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Energy is the capacity of a physical system to perform work.


What is Energy?

Energy can be defined as the capacity to do work.   It is governed by the law of conservation of energy from the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. However, energy can change forms and can flow from one place to another.

Energy is found in nature in many forms, including:

  • Kinetic Energy which is energy associated with mass in motion
  • Potential Energy which is energy associated with position in a force field such as a gravitational, electric, or magnetic field
  • Chemical Energy which is energy stored in certain materials that can be released by chemical reactions
  • Thermal/Heat Energy which is energy associated with random molecular motions within a medium; often associated with temperature
  • Radiant Energy which is energy carried by light and other electromagnetic radiation

Another way to look at energy is as a system. How do we get from the base resources used to produce energy, and turn that into the energy services we use on a daily basis?

This energy system can be explained as a chain, starting with Primary Energy and ending with Useful Energy. Resources are extracted and processed to give us Primary Energy.  This is a raw form of energy, an example being natural gas.  Primary energy then undergoes conversion and distribution to become final energy.  Final Energy is a usable form of energy such as electricity or transportation fuel.  End-use technologies take final energy and convert it to the last form of energy – Useful Energy.  Useful energy refers to the energy associated with the energy services that consumers receive.



The understanding and development of energy is critical for societal advancement.  There is a direct correlation between the socio-economic development of a region and its consumption of energy. Our ability to utilize energy enables a society to use technology to substitute human labour. Energy also helps to improve quality of life, such as its integral role in the entertainment and leisure industries. For those who have access to energy, it is hard to imagine a life without it.


While energy is pervasive in all aspects of modern society, there are numerous negative impacts on human health and the environment associated with its production and use. 


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International Energy Agency

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Energy for All

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European Commission – Energy

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World Resources Institute – Energy

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United States Energy Association

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Danish Energy Agency

Swedish Energy Agency

Energy Council of Canada

Natural Resources Canada – Energy

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Energy Technologies Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute

Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre

European Energy Research Alliance

Asian Energy Studies Centre

Asian Energy Institute

The Energy Institute of the University of Austin

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies


KTH Royal Institute of Technology – Energy Research Platform

The Masdar Institute – Institute Center for Energy

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – Energy Program (ENE)

Institute for Energy Economics and the Rational Use of Energy

Clean Energy Institution

Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy

E.ON Energy Research Center

The European Commission –  Joint Research Centre (JRC)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory – Energy Analysis

The Energy Systems Analysis Group – Princeton University

Academic journal


Advances in Building Energy Research

Energy Policy

Energy Economics

International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy

Renewable Energy

Frontiers in Energy Research

Annual Review of Environment and Resources


Journalist’s Resource – Energy

International Journal of Energy Research

International Energy Journal

Journal Rankings on Energy

International Journal of Energy and Environmental Engineering

Energies — Open Access Energy Research, Engineering and Policy Journal

Energy & Fuels

New Energy Journals – Elsevier


Energy Transitions in History: a short bibliography


U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Energy Information Administration

Securing America’s Future Energy

Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy

Joint Institute of Strategic Energy Analysis

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Climate Policy Initiative

Europe Energy Legislation


International Association for Energy Economics

United States Association for Energy Economics

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Asian Development Bank – Energy

The Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

National Bureau of Economic Research – Energy Issues

Economics for Energy

European Commission – Energy –  Market Analysis

The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan

Paul Scherrer Institute – Energy Economics Group

Environmental impact

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Department of Energy & Environment – US

European Federation of Agencies and Regions for Energy and the Environment

United States Environmental Protection Agency 

Pollution Probe – Transportation

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Berkley Lab – Energy  Analysis

The Business Case for Superior Energy Performance (SEP)

The Economist – Intelligent Unit – Energy

Health impact
International Energy Agency –

Roundtable on the Health & Well-being Impacts of Energy Efficiency Improvements

World Health Organization (WHO) –

Health benefits of a Green Economy

Natural Resources Defense Council –

Environment and Health

Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute

Centre for Energy, Environment and Health

Environmental Health Coalition


Sustainable Energy for All

Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization

Global Energy Initiative

International Sustainable Energy Organisation

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

RIO+ Centre

ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy

Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability

International Institute for Sustainable Development

Canadian Sustainability Indicators Network

Dialogues on Sustainability

The Alliance for Global Sustainability

Sustainable Development –  The World Bank

Other Interesting Essays/Articles

Union of Concerned Scientists

Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan (US)

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The Fuse

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – The Global Energy Assessment (GEA)


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An Illustrated History of Energy

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