7.1 Energy choices and security

Significant ideas

  • There is a range of different energy sources available to societies that vary in their sustainability, availability, cost and socio-political implications.
  • The choice of energy sources is controversial and complex. Energy security is an important factor in making energy choices.

Knowledge and understanding:

  1. Fossil fuels contribute to the majority of humankind’s energy supply, and they vary widely in the impacts of their production and their emissions; their use is expected to increase to meet global energy demand.
  2. Sources of energy with lower carbon dioxide emissions than fossil fuels include renewable energy (solar, biomass, hydropower, wind, wave, tidal and geothermal) and their use is expected to increase. Nuclear power is a low- carbon low-emission non-renewable resource but is controversial due to the radioactive waste it produces and the potential scale of any accident.
  3. Energy security depends on adequate, reliable and affordable supply of energy that provides a degree of independence. An inequitable availability and uneven distributions of energy sources may lead to conflict.
  4. The energy choices adopted by a society may be influenced by availability; sustainability; scientific and technological developments; cultural attitudes; and political, economic and environmental factors. These in turn affect energy security and independence.
  5. Improvements in energy efficiencies and energy conservation can limit growth in energy demand and contribute to energy security.

Applications and skills:

  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources.
  • Discuss the factors that affect the choice of energy sources adopted by different societies.
  • Discuss the factors which affect energy security.
  • Evaluate the energy strategy of a given society.


  • Choice of energy sources can have impacts at both local and global level as emissions of greenhouse gases can contribute to global climatic change.
  • Political and economic situations around the world can affect energy security and choice of options.

Theory of knowledge:

  • The choice of energy sources is controversial and complex—how can we distinguish between a scientific claim and a pseudoscience claim when making choices?


  • Energy and equilibria (1.3)
  • Sustainability (1.4)
  • Resource use in society (8.2)
  • Human population carrying capacity (8.4)