Update of Death per Terawatt hour by Energy Source

This is an updating of my older articles based upon the updated estimates of air pollution related deaths.

The deaths from coal, oil and natural gas and biofuels have a higher estimate.

Basically the burning of fuel causes particulates and increases deaths by over 20 to 200 times compared to other energy production.

However, deaths from extreme world poverty is worse than air pollution. Diseases of poverty kill approximately 14 million people annually versus about 6.45-7 million for outdoor air pollution. Although there is overlap (and double counting) as indoor air pollution is mainly a problem for poor people.

Some researchers estimate the effects of particle pollutants killed 3.15 million individuals in 2010, with strokes (cerebrovascular disease) and heart attacks (ischemic heart disease) contributing most heavily. Analysis of ozone related mortality revealed a total estimate of 3.30 million people dying prematurely in 2010. About 50-90% of the particulates are from energy and transportation. The other part is from volcanos, construction (a lot is from construction in China), road dust, large fires and dust storms.

Particulates and ozone increased by about 10% since 2010. Therefore the combined 6.45 million deaths would be about 7.0 million in 2016. However, about half of the particulates is from non-energy and transportation sources. There are some other sources of ozone. Therefore 5.0 million total deaths from energy generation, industrial and transportation usage.

India’s pollution board identified road dust as the biggest contributor (52.5%) to particulate matter in Delhi’s air, followed by industries (22.1%). The study attributed only 6.6% of particulate emissions to vehicles. For NOx, the study found industries contributed 79% and vehicles 18%; vehicles were the main source for CO and hydrocarbons: 59% and 50% respectively. India’s vehicles are mainly not electric. So I will include the dust generated from a oil powered vehicle as part of deaths per twh.

Outdoor air pollution is linked to 1.6 million deaths per year in China

My original deaths per twh article in 2008 so the references were looking at data from about 2005 and 2006.

ExternE – the european study on energy deaths was a major source.

ExternE numbers which were for Europe would underestimate energy deaths for the world.
I calculated world and China numbers for coal using World Health numbers.

I had a 2011 lifetime deaths per twh article

I looked at how to lower deaths per TWh

Here is a review of the peer reviewed literature on air pollution deaths

Prof Michael Greenstone has some newer studies with higher numbers

Outdoor particulate air pollution kills over 3 million people.

In 2012, world primary energy supply amounted to 155,505 terawatt-hour (TWh) or 13,371 Mtoe, while the world final energy consumption was 104,426 TWh or about 32% less than the total supply. World final energy consumption includes products as lubricants, asphalt and petrochemicals which have chemical energy content but are not used as fuel. This non-energy use amounted to 9,404 TWh (809 Mtoe) in 2012.

The world’s electricity consumption was 18,608 TWh in 2012. This figure is about 18% smaller than the generated electricity, due to grid losses, storage losses, and self-consumption from power plants (gross generation). Cogeneration (CHP) power stations use some of the energy that is otherwise wasted for heating buildings or in industrial processes.

Taking the TWH generation numbers for the World and for China (for the coal.)


----------------- --------- ---------     ------- -------------------------------------
Coal – world avg. 2,200,000    244.00      9,000 (10% world energy, 41% of electricity.)
Coal – China      1,300,000    325.00      4,000  Utilizing heavily-manual practices

Coal – USA                      10.00         Mostly open-pit and u/g machine
Oil               2,400,000     52.00     42,000 (40% of world energy, 4.4% of electricity)
Natural Gas         300,000     20.00     15,000 (15% of world energy, 11% of electricity)

Biofuel/Biomass                 50.00         
Peat                            50.00         
Solar (rooftop)          12      0.1         110  (1.0% of world electricity)
Wind                    105      0.15        700  (2.8% of world electricity)
Hydro                   400      0.10      4,000 (EU deaths, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro + Banqiao)      4,000      1.00      4,000 (~4000 TWh/yr + 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear                 104      0.04      2,600 (3% of world energy, 10% of electricity)

----------------- --------- --------- ------- -------------------------------------
World             5,000,000     47       105,000 Terawatt-hours
Unaccounted for      95,400                1,500 TWh = 6.00% … fatalities prorated

China will use about 4.5 billion tons of coal this year. Previously official figures under reported the coal usage by 18%. This is triple the level in 2000.
There are no good numbers for deats solar and wind. Not well tracked. Occupational deaths from middle east and Russian oil are easy to find publicly.

World coal usage is about 9 billion tons.

I have also looked at the occupational deaths (coal mining numbers from China – getting relatively better)

I have not tried to include any oil war related deaths.

World Health Organization had a look at global health risks

I am going update and review and go over sources in more detail.

I have other articles which review various segments.

IEA has a study with different numbers and assumptions.

Coal waste impacts. Actual deaths worse than I indicated back in 2008. I did not fully include indoor air pollution and did not include deaths beyond particulates because the causality is not as solid.

Uranium mining deaths were mainly for uranium mined for nuclear bombs.
Uranium mining was corrected by the time commercial reactors were going.

Another complaint is about the fact that there are predictions that many more will die from Chernobyl.
The credible studies indicate that people have not died yet. A future death anticipation is another comparison. Where we look at lifetime energy risks by source and total expected deaths.
With air pollution we are looking at a range from 80 years * 2 million (with 14 year avg life reduction) or 1 billion lives shortened (World health estimate of 2 year life expectancy reduction. then spread the 14 year avg life reduction by one seventh to get 2 year. So that would mean about 1 billion lives shortened by 2 years or more.

Could have a cutoff of 2 years of life shortening, which equates to being 15% overweight. Unless people want to play the maximum Chernobyl numbers and then any statistical shortening by days then has the same issue for pilots and stewardesses who lose about 30-60 days.

US Occupational fatalities hint at the deaths in the oil industry for the world.

hydro dam deaths

Impacts of Atmospheric Brown Clouds on Human Health


Indoor Air pollution problem of the developing world. I did not fully use these numbers which cause 3 million deaths per year and are coal and biomass.

Coal and biomass deaths per TWH would skyrocket if the indoor air pollution effects were included because so little power is made and so many deaths are produced.

Luong Van Inh is among a neglected group of Asians threatened by an environmental hazard rarely considered: indoor air pollution. Caused by burning wood, coal or other cheap fuels in kitchens, it kills about 1.5-3.0 million people worldwide each year.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, Externe, World Health Organization, medical study publications Occupational health and workplace safety studies

1 thought on “Update of Death per Terawatt hour by Energy Source”

Comments are closed.