Energy Supply

If you think about your daily life and count how many devices that use energy and how many things you own that use energy to be made, you start to realise how much energy you use every day. Zooming out and thinking about the larger scale of your city or country, there is more energy than you could imagine being used daily. Energy supply is super important. As the consumption of energy and the global energy supply is unequal, due to the growth of the global population today, countries are looking for ways to increase energy supplies. What kind of strategies have countries come up with? What are the different factors that could affect the energy supply? Let's have a closer look into the cause of the need for more energy and how countries are increasing their energy supplies.

Energy Supply Energy Supply

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Table of contents

    Energy supply definition geography

    In geography, the definition of energy supply is the energy delivery from the source to the energy consumption point.

    Energy consumption is all the energy that is used by all the people.

    So this covers processes of extraction, which could be fossil fuels being taken from the Earth like the mining of coal, which could be creating electricity through burning the fossil fuels, and distribution which could be the network of electricity lines from the supplier to your homes and storage of fuels which could be the battery in an electric car.

    The three most common energy supplies are:

    1. Gas
    2. Coal
    3. Nuclear fuel

    Factors affecting energy supply

    There are four main factors affecting the increasing energy supply. The first is the growing global population, with approximately 7.8 billion people on Earth, which is expected to rise to 9.5 billion by 2050. Everybody needs to use energy in some form to survive, so the energy demand will keep increasing.

    Secondly, the economic development of a country relies on people working in factories and offices which run using energy. As there is more development, more factories, offices, and energy will be used.

    The third reason would be that the standard of living in newly emerging economies (NEEs) like India are improving, so people can buy cars and electronic appliances for their homes leading to considerable growth in energy consumption at a country level.

    Lastly, developing new technologies means more chances of people using more energy. As mobile devices and computer usage has increased, energy demand is also increasing.

    Importance of energy supply

    Energy supplies are needed to power homes and businesses, connect communities, provide safe water and promote economic and human development. This means that it is important to have an energy supply.

    So why is it essential to keep up with the increasing energy demand? The lack of energy supplies can lead to countries having energy insecurity and problems.

    Energy security describes a country that can provide enough energy to meet the demand.

    Energy insecurity is when the energy is accessed through other countries.

    Energy insecurity can cause conflict. For example, when a river flows through many countries and the country upstream builds a dam to generate hydroelectric power (HEP), this could affect the country downstream and leave them with less water.

    There has been a long dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over a hydroelectric dam built on the River Nile. Egypt and Sudan have complained that Ethiopia is disrupting the water supply whilst Ethiopia sees it as a way to generate electricity for its citizens. This gives Ethiopia the power to control the water and conflict between the three countries.

    Energy Supply Map of the location of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam StudySmarterFig. 1 - Map of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

    Energy resources use valuable farmland, and the growing biofuel market uses crops to be grown for fuel instead of food. This causes food shortages and pushes the prices of food up. Industrial output relies on energy, so when there is a short supply of energy, the more expensive it is, the more expensive manufacturing gets.

    Strategies to increase energy supply

    There are many strategies to increase energy supply as demand increases and existing fuel supplies run out. Let's look at two approaches to producing energy, renewable and non-renewable, and how both are explored to increase energy supply.

    Renewable energy source

    Renewable energy is an energy source that is replenished and not exhausted.

    Solar power is generated from the sun's light, which will constantly be replenished and will not be exhausted.

    It is seen as a more expensive and less efficient way of producing energy than fossil fuels. However, the government offers subsidies because they don't exhaust fuels like fossil fuels and are a more sustainable way of creating energy.

    Wind power

    Wind turbines use the air movements of wind to generate electricity. The UK has consistent wind speeds, so wind power is an excellent way to create energy. The wind turbines on land (onshore) generate more wind energy; however, as the UK is an island nation, it could build more turbines in the sea (offshore). Building wind turbines cost more to build in the sea than onshore.

    There is an offshore wind farm called the "London Array", 12.4 mi/20 km off the Kent coast between Margate and Clacton. It is named after London as the wind farm's power goes into the London electricity grid. It is one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world. It is applauded for its production of clean, renewable energy which is helping to reduce carbon emissions however there are disadvantages such as disturbance of marine life, sea birds, and fishing grounds.

    Wave and tidal power

    Wave power uses the smaller movements of the sea's surface to generate energy. The UK is an island nation so there is potential in this renewable energy. It is seen as a relatively new technology and is expensive.

    Energy Supply wave power generator diagram StudySmarterFig. 2 - Diagram of a wave power generator

    Tidal power uses the larger movements of the tides to generate energy. The UK has plans to build tidal lagoons for the use of tidal power.

    Hydroelectric power (HEP)

    Hydroelectric power is when the river water is collected behind a dam and the movement of the water turns the turbines. 1.5% of the electricity in the UK is generated through HEP.

    Geothermal power

    Geothermal power uses the heat from the Earth to generate electricity. There are certain places where it is easier to access geothermal heat, for example, Iceland. So it cannot be used everywhere.


    Biomass is energy from material derived from living things such as cow manure. Energy can be generated from burning biomass and non-recyclable rubbish to create electricity.

    Non-renewable energy source

    Much of global energy is generated from non-renewable energy which is energy that cannot be replaced when used up. Non-renewable energy can be more efficient and can increase energy supplied when less fuel is used.

    Fossil fuels

    Traditionally power is generated from fossil fuels such as coal and gas burned in power stations. Recently coal and gas power stations re-use the wasted heat which is called combined-cycle systems. Some power stations co-fire biomass with fossil fuels which makes the fossil fuels last longer. Another way of accessing fossil fuels is fracking, which is a process of breaking rock underground by injecting liquid under pressure to create tiny cracks, which can extract shale gas which adds to the supply of fossil fuels.

    Energy Supply fracking process diagram StudySmarterFig. 3 - Diagram of fracking

    Fossil fuel can increase energy supply. How? By burning and using the heat given off to heat water and then using the steam that rises to drive a turbine.

    Nuclear energy

    In nuclear power plants, uranium fuel rods are used. Reprocessing can recover the uranium left over after the use of the fuel rods. This makes the existing supplies last longer.

    Nuclear energy has always been a controversial non-renewable energy source. Although it can produce a lot of energy with not many nuclear fuels, an accident can lead to radioactive material being released into the environment. In 2011, there was a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was damaged by a tsunami that had been triggered by the most powerful earthquake recorded in Japan. Large amounts of radioactive water were released into the Pacific Ocean. There is an ongoing cleanup program to decontaminate affected areas and the decommissioned plant however it is said that it would take 30 to 40 years.

    Energy supply examples

    There are still many alternative ways of increasing energy supplies that haven't been explored as much. Below are examples of new ways of coal mining in Northumberland and fracking in Lancashire.

    Coal mining in Northumberland

    There are plans to open a new opencast coal mine in Druridge Bay, Northumberland. This is a different way of extracting coal where the coal is scraped away from the Earth's surface instead of obtained by digging. The extraction would happen from 2016 to 2027; by 2032, the site will be restored to its former beauty. It is estimated that 7 million tonnes of coal available will take 10 years to extract. However, there are disadvantages as coal as an energy source leads to carbon emissions which are linked to global warming.

    Fracking in Lancashire

    Around half of the gas used in the UK comes from Europe and the supplies are depleting due to the rising demand for energy. In 2016, Preston New Road started fracking to try and extract shale gas from two shale gas wells. However, fracking was seen as the cause of two earthquakes and the government intervened to stop the process. The ban on fracking has yet to be lifted.

    Energy Supply - Key takeaways

    • As the global population grows today, countries are looking for ways to increase energy supplies.
    • Economic development of a country, the standard of living rising in newly emerging economies, and development in technology are reasons for the increase in demand for energy supplies,
    • The lack of access to energy can cause energy insecurity, which can lead to conflict, a rise in food prices, rise in the cost of industrial output.
    • There are strategies to increase energy in renewable and non-renewable sources.


    1. Fig. 1: map of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ( by शीतल सिन्हा ( Licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0 (
    2. Fig. 2: diagram of a wave power generator ( by Hadhuey ( Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (
    Frequently Asked Questions about Energy Supply

    What is meant by energy supply?

    Energy supply is the delivery of energy from the source to the point of consumption.

    What are the three most common energy supplies?

    The three most commons energy supplies are: 

    1.  Non-renewable energy sources (coal, gas, petroleum)
    2. Renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydroelectric)
    3. Nuclear energy sources

    Why do we need an energy supply?

    We need an energy supply to power homes and businesses, connect communities, provide safe water and promote economic and human development.

    How can fossil fuels increase energy supply?

    Fossil fuels can increase energy supply through burning and using the heat given off to heat water and then using the steam that rises to drive a turbine.

    What factors affect energy supply?

    The factors that affect the energy supply include:

    • Growing population.
    • Economic development levels.
    • Improving standards of living.
    • Technology development.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following are a renewable energy source?

    Which of the following is a benefit of renewable energy?

    Which of the following are a non-renewable energy source?


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