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Energy Return on Investment of Major Energy Carriers: Review and Harmonization


  • David J. Murphy

    (Environmental Studies Department, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617, USA)

  • Marco Raugei

    (School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley, Oxford OX33 1HX, UK
    Center for Life Cycle Assessment, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA)

  • Michael Carbajales-Dale

    (Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA)

  • Brenda Rubio Estrada

    (Environmental Studies Department, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617, USA)


Net energy, that is, the energy remaining after accounting for the energy “cost” of extraction and processing, is the “profit” energy used to support modern society. Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a popular metric to assess the profitability of energy extraction processes, with EROI > 1 indicating that more energy is delivered to society than is used in the extraction process. Over the past decade, EROI analysis in particular has grown in popularity, resulting in an increase in publications in recent years. The lack of methodological consistency, however, among these papers has led to a situation where inappropriate comparisons are being made across technologies. In this paper we provide both a literature review and harmonization of EROI values to provide accurate comparisons of EROIs across both thermal fuels and electricity producing technologies. Most importantly, the authors advocate for the use of point-of-use EROIs rather than point-of-extraction EROIs as the energy “cost” of the processes to get most thermal fuels from extraction to point of use drastically lowers their EROI. The main results indicate that PV, wind and hydropower have EROIs at or above ten while the EROIs for thermal fuels vary significantly, with that for petroleum oil notably below ten.

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  • David J. Murphy & Marco Raugei & Michael Carbajales-Dale & Brenda Rubio Estrada, 2022. "Energy Return on Investment of Major Energy Carriers: Review and Harmonization," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(12), pages 1-20, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:14:y:2022:i:12:p:7098-:d:835351

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lamorlette, A., 2023. "A coupled model of global energy production and ERoEI applied to photovoltaic and wind, an estimation of net production," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 278(PB).
    2. Jacques, Pierre & Delannoy, Louis & Andrieu, Baptiste & Yilmaz, Devrim & Jeanmart, Hervé & Godin, Antoine, 2023. "Assessing the economic consequences of an energy transition through a biophysical stock-flow consistent model," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 209(C).
    3. Victor Court & Fizaine Floriane, 2023. "EROI Minimum et Croissance Economique," Working Papers hal-04087776, HAL.
    4. Hasret Sahin & A. A. Solomon & Arman Aghahosseini & Christian Breyer, 2024. "Systemwide energy return on investment in a sustainable transition towards net zero power systems," Nature Communications, Nature, vol. 15(1), pages 1-15, December.
    5. Aramendia, Emmanuel & Brockway, Paul E. & Taylor, Peter G. & Norman, Jonathan B., 2024. "Exploring the effects of mineral depletion on renewable energy technologies net energy returns," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 290(C).
    6. Marco Raugei, 2023. "Addressing a Counterproductive Dichotomy in the Energy Transition Debate," Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 1-6, September.

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