The benefits of the next generation of energy technologies occur throughout the
interconnected system of energy suppliers, transmitters, and consumers. These
technologies, however, need support from industry and policy makers, and the public itself,
to reach the point of competitive maturity. Doing so will help society realize the benefits
of these nascent technologies as they move from ideas generated in laboratories to the
marketplace and into our every day lives.
Figure 1 illustrates the interconnected U.S. energy system. The left side of the chart lists how
much energy we obtain today from the wide variety of sources available. On the right side
is information about how much of that energy in consumed in the residential, commercial,
industrial and transportation sectors, and how much of the energy generated is lost due to
inefficiencies throughout the system. The “rejected energy” at the far right of the figure, is
the energy that is lost to due to inefficiency. While we cannot reduce this loss to zero, there
is significant room for improvement. This is important as the energy rejected is more than
the energy providing valuable services. The greater the degree to which we can improve our
generation and consumption of energy, the more efficient will be the nation’s use of energy.
Energy technologies can help us reach that goal and the related societal benefits.
Some energy uses will not be apparent from this chart. For example, we also need energy
storage and conversion technologies that power devices inside our bodies and in challenging
environments such as deep in the ocean and in mines. In addition, the use of energy
technologies can be enhanced by implementing policies that optimize their use.