USC GEOL 241: The Global Electricity Production Calculator

This simple online tool is designed as part of a lab exercise for GEOL 241: Energy Systems, at the University of Southern California, taught by Prof. West.

Below you can select the energy sources that make up total annual global electricity production and estimate associated total cost and CO2 emissions for different combinations of sources. This is an educational exercise and may not provide accurate calculations, but is intended to illustrate some of the relevant trade-offs. The overall approach was inspired by the online "Energy Experience" educational resources from E-On (a resource that no longer exists online) but uses a different calculation algorithm, based on the references below.

The preset values below are taken from the OECD 2015-2016 Factbook statistics on electricity generation in 2013. As you can see, total electricity production in 2013 was roughly 21,700 TWh/year (TWh = Terrawatt hour; if this unit is puzzling to you, ask your TA for clarification). Demand is projected to rise to 32,000 TWh by 2030. The question you want to answer is what sources will be used for that new electricity, and what the financial and CO2 costs will be. Slide the bars to play with different combinations, and pick the one you think would be best. In the process, think about what the trade-offs are between different sources. If you want to reset to the starting point (2013 electricity production) refresh this page in your browser. The sliders seem to work best in the Google Chrome browser.

Some questions to consider:
What are some other considerations that we might want to take into account when deciding what energy sources to use and develop in the future? We will discuss these in detail during this class!
Why is oil not included in the above calculator, even though it is one of the major energy sources in use today? Hint: Think about the difference between energy and electricity!

Coal: TWh/year
Coal with CCS*: TWh/year
Natural Gas: TWh/year
Nuclear: TWh/year
Hydropower: TWh/year1
Geothermal: TWh/year2
Solar: TWh/year
Wind: TWh/year

Total Power (TWh/year):
Total Cost (Billions USD/year):
Total CO2 Emitted (Gtons Carbon/year):

*Carbon Capture and Storage; this calculation assumes that 90% of CO2 emissions are able to be captured and securely stored

1Maximum technically feasible energy from hydropower is estimated as 12,875 TWh/yr (see "Hydropower and the World's Energy Future," International Hydropower Association, 2000)
2Maximum technically feasible energy from geothermal is estimated as 17,000 TWh/yr, but may be as low as 306 TWh (see The International Geothermal Association )

Financial costs per MWh (MWh = Megawatt hour) are based on the U.S. Department of Energy report on "Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2013" and reflect estimated lifetime costs for power plants entering service in 2018. Note that the results are probably not accurate globally as the cost values were determined for the U.S., but they give some indication of relative costs.

The CO2 emissions per MWh are based on the calculations of Sovacool, "Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey," 2008, Energy Policy, Vol. 36, p. 2950.

The sources of electricity production in 2016 are from the 2015-2016 OECD Factbook.