Energy and Environment Encyclopedias Articles
We at Enerdata are proud to share our partnership with two local publications based here in Grenoble, France, where we have our headquarters. The Encyclopedia of the Environment and the Encyclopedia of Energy both bring high-quality, scientific writing by academic experts to the public in multiple languages.
Through our partnership, Enerdata is sharing a selection of these articles here, which we think will be of use to our clients, partners, and readers.
Articles from both Encyclopedias on a variety of topics are available below in both English and French. More articles will be added regularly, so check back often!
How vertebrate extinctions threaten tropical forests
14 Jul 2022 - Author(s): Sébastien Albert
We are currently experiencing a global collapse of vertebrate populations. This raises alarming concerns about the ecosystems’ resilience, particularly tropical forests. Volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean provide the perfect environment to study the consequences of these extinctions. How do vertebrate extinctions threaten forest dynamics?
9 May 2022 - Author(s): Marian CHATENET
Fuel cells enable the electricity conversion into hydrogen via chemical transformations. The hydrogen produced can be used in several end-uses in industry, transport or construction. Thus, this hydrogen contributes to the transition of these consuming sectors towards non-carbon energies. How does a fuel cell work?
Biomass, a massively available and major source of energy, an unsustainable use
7 Mar 2022 - Author(s): Gilles DELAYGUE
Biomass has been used by humans for thousands of years for their vital needs, such as food, heat, shelter, and more. Despite its abundance on the planet, its sustainability is now being questioned, due to its limited regeneration rate in the demographic and economic growth context. How and at which rate is biomass produced, and how much of this stock is used by humans?
Hydraulics and hydroelectricity: the challenges of sustainable development
28 Feb 2022 - Author(s): Michel SABOURIN
When applied to the world of energy, the concept of sustainable development often emphasises renewable energies such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydro. However, like all energy sources, their impact is not zero. For example, hydropower requires various materials, including concrete, and land to install the plants.
How can the social and environmental impacts of this energy source be minimised while maximising its usefulness?
The promises of ecological rehabilitation in port areas
21 Feb 2022 - Author(s): Marc Bouchoucha, Antoine Carlier, Amélia Curd
The construction of port infrastructures leads to the total and irreversible destruction of marine ecosystems and threatens coastal marine biodiversity. To conciliate the need for these infrastructures and the need to preserve the ecosystem, some countries are committed to rehabilitating port areas. Should this be considered as a real hope for the preservation of biodiversity or as additional greenwashing?
The inter-sectoral couplings “Power to Gas” and “Power to Heat”: what role in the energy transition? (1st and 2nd parts)
14 Dec 2021 - Author(s): Dominique FINON
April 19th, 2021 (part 1)
One of the main issues with solar and wind energy is their variability. At the same time, hydrogen and biomethane are two promising solutions to decarbonise the energy production. Power-to-gas processes enable to couple these two value chains, and therefore to optimise the whole system, deriving value from the excess renewable electricity generation. Similarly, Power-to-heat can contribute to the energy transition in the heating sector. However, this sector coupling solutions require significant investments, and will only become competitive if a right regulative framework is enforced (part 1).
December 14th, 2021 (part 2)
A major challenge for solar and wind energy is their intermittency. At the same time, hydrogen and "green gas" produced by methanation are aiming at developing the decarbonisation of energy production. The "Power to gas" processes enable the connection between these different sectors to optimise the entire sector, valuing the surplus electricity from renewable energies. In the same way, the "Power to heat" contributes to this energy transition, for heating. However, these couplings require strong investments and need support from governments to be competitive in open energy markets.
Click below for part 2
Solar energy: the theoretical basis
7 Dec 2021 - Author(s): Jean-Pierre JOLY
Although solar radiation is the most abundant source of energy on Earth, its use is still quite marginal, even among the other renewable energy sources. This radiation can be converted into heat or electricity, which in both cases requires the use of physical principles to limit losses. How can the amount of sunlight received on a given surface be determined? What parameters influence a solar panel efficiency?
Nuclear energy: a brief history
20 Oct 2021 - Author(s): Jean-Claude ROUSSEAU
Discovered barely a century ago, nuclear energy developed strongly during the 20th century, first for military applications and then as an electricity generation technology.
It has become a mainstay of the electricity mix in several countries, using different reactor technologies.
Who are the pioneering scientists in the field? How was the nuclear programme developed in France and in the world?
Mineral coal: withdrawals and divestments are increasing
6 Sep 2021 - Author(s): Jean-Marie MARTIN-AMOUROUX
Economic activity generates environmental costs, both in terms of resource exploitation and degradation of natural environments. This aspect can no longer be excluded from economic analysis, as was the case in the past, as the consequences are now far from negligible. Beyond standards, tools specific to economic theory have been used to try to regulate these environmental costs more effectively. What are these tools? Are, and will they be suited for this purpose? What are the limits of the economic theory and which could be the impacts on public policies?
Electricity: from a market regime to a hybrid regime
27 Jul 2021 - Author(s): Dominique Finon
In countries committed to decarbonisation and security of supply, the public authorities are once again the main players in decision-making on investments in the electricity sector.
Indeed, a hybrid regime has been developed in these countries, mixing public authorities and market mechanisms.
What are the reasons for the emergence of this regime? Which impacts will it have on the efficiency of electricity markets and the decarbonisation targets of governments?
Hydraulic storage and power generation
27 Jul 2021 - Author(s): Claude REBATTET et Bernard BRUSA-PASQUE
Electricity storage is a major challenge for our energy systems. Today, only hydroelectric dams allow the storage of decarbonated energy in sufficiently large quantities and on sufficiently long time scales. However, the needs are always growing and economic interests depend largely on the regulation of the electricity sector. This article reviews the context in which hydroelectric storage is situated, its role and its capacities according to the different types of installations.
On the contributions to climate physics of Klaus Hasselmann and Syukuro Manabe, Nobel Prize 2021nabe, prix Nobel 2021
16 Jun 2021 - Author(s): Gerhard KRINNER, Dominique RAYNAUD
The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three laureates, including Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann, for "laying the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humanity influences it" as described by the Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Why is their work on the role of human activities in global warming and the sensitivity of climate to the CO2 content of the atmosphere, fundamental to physical climatology?
Hydroelectricity: diversity and specificities
12 Apr 2021 - Author(s): Bernard BRUSA-PASQUE
Hydropower remains the most widely used renewable energy source to date. It combines environmental advantages with decisive operational qualities often reserved for fossil fuels, such as controllability and storage. Thanks to its long experience, the hydropower sector has been able to meet the technological challenges to take advantage of a wide variety of terrains. Unique and sustainable infrastructures have thus been created to adapt to each environment, benefiting from exemplary energy efficiency.
Weather extremes and climate change
15 Jan 2021 - Author(s): Julien CATTIAUX, Fabrice CHAUVIN, Hervé DOUVILLE, Aurélien RIBES
The Earth has always been subject to different climatic eras, which produce ice ages and warmer periods, longer or shorter. However, for almost 200 years, our planet has been facing unprecedented climate changes on much shorter time scales than in the past. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense: storms, fires, floods, droughts, etc. What is the causal link between climate change and these weather shocks?
The breakthrough of electrical storage. What techniques? Which economic functions? What future?
10 Dec 2020 - Author(s): Dominique FINON, Manuel VILLAVICENCIO
Electricity systems based on a variable renewable energy sources (or VRE – sources based on natural, uncontrollable flows such as wind and solar) require the development of electricity storage facilities to guarantee the balance and stability of the system. But what economic conditions allow the implementation of various electrical storage solutions? To answer this question, we examine a variety of storage systems, the state of their development, and the services they can provide both to the various actors involved and to the electricity system as a whole.
Blockchain Uses and Applications in the Energy Sector
10 Dec 2020 - Author(s): Jean WILD, Nicolas PLAIN
In a context of more and more fake news, fraud and opacity of many systems, the blockchain is reversing the trend. This technology makes it possible to ensure the authenticity of information, thanks in particular to a history of operations stored in a decentralised manner. Bitcoin, the first product based on this technology, has thus developed very quickly: this cryptocurrency is by definition impossible to counterfeit and the transactions are transparent and validated by the network of users. Replace money with energy and let's see how to use the blockchain for energy management.
Natural gas: a techno-economic assessment
9 Dec 2020 - Author(s): Gabin MANTULET
Natural gas is widely promoted in energy transition projects as the "least polluting fossil fuel". This article looks at the various technical and economic elements of this sector, from production to end use, but also at its environmental impacts.
The average temperature of the earth
29 Jul 2020 - Author(s): Serge PLANTON
The evolution of climate change and its consequences is often summarised as the average temperature of the Earth with future scenarios ranging from +1.5°C, the objective of the Paris Agreement, up to +7°C. However, as climate sceptics often point out, this is not always what is observed on one's personal thermometer. So what exactly does this global temperature represent? How is it calculated and how can its variations be interpreted? This article proposes to clarify these points about this often misused indicator.
16 Jul 2020 - Author(s): Aurore VOLDOIRE, David SAINT-MARTIN
It is now difficult not to admit that we are living in a phase of global climate change. We regularly hear about various scenarios for the future, with temperature increases ranging from 1.5°C to more than 6°C by the end of the century. The Paris Agreement, which came out of COP21, aims specifically to limit this rise to 1.5 to 2°C. But where do these trajectories and objectives come from? In practice, these climate projections have been established by climate models. How are they designed? Are they reliable and robust? Under what conditions are they used to imagine the climate of the future? Find out through this article written by two researchers from the National Meteorological Research Centre.
Biomass and energy: from primary resources to final energy products
18 Jun 2020 - Author(s): Claude SOURISSE
Among the renewable energy sources that have been put on stage by the energy transition, biomass is the least known. Derived mainly from agriculture, livestock, forests and the seas, biomass is the source of very diverse end products, ranging from food and other materials to energy sources used for lighting and cooking, and especially fuels for heating. To fully understand the role played by biomass now – and the role it will increasingly play in the future energy balance – it is important to review what biomass is, its energy properties, its recovery cycle, and the various ways in which it contributes to meeting energy needs.
26 May 2020 - Author(s): Bertrand CHÂTEAU
Some kinds of energy consumption are familiar: Litres of petrol or diesel purchased to fill your gas tank, or kilowatt-hours displayed on your electricity meter at home. But what are these measurements really for? To answer this question, we must first understand energy needs, which are not to be confused with energy consumption (because the same need can be met by different forms of consumption). Several concepts explained in this article help us understand this distinction, including technical systems and the energy paradigm, which explains the origin and evolution of real energy needs.
From the discovery of the greenhouse effect to the IPCC
19 May 2020 - Author(s): Dominique RAYNAUD
If today climate change is a well-known phenomenon for the majority of the population and is well understood by scientists, it is once again the result of a series of scientific discoveries and advances. From the discovery of the greenhouse effect to the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it has taken several milestones to reveal the current risk and its magnitude.
Energy in India: the genesis of its powerful coal industry
7 May 2020 - Author(s): Jean-Marie MARTIN-AMOUROUX
India emits about 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, or 7% of global emissions. Admittedly, for the moment, this is not at the same level as China (10 GtCO2/year), but the strong growth (5%/year) must be taken into account, as it shows no signs of slowing down. The country must satisfy the needs of an ever-larger population, which is already suffering from many disparities. To achieve this, it still relies heavily on an abundant local resource: coal. How did this industry develop? Can its expansion be reversed?
Photovoltaic solar power: technologies and their trajectory
7 Apr 2020 - Author(s): Jean-Pierre JOLY
Solar energy is taking an increasing place in the energy mix alongside other renewable energies. It can be used and transformed in various ways as required, either in thermal form or using photovoltaic panels. To this end, technologies have evolved considerably with the emergence of different processes that compete, replace and improve each other. The focus of this article is on photovoltaic technologies: How do they work and what are their evolution prospects?
Biofuels: is the future in microalgae?
15 Jan 2020 - Author(s): Eric MARECHAL
In a world where we are gradually seeking to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly hydrocarbons, biofuels are emerging as an alternative, notably for transportation. However, the technologies underlying this solution are not fully mature yet. Indeed, most biofuels are made from crops (such as rapeseed and sugar cane) and a large-scale development of such fuels is not conceivable, since it would compete with the current agricultural system, which is dedicated to food. Yet other types of biofuels, based on microalgae, have been developed. They could overcome this limitation, and become a preferred solution to replace our consumption of fossil fuels.
Climate change and ancient civilizations
6 Jan 2020 - Author(s): Bruno MALAIZE
Climate evolutions, favourable or not, were a determining factor in the rise or decline of the great ancient civilisations. Some of them managed to adapt to these climatic changes, thanks to their ingenuity, but other empires collapsed when the variations were too great. This is not unlike the situation of our own civilisation.
Economic theories in the face of the realities of environmental crises
6 Jan 2020 - Author(s): Jean-Marie MARTIN-AMOUROUX, Patrick CRIQUI
Whatever the reasons (air pollution, CO2 emissions, etc.), a growing number of players seem to be gradually turning their backs on mineral coal. Among them are organisations from various backgrounds: financial sector players (banks, pension funds, etc.), energy and mining sector players (coal and electricity companies, etc.) and also States (notably the European Union). Despite this trend, coal funding is still readily available, and coal is expected to retain a significant market share in global energy consumption for a few decades to come.
The car of the future: competing energy technologies
6 Dec 2019 - Author(s): Jean-Jacques CHANARON
Today's environmental issues weigh on the transport sector and there is a multiplication of projects to invent the car of the future. As in any innovation process, many different energy sources and technologies are competing. However, the technical aspect is only one element in the success of an innovation, which is part of a broader analysis grid with cost, availability, social acceptance, public policies... Where do we stand on producing the car of tomorrow, what direction is it taking and at what pace?
Natural disasters: when the environment becomes a threat
2 Nov 2019 - Author(s): Céline LUTOFF
Frequent and severe heat waves, increased droughts, always more violent and sudden thunderstorms, and hailstorms: extreme weather events are multiplying as climate change intensifies, affecting more and more societies. How can science adapt its tools to better observe and predict these phenomena and help manage their impacts?
Geothermal energy, a source of green energy under our buildings
28 Oct 2019 - Author(s): Alice DI DONNA
In the current energy transition context, geothermal energy represents a prime source of renewable and local energy for heating and cooling buildings. To harness this energy, energy geostructures are an innovative solution. They allow a significant reduction in installation costs compared to conventional technologies, since they exploit structures that are an integral part of building construction. This technology, which is still under development, is starting to be deployed in Europe and could well see a significant boom in the coming years.
Economic theory and environment: a divorce?
2 Oct 2019 - Author(s): Jean-Marie MARTIN-AMOUROUX, Patrick CRIQUI
More and more voices are being raised to denounce the impacts of our societies on the environment and question past and current economic choices. The environment and the economy are pitted against each other. How do economic theories integrate (or not) environmental aspects? How have they evolved? Finally, are they now compatible with sustainable development?
Geothermal energy: a significant source of energy?
16 Jul 2019 - Author(s): François Henri CORNET
The general principle of geothermal energy is well known: drawing heat from the ground to meet energy needs. Geothermal energy can be used for heating, either individually or in a district heating network, and even to produce electricity under certain conditions. Discover in this article the physical mechanisms at the origin of this underground heat, different existing techniques to exploit it, as well as a new lead that could considerably increase the geothermal potential in France in particular.
3 Jul 2019 - Author(s): Jacques FONTAN
There are a multitude of different types of air pollutants, both man-made and natural. These have had, and continue to have, adverse effects ranging from local to global in scale. Discover through this synthetic article the main aspects of these atmospheric pollutions, their history, and their consequences on the environment and health.
2 Jul 2019 - Author(s): Julie GOBERT
At the national level or global level, there are environmental inequalities linked to the natural characteristics of living areas, the level of development of populations, exceptional climatic events, etc. The social impacts of these inequalities are thus very heterogeneous, and the implementation of policies can also increase or reduce them. What do these inequalities exactly overlap? What are the associated issues and the possible measures to address them?
Diesel engines and wood combustion in charge
29 Apr 2019 - Author(s): Jacques FONTAN
Diesel engines and wood-burning fireplaces are regularly accused of causing numerous deaths through fine particles (PM 2.5). These volatile elements are a major component of air pollution and therefore a public health lever. However, there are various sources of fine particles as well as ultra-fine particles, such as those from petrol engines, which are difficult to quantify. The measurements now being carried out only provide an overall mass concentration in the air. Therefore, does the current harmfulness of these technologies really correspond to that perceived and communicated to the general public?
A carbon cycle disrupted by human activities
23 Apr 2019 - Author(s): Jacques JOYARD, Joël SOMMERIA
Carbon atoms are basic elements of all living things. Via photosynthesis, plants, algae and some bacteria use energy from the sun to pull CO2 from our atmosphere. Then, the processes of respiration and decomposition of all these living things returns the CO2 back to the atmosphere. Beyond this short life cycle is a longer, slower geological cycle, which stores carbon in limestone and in fossil hydrocarbons. Limestone comes from marine organisms’ shells. Meanwhile, hydrocarbons are the result of the burial of organic sediments. Burning fossil fuels today has the effect of short-circuiting this slow cycle, CO2 is released very faster than it is captured, overruling the natural regeneration processes, leading to the rapid accumulation of CO2 in our atmosphere, which then causes global warming, as well as ocean acidification, which disrupts marine life.
10 Feb 2019 - Author(s): Christelle BALLANDRAS-ROZET
The purpose of environmental taxation is simple: to change people’s behaviour by increasing the cost of actions that hurt the environment. It has the added benefit of making people aware of the effects their actions have on biodiversity, natural resources and public health – just to name a few. Environmental taxation includes a wide variety of possible implementation measures, which highlights how useful a tool the tax system can be to protect the environment.
Climate change: what effects on our health?
8 Feb 2019 - Author(s): Emmanuel DROUET
300,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 and $2 to 4 billion per year by 2030: this is the estimated impact of climate change, mainly through increased malnutrition, disease and heat-related stress. Agriculture is indeed very vulnerable to temperature variations while populations of virus-carrying insects will increase tenfold thanks to a more favourable environment. The radical change in living conditions, which differs from region to region, with the emergence of "climate refugees" (250 million expected in 2050), nevertheless makes the forecasting exercise difficult. Everyone remembers the 2003 heat wave in which 70,000 people died in Europe in August alone.
Underground storage of gas and hydrocarbons: prospects for the energy transition
8 Feb 2019 - Author(s): Pierre BEREST
Imagine this: You are hiking across the magnificent Lubéron massif in Southern France. You pass a herd of sheep and a shepherd watching over them, but around the next corner on your path hides an industrial installation, lying quietly between two hills: offices, pumping stations, and wellheads (as you see in Figure 1). You probably do not realise that, at a depth of one kilometre under your feet, lies a significant portion of France’s strategic oil reserves. It’s nearly 10 million tonnes (almost two months’ consumption) spread throughout about 40 caves that are each several hundred metres high, in a subterranean layer of salt. In this article, we’ll explore the challenges, opportunities, risks and costs, of this type of formation.
The Climate Machine
8 Feb 2019 - Author(s): Gerhard KRINNER
Understand the “climate machine” with this introduction to the most important concepts, including how the climate system works, and what contributes to its complexity. What is the different between climate and meteorology or weather? What are the essential elements of the climate system? These and other basic questions are answered in this article. Additionally, we discuss both the internal and external causes of climate change by learning about forcing and feedback, the concept of climate predictability and different time scales, and briefly introduce climatology and related sciences (including physics, chemistry, biology and geology).
Are we at risk of water shortage?
7 Feb 2019 - Author(s): Ghislain DE MARSILY
The Earth’s water is essentially salty. The water cycle that is necessary for terrestrial life is fed by ocean evaporation, then condensed and released by rainfalls, run by the thermal engine of the sun. This cycle supplies water to the continents, which is divided into blue water (in rivers and groundwater) and green water (stored in the soil after rain and then used and transpired by plants). Human consumption of water as a resource is still rather modest: we use 7% of blue water and 9% of green water, but the problem is the geographic distribution of humanity: We don’t live where the water resources are. Steppes and arid zones are home to 21.5% of the humans on Earth, where only 2% of the planet’s blue water resources are present. And the amount of water we use is constantly increasing because of population growth and changes in our diets, while at the same time climate change is affecting water resources. Given all of this, how can we balance water supply and demand in order avoid shortages, famines, bloody conflicts and mass migration in 2050, and in 2100?
Hydropower : A vital asset in a power system with increased need for flexibility and firm capacitysitant davantage de flexibilité et de puissance garantie
1 Jan 2019 - Author(s): Ghislain Weisrock
The development of intermittent RES generates a destabilisation of the electricity system, as their production time is not correlated with that of the demand. In an electricity system with an increasing share of intermittent RES, there is a greater need for flexibility. Hydropower, as a manageable and renewable energy, has a key role to play in balancing the power system. To what extent can hydropower ensure grid stability in a decarbonised world?
The energy transition: the planet's greatest challenge
7 Jun 2018 - Author(s): Christian DE PERTHUIS, Boris SOLIER
The meaning of the term “energy transition” has varied with time and currently has different meanings across world regions – including within Europe. To avoid allowing this important definition to become so malleable that it risks blurring climate issues, this article first clarifies the different uses of the term. Starting from this understanding, three shifts are necessary: Carbon-free energy sources must no longer be added to existing sources, but rather must take their place entirely; energy efficiency gains must no longer lead to higher consumption (via the relative price reduction produced by efficiency); and the timeline of the energy transition must truly be based on the climate clock, not on politics.