Pros and cons of different energy sources

In supplying society with energy, a balance must be struck between competitiveness, security of supply, and the environment. No single energy source is optimal from all dimensions. This table illustrates the pros and cons of some energy sources.


  Pros Cons
Wind power icon
  • Wind power emits essentially no CO2 across its life cycle.
  • Has no fuel costs.
  • Has an impact on the landscape, and also emits noise.
  • Dependent on available wind.
  • Has significant investment costs.
Biomass icon
  • Biomass resources are geographically diversified and political risk is limited.
  • By using biomass in power production instead of fossil fuels, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced.
  • Properly managed biomass is carbon neutral over time.
  • Supply of larger volumes is currently difficult to secure.
  • Biomass is currently more expensive than using energy sources such as coal, gas or nuclear power.
Hydro power icon
  • Hydro power has almost no emissions that impact the climate or the environment.
  • Provides large-scale and stable electricity generation.
  • Functions as balancing power.
  • Has no fuel costs.
  • Hydro power plants have a long economic life.
  • Hydro power plants are a significant encroachment on the landscape and impact river ecosystems.
  • Constructing a new hydro power plant requires a substantial investment
Solar power icon
  • Due to decreasing costs, high public support and low CO2 emissions, volumes of Solar Photovoltaic (solar PV) will continue to grow.
  • When it is combined with energy storage and smart software solutions, solar energy becomes a reliable and ever cheaper source of energy.
  • The sun is an unlimited resource in contrast to fossil fuels.
  • Easy to install, no rotating masses, little operation and maintenance work.
  • Long lifetime of systems >25 years.
  • Solar energy is intermittent - electricity production is dependent on sunlight.
  • Expensive but in recent years the cost of solar energy equipment has decreased significantly.
  • Sunlight is varying with location and season. Forecasts are more unsecure than for fossil fuels (but better than wind).
  • Not dispatchable and mismatch between generation and demand curve.
Natural gas icon
  • Natural gas can be a transition fuel in the conversion to a sustainable energy system.
  • Allows a high degree of flexibility.
  • Natural gas will become more competitive as CO2 prices rise.
  • Emits CO2, though to a lesser extent than the combustion of other fossil fuels.
  • Some regions that export natural gas face political instability.
  • Natural gas is a more expensive energy source than other fossil fuels.
Nuclear power icon
  • Nuclear power emits low levels of CO2 across its life cycle.
  • Provides stable and large-scale electricity generation.
  • Costs for fuel, operation and maintenance are normally relatively low.
  • The management of high-level waste requires storage in secure facilities for a very long time.
  • Contruction of a new nuclear power plant requires major investments.
Coal icon
  • Coal provides stable and large-scale electricity generation.
  • Coal power has a competitive production cost.
  • Fuel costs are low and coal markets are well-functioning.
  • Coal power plants emit high levels of CO2.
  • Technologies to reduce coal power plant CO2 emissions are expensive.
  • Coal mining impacts significantly on the landscape and infrastructure.
Last updated: 2017-08-24 12:47