What are the safest and cleanest sources of energy? (2022)

  • ​​Pierre Friedlingstein, Matthew W. Jones, Michael O’Sullivan, Robbie M. Andrew, Dorothee, C. E. Bakker, Judith Hauck, Corinne Le Quéré, Glen P. Peters, Wouter Peters, Julia Pongratz, Stephen Sitch, Josep G. Canadell, Philippe Ciais, Rob B. Jackson, Simone R. Alin, Peter Anthoni, Nicholas R. Bates, Meike Becker, Nicolas Bellouin, Laurent Bopp, Thi Tuyet Trang Chau, Frédéric Chevallier, Louise P. Chini, Margot Cronin, Kim I. Currie, Bertrand Decharme, Laique M. Djeutchouang, Xinyu Dou, Wiley Evans, Richard A. Feely, Liang Feng, Thomas Gasser, Dennis Gilfillan, Thanos Gkritzalis, Giacomo Grassi, Luke Gregor, Nicolas Gruber, Özgür Gürses, Ian Harris, Richard A. Houghton, George C. Hurtt, Yosuke Iida, Tatiana Ilyina, Ingrid T. Luijkx, Atul Jain, Steve D. Jones, Etsushi Kato, Daniel Kennedy, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Jürgen Knauer, Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Arne Körtzinger, Peter Landschützer, Siv K. Lauvset, Nathalie Lefèvre, Sebastian Lienert, Junjie Liu, Gregg Marland, Patrick C. McGuire, Joe R. Melton, David R. Munro, Julia E.M.S Nabel Shin-Ichiro Nakaoka, Yosuke Niwa, Tsuneo Ono, Denis Pierrot, Benjamin Poulter, Gregor Rehder, Laure Resplandy, Eddy Robertson, Christian Rödenbeck, Thais M Rosan, Jörg Schwinger, Clemens Schwingshackl, Roland Séférian, Adrienne J. Sutton, Colm Sweeney, Toste Tanhua, Pieter P Tans, Hanqin Tian, Bronte Tilbrook, Francesco Tubiello, Guido van der Werf, Nicolas Vuichard, Chisato Wada Rik Wanninkhof, Andrew J. Watson, David Willis, Andrew J. Wiltshire, Wenping Yuan, Chao Yue, Xu Yue, Sönke Zaehle, Jiye Zeng. Global Carbon Budget 2021, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 2021.

  • Per capita electricity consumption in the EU-27 in 2021 was around 6,400 kWh.

    1 terawatt-hour is equal to 1,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours. So, we get this figure by dividing 1,000,000,000 by 6,400 ≈ 150,000 people.

  • The following sources were used to calculate these death rates.

    Fossil fuels and biomass: these figures are taken directly from Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. (2007). Electricity generation and health. The Lancet, 370(9591), 979-990.

    Nuclear: I have calculated these figures based on the assumption of 433 deaths from Chernobyl and 2314 from Fukushima. These figures are based on the most recent estimates from UNSCEAR and the Government of Japan. In a related article, I detail where these figures come from.

    I have calculated death rates by dividing this figure by cumulative global electricity production from nuclear from 1965 to 2021, which is 96,876 TWh.

    Hydropower: The paper by Sovacool et al. (2016) provides a death rate for hydropower from 1990 to 2013. However, this period excludes some very large hydropower accidents which occurred prior to 1990. I have therefore calculated a death rate for hydropower from 1965 to 2021 based on the list of hydropower accidents provided in Sovacool et al. (2016), which extends back to the 1950s. Since this database ends in 2013, I have also included the Saddle Dam accident in Laos in 2018, which killed 71 people.

    (Video) Johns World: What Are The Safest and Cleanest Sources of Energy

    The total number of deaths from hydropower accidents from 1965 to 2021 was approximately 176,000. 171,000 of these deaths were from the Banqian Dam Failure in China in 1975.

    I have calculated death rates by dividing this figure by cumulative global electricity production from hydropower from 1965 to 2021, which is 138,175 TWh.

    Solar and wind: these figures are taken directly from: Sovacool, B. K., Andersen, R., Sorensen, S., Sorensen, K., Tienda, V., Vainorius, A., … & Bjørn-Thygesen, F. (2016). Balancing safety with sustainability: assessing the risk of accidents for modern low-carbon energy systems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 112, 3952-3965. In this analysis the authors compiled a database of as many energy-related accidents as possible based on an extensive search of academic databases and news reports, and derived death rates for each source over the period from 1990 to 2013. Since this database has not been extended since then, it’s not possible to provide post-2013 death rates.

  • UNSCEAR (2008). Sources and effects of Ionizing Radiation. UNSCEAR 2008 Report to the General Assembly with Scientific Annexes. Available online.

    Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. General Assembly Official Records, Sixty-eighth session, Supplement No. 46. New York: United Nations, Sixtieth session, May 27–31, 2013.

  • Schlömer S., T. Bruckner, L. Fulton, E. Hertwich, A. McKinnon, D. Perczyk, J. Roy, R. Schaeffer, R. Sims, P. Smith, and R. Wiser, 2014: Annex III: Technology-specific cost and performance parameters. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

    The IPCC AR5 report was published in 2014, and relies on studies conducted several years prior to its publication. For technologies which have been developing rapidly – namely solar, wind and other renewables, production technologies and intensities have changed significantly since then, and will continue to change as energy systems decarbonize. Life-cycle figures for nuclear, solar, wind and hydropower have therefore been adopted by the more recent publication by Pehl et al. (2017), published in Nature Energy.

    Pehl, M., Arvesen, A., Humpenöder, F., Popp, A., Hertwich, E. G., & Luderer, G. (2017). Understanding future emissions from low-carbon power systems by integration of life-cycle assessment and integrated energy modelling. Nature Energy, 2(12), 939-945.

    (Video) Which Power Source Is Most Efficient?

    The Carbon Brief provides a clear discussion of the significance of these more recent lifecycle analyses in detail here.

    Since oil is conventionally not used for electricity production, it is not included in the IPCC’s reported figures per kilowatt-hour. Figures for oil have therefore been taken from Turconi et al. (2013). It reports emissions in kilograms of CO2eq per megawatt-hour. Emissions factors for all other technologies are consistent with results from the IPCC. The range it gives for oil is 530–900: I have here taken the midpoint estimate (715 kgCO2eq/MWh, which is also 715 gCO2eq/kWh).

    Turconi, R., Boldrin, A., & Astrup, T. (2013). Life cycle assessment (LCA) of electricity generation technologies: Overview, comparability and limitations. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 28, 555-565.

  • Burgherr, P., & Hirschberg, S. (2014). Comparative risk assessment of severe accidents in the energy sector. Energy Policy, 74, S45-S56.

    McCombie, C., & Jefferson, M. (2016). Renewable and nuclear electricity: Comparison of environmental impacts. Energy Policy, 96, 758-769.

    Hirschberg, S., Bauer, C., Burgherr, P., Cazzoli, E., Heck, T., Spada, M., & Treyer, K. (2016). Health effects of technologies for power generation: Contributions from normal operation, severe accidents and terrorist threat. Reliability Engineering & System Safety, 145, 373-387.

    Luderer, G., Pehl, M., Arvesen, A., Gibon, T., Bodirsky, B. L., de Boer, H. S., … & Mima, S. (2019). Environmental co-benefits and adverse side-effects of alternative power sector decarbonization strategies. Nature Communications, 10(1), 1-13.

    Hertwich, E. G., Gibon, T., Bouman, E. A., Arvesen, A., Suh, S., Heath, G. A., … & Shi, L. (2015). Integrated life-cycle assessment of electricity-supply scenarios confirms global environmental benefit of low-carbon technologies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(20), 6277-6282.

    (Video) What is the safest energy source so far

  • Pollutant controls in advanced economies such as the US and Europe are advanced, and have been in place for many decades. Controls tend to be lower in middle-to-low-income countries.

    Wang, S., Yu, C., & Hao, J. (2011). Control of NOx emissions from power plants: Experiences of United States and its implications for China. Chinese Journal of Environmental Engineering, 5(6), 1213-1220.

    However many have made significant progress in recent years. This paper details the progress made in China.

    Wang, G., Deng, J., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Q., Duan, L., Hao, J., & Jiang, J. (2020). Air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants in China over the past two decades. Science of the Total Environment, 741, 140326.

  • Xie, L., Huang, Y., & Qin, P. (2018). Spatial distribution of coal-fired power plants in China. Environment and Development Economics, 23(4), 495-515.

  • Coal: 24.62 deaths per TWh * 10,042 TWh = 247,000 deaths

    Oil: 18.43 deaths per TWh * 852 TWh = 16,000 deaths

    (Video) The Best Worst Energy Source

    Gas: 2.82 deaths per TWh * 6,098 TWh = 17,000 deaths.

    This sums to a total of 280,000 people.

  • Lelieveld, J., Klingmüller, K., Pozzer, A., Burnett, R. T., Haines, A., & Ramanathan, V. (2019). Effects of fossil fuel and total anthropogenic emission removal on public health and climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(15), 7192-7197.

  • Vohra, K., Vodonos, A., Schwartz, J., Marais, E. A., Sulprizio, M. P., & Mickley, L. J. (2021). Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem. Environmental Research, 195, 110754.

  • Chowdhury, S., Pozzer, A., Haines, A., Klingmueller, K., Münzel, T., Paasonen, P., … & Lelieveld, J. (2022). Global health burden of ambient PM2.5 and the contribution of anthropogenic black carbon and organic aerosols. Environment International, 159, 107020.

  • Leliveld et al. (2019) estimate that 8.8 million people die from all sources of air pollution each year. If we multiply this figure by 12%, we get 1.1 million people.

    Vohra et al. (2021) estimate that the death toll is 2.4 times higher than Leliveld et al. (2019). This would give a figure of 2.55 million deaths [1.1 million * 2.4]

  • UNECE (2021). Lifecycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Options. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

    (Video) Nuclear power the 'safest and cleanest' form of energy generation

  • All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited.

    The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. We will always indicate the original source of the data in our documentation, so you should always check the license of any such third-party data before use and redistribution.

    FAQs

    What is the safest and cleanest source of energy? ›

    Nuclear energy, for example, results in 99.9% fewer deaths than brown coal; 99.8% fewer than coal; 99.7% fewer than oil; and 97.6% fewer than gas. Wind and solar are just as safe.

    What is the cleanest source of energy? ›

    Out of all energy resources, we consider green power (solar, wind, biomass and geothermal) as the cleanest form of energy.

    What is the most safest energy? ›

    nuclear energy is by far the safest energy source. It has more than 330 times fewer deaths than coal; 250 times less than oil; and 38 times fewer than gas.

    What is the best source of energy? ›

    Nuclear Power is the Most Reliable Energy Source and It's Not Even Close. Nuclear energy is America's work horse. It's been rolling up its sleeves for six decades now to provide constant, reliable, carbon-free power to millions of Americans.

    What is the most environmentally friendly energy? ›

    Solar energy is one of the most accessible renewable resources today. It makes use of the sun's energy and converts it into electricity. Many businesses, and even houses, are making use of solar energy not only to reduce their ecological footprint, but also to significantly cut cost on their electrical expenses.

    Which energy source does not harm the environment? ›

    Electricity from renewable resources such as solar, geothermal, and wind generally does not contribute to climate change or local air pollution since no fuels are combusted.

    Which energy source causes the least pollution? ›

    Nuclear energy has one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources, comparable with the total impacts of wind and solar. It doesn't emit air pollution, it safely keeps its waste out of the environment and it requires a very small amount of land.

    What is the cleanest form of renewable energy? ›

    In fact, wind energy, harnessing power from the wind, is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity as it produces no toxic pollution or global warming emissions.

    Why is nuclear energy the safest? ›

    Nuclear is a zero-emission clean energy source. It generates power through fission, which is the process of splitting uranium atoms to produce energy. The heat released by fission is used to create steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity without the harmful byproducts emitted by fossil fuels.

    What is the number 1 source of energy worldwide today? ›

    Coal is currently the largest source of electricity globally. For many countries remains the dominant source.

    Can any source of energy be pollution free? ›

    No energy can be pollution-free energy

    The various forms of energy are solar energy, hydro electrical energy, nuclear energy and so on. No source of energy can be completely pollution-free. Yet sometimes, solar cells are considered to be pollution-free but their manufacturing may cause environmental damage.

    Which renewable energy source is the best and why? ›

    Wind power is the leading renewable energy source, bringing in 8% of the energy of the United States. This renewable energy source isn't as quiet as solar power, but it does pack a solid efficiency rating and is generally environmentally friendly.

    Is nuclear energy the cleanest? ›

    Nuclear is a zero-emission clean energy source. It generates power through fission, which is the process of splitting uranium atoms to produce energy. The heat released by fission is used to create steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity without the harmful byproducts emitted by fossil fuels.

    Which energy source causes the least pollution? ›

    Nuclear energy has one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources, comparable with the total impacts of wind and solar. It doesn't emit air pollution, it safely keeps its waste out of the environment and it requires a very small amount of land.

    Which energy source does not harm the environment? ›

    Electricity from renewable resources such as solar, geothermal, and wind generally does not contribute to climate change or local air pollution since no fuels are combusted.

    What is the safest fossil fuel? ›

    Natural gas one of the safest and cleanest fuels available. It emits less pollution than other fossil fuel sources. When natural gas is burned, it produces mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor -- the same substances emitted when humans exhale.

    Videos

    1. The Biggest Lie About Renewable Energy
    (AsapSCIENCE)
    2. World's Cleanest Electricity
    (Nas Daily)
    3. Could We Make The Perfect Energy Source?
    (Life Noggin)
    4. Trump Ally Paul Gosar: 'Nuclear energy is the cleanest energy source'
    (The Hill)
    5. Is nuclear energy a clean energy source?
    (Interesting Engineering)
    6. Renewable Energy is The Scam We All Fell For
    (Thoughty2)

    Top Articles

    You might also like

    Latest Posts

    Article information

    Author: Kieth Sipes

    Last Updated: 11/18/2022

    Views: 5759

    Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

    Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Kieth Sipes

    Birthday: 2001-04-14

    Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

    Phone: +9663362133320

    Job: District Sales Analyst

    Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

    Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.