Can journalists please stop mixing up energy and electricity?

A pet peeve of mine is the continual inability of many environment journalists to know the difference between energy and electricity. Here are just a few random examples from the last two weeks:

Worldwide renewable energy capacity in 2012 equalled China’s total energy demand (4,860TWh)!

This would be nice if true, unfortunately the journalist at Treehugger has mixed up electricity and energy. China’s electricity demand was 4937 TWh last year. Unfortunately it’s total energy demand was approximately 31,809 TWh. So no, renewable energy is not equal to China’s total energy demand. (and second pet peeve: capacity and production are totally different things. This headline seems custom made to annoy me.)

IEA: renewables will be world’s second-largest energy source by 2018

This journalist at Wired is not the only person to misinterpret the IEA projecting that renewables will becoming the world’s second biggest source of electricity, not energy, by 2018.

The Sunday Telegraph however seems to want to go one step further. In an editorial on the future of UK energy policy they managed to think that energy supply, electricity supply and gas supply are the same thing.

And finally,

Roadmap for 100% renewables: How the Greens would get there

The Australia Green Party’s leader outlines a road to 100% renewables by 2030. The beauty of this one is that it is completely unclear throughout what Milne means by 100% renewables. She seems to flick between 100% renewable energy and 100% renewable electricity at a whim. So, on the one hand she tells us that we need to take climate change seriously, but the other hasn’t taken the time to understand and communicate the most simple aspects of our energy system: the difference between electricity and energy.

So, here’s a simple piece of advice: if someone makes some prediction, or tells you that 100% renewable energy is possible, but also does not know the difference between energy and electricity, then just flip the page. It will save you a few minutes of reading.

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3 thoughts on “Can journalists please stop mixing up energy and electricity?”

  1. There’s also the common confusion between MW (power) and MW-h (energy). And MW per hour, when intended as a unit of power.

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