Visualizing Energy Use

There are different ways to get a picture of the ways we use energy.  Here are three charts showing US energy use in 2009.
The first is a pie chart which groups “renewable” energy sources together, and then shows their relative importance in a side bar.
Note that the percentages shown are portions of the slice rather than of the whole pie. Hydropower seems like the largest use, partly because biomass is separated into biofuel, wood, and biomass waste, in contrast to the charts which follow.

DOE pie chart

The next chart shows the same data in a much flashier way! It also shows some additional information: the actual amounts of each energy, the amount of each kind of energy converted to electricity before use, and the amount of energy acutually put to use vs. the amount wasted. There is more information in this chart, but it takes some work for the viewer to figure it out.

The above chart is actually a visual makeover, one of a series of infographic "transparencies" from the website, based on a chart originally produced by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. This chart isn't as flashy, but it does convey the information visually by using varying thickness of lines. It also shows more detailed information about the transformations between different kinds of energy.

LLNL flow chart

Notice that this chart also shows “rejected energy” — that is, waste energy that was not captured for use (i.e. “services”) — so it is possible to compare which parts of the energy system are most wasteful. However, the parts of the system which use electricity may look more efficient because the waste energy from electrical generation has already been accounted for.

updated 15 May 2011

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