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What's New > Event > World Energy Conference 2007

Earth at Night features Prosperity, Pollution and Opportunity


A Layered Visualization of Global Energy Use and Consequences

The Earth at Night Map from NASA provides the starting point.  The lights of the world identify populations that have electricity.  However, all lights are not the same, and 1.6 billion people remain in the dark – mostly in Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

In successive layers, we feature:

  • A global population map showing population density, featuring the distinctions between our urban and rural world. We simulate population growth to 8.5 billion to 2050, which underscores the doubling of future energy demand.

  • Shading each region/nation per their level of development: developed, transitional, underdeveloped.  This is defined by several United Nations quality of life indicators: infant mortality rate, life expectancy, safe drinking water and literacy.

  • All lights are not equal.  A layer that reveals kilowatt-hours per capita, correlating electricity consumption and living standards.

  • Beneath the lights are interconnected high-voltage transmission grids, which carry that power to 99.9% of all lit population centers.

  • We colorize the generation by source: nuclear, fossil, biomass and hydro.

  • Subsequent visuals shows pollution levels in each region from burning of fossil fuels: total carbon emission per nation and CO2 emissions per capita.

  • A visual of current wind, solar and geothermal development, which remains less than 2% of current global production.

  • Finally, we view the renewable energy potential of each region – solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass and ocean --  and aggregate those into a total renewable resource potential.  This is compared to existing electrical demand of the region to visualize and simulate the transitional path to non-carbon fuels.

A final analysis poses the following questions:

  1. What if we tapped the renewable energy resources and fed them into the transmission grids that already exist?

  2. Can you meet the energy needs of your customers using non-fossil resources?

  3. How would we get electrical services to the 1.6 billion unserved people in an ecologically sustainable manner?

Our request of you:

We need access to vector-based datasets to build this visualization so decision-makers have a tool to make fully informed policy and investment choices.

Can you help us in securing this data?

Updated: 2016/06/30

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