy mainly derives from three factors.
Non-homogeneous distribution of primary sources
The first is that the production of the currently most exploited energy sources (fossil fuels) is concentrated under the surface of few countries, often far from the consuming countries. Therefore finding and extracting the energy source and developing ad hoc agreements between producing and consuming countries is necessary to ensure a stable and lasting provision of fossil fuels to the latter. Finally, the physical transportation of the energy sources from the producing to the consuming countries is to be taken care of.
Need to transform primary sources in order to obtain energy
Energy sources are not always usable as they are naturally (primary sources). They often need to be transformed to make their use by final users easier and more effective (witness the electric energy obtained from coal combustion, or petrol obtained by refining crude oil). Such energy sources artificially produced by human beings are called secondary sources and are the most widely known since they are used every day.
Also the processes of transformation from primary sources into secondary sources and the organization of their distribution to the final users are complex and require many people and much knowledge to be managed in the best possible way.
Safety
The problem of “the best possible” management leads to a third complexity factor: safety. In other words, all the activities making up the energy system need to be carried out in safety conditions for human beings and the environment. If control is lost over the energy sources, very serious damage to the health of human beings and the environment may ensue (just think of sea pollution caused by a damaged oil tank or the dreadful consequences of a leak of radioactive material from a nuclear power plant in case of accident). Therefore human beings constantly need to study and implement technologies capable of rendering the different stages of energy production, transportation, transformation and distribution to the final user safer. Much has already been done since the first years of intensive use of energy sources but a lot can still be done, by implementing new technological discoveries.

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From the Multimedia section

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    Final energy consumption in Italy

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    Final energy consumption by energy source in Italy

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  • energy

    Total primary energy supply in 2013

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    energy

    Fossil fuels world reserves

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  • energy

    Electricity production in Italy

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    energy

    Installed capacity of renewable power plants in Italy

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  • energy

    Italy: electricity production from renewables (2014)

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    energy

    Primary energy consumption by energy source in Italy

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  • energy

    Total primary energy supply in 2013

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    Fossil fuels world reserves

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    Electricity production in Italy

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Facts

  • Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

    Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

    Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

  • Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

    Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

  • Hydrogen from biomass

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier that allows to generate energy in an environmentally sustainable way...

    ITER fusion reactor

    The reactor that will be able to produce electronuclear energy without risk of explosion or radioactive waste...

    Phyto-depuration

    A very interesting project has been carried out by Lombardy region...

  • 2 March 2011

    Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

    Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

  • Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

    Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

  • Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

    Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

  • Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

  • Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

  • Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…