Energy System

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Energy System


(Russian, energosistema), the aggregate of energy sources of all kinds and of methods for obtaining (extracting), converting, distributing, and using them, as well as the equipment systems and organizational complexes that supply all forms of energy to the consumer. Energy systems, sometimes called complex energy production and use systems (bol’shie sis-temy energetiki), have a hierarchical structure with levels for the entire country, the region, the large industrial, transportation, or agricultural center, and the individual enterprise. Integrated (edinye) energy systems correspond to the country level, interconnected energy systems to the level of several regions, regional energy systems to the regional level, and autonomous energy systems to the level of entities not connected with other systems, such as an enterprise, ship, or airplane.

The component subsystems of an energy system are: electric power and heat systems, which comprise electric power systems and heat supply networks; petroleum and natural-gas supply systems; systems of the coal industry; and the nuclear power industry, which are developing at a more rapid rate than the other subsystems. It is possible to consolidate separate energy supply systems into a single system, sometimes referred to as an inter-branch fuel and energy complex, primarily because the various forms of energy and energy sources are interchangeable.

The fuel and energy complex is important to a national economy chiefly because it determines, in large part, a country’s basic economic proportions; in the industrially developed countries it absorbs about 30 percent of all capital investment and employs 15–20 percent of all working people. The development and operation of an energy system are closely linked with the creation of new, efficient energy technology and with the influence of energy production and use on social and political processes, both domestic and international, and on the national distribution of industry and population. The effects of energy production and use on the environment must also be considered when discussing an energy system.

Sometimes, when analyzing an energy system in its capacity as a supplier of all forms of energy to the national economy, the concept of energy facilities (energeticheskoe khoziaistvo) is introduced. This concept, which closely resembles that of the energy system, embraces the complex of interrelated subsystems that are made up of energy-producing entities and that, taken together, provide consumers with all forms of energy. In certain respects, the term “energy facilities” is equivalent to the term “fuel and energy complex.”

An energy system should be characterized by an energy balance, which is a static picture of the constantly developing energy facilities, whose basic elements and connections make up the energy system (see).

Basic characteristics. A description of the basic characteristics of an energy system follows.

(1) The aggregate of complex energy production and use systems exists as a single material entity that owes its integrity to internal connections and the interchangeableness of output, subsystems, and individual elements.

(2) The output of the energy system, particularly electric power and liquid fuel, is widely usable and of great economic importance; the system therefore has a multiplicity of external connections.

(3) The energy system influences the development and distribution of productive forces, both in individual regions and throughout the country as a whole.

(4) The majority of energy production and consumption processes are simultaneous, and therefore consumers of energy and fuel form an integral part of the structure of the system. It is particularly important to regulate the systems and the day-to-day fuel supply to ensure uninterrupted delivery of energy to the consumer.

(5) It is impossible to make a choice pertaining to the productivity and parameters of individual elements and connections without regard for the proposed use of the elements and connections in the system; for this reason, the long-term planning of complex energy production and use systems as an integrated unit is especially important.

(6) Because it is an integrated system for a country or even for a group of neighboring countries, the energy system has a complicated structure.

A distinctive feature of an energy system is the close interrelation of its physical, technological, and economic characteristics. Improving the efficiency or performance characteristics of energy-producing equipment, for example, eventually results in a lowering of the cost of the energy that is produced.

An energy system is cybernetic—that is, it has a large amount of feedback. It is also a man-machine system, since its functions are controlled by a set of specific operations performed by a person and a control computer.

The development of energy production and use as a global system is manifested first of all on the social level. The gap between various countries with respect to cultural and economic development is caused, to a considerable extent, by differences in the energy supply and the energy available per worker. The developing countries, for example, account for no more than 7 percent of the global consumption of all forms of energy. This unequal development in energy use, which is associated with unequal economic and cultural development, reflects the contradictions of the world capitalist system and exacerbates economic and political conflict, as was shown by the energy crisis of the 1970’s.

Management and control. The management and control of an energy system involves the use of cybernetic methods and equipment to ensure that any changes in the operation of a complex energy production and use system are made in a purposeful and optimal manner. The aim of management and control is to achieve, within a given span of time, the operating indexes that come closest to the efficiency criteria that have been adopted. In the control process, the energy system is brought to a state in which the control actions respond in a specified way to external conditions so that the goal that has been set will be attained.

Management of an energy system includes the optimization of decisions—that is, the determination of the best plan for the system—and the implementation of the decisions or plan under actual conditions. The first stage is often called the optimization of development; the second is often referred to as the optimization of operations. Efficient management of an energy system is ensured primarily by attaining the optimal rates and proportions in the development of an integrated fuel and energy complex and its component subsystems (see Figure 1). Also of importance is the application of new technology that can stimulate scientific and technical progress in energy production and can contribute to the timely development of energy-producing technology. Finally, efficient management requires that the most efficient use, under changing circumstances, be made of all the country’s material and labor resources.

Operation. The operation of an energy system may be characterized by the degree to which reserves of energy sources are used. The end result of the operations of an energy system is useful energy—that is, the energy that, after processing, conversion, transportation, and storage, is supplied to the consumer and used in useful energy-consuming processes. The principal types of energy sources are fuels, such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, peat, shale, and wood, and nonfuel sources, such as waterpower, nuclear energy, and the energy—partially used—of the wind, tides, and solar radiation. Sources are classified as renewable, such as waterpower, wind power, tidal power, and solar radiation, and nonrenewable, such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, and shale.

The concept of “standard fuel” (uslovnoe toplivo) is used as a common measure of energy sources and as a means of determining the comparative efficiencies of different fuel types. Estimated world reserves of such fuels as coal, and natural gas total 11.651 trillion tons, 54.5 percent of which is located in the USSR. Exploitable world reserves total 3.112 trillion tons, 55 percent of which is in the USSR. Waterpower resources, expressed as electric energy generated annually, are estimated to be 7.5 trillion kilowatt-hours, or 1.5 times the electric energy produced by all the world’s electric power plants in 1970.

The fuel used in an energy system is classified into two types: the first is used to produce electric energy and heat in electric power plants and in residential (domestic) and industrial boiler installations; the second is used in industrial installations to perform various operations, as well as in, for example, industrial furnaces. The level of use of energy sources may be estimated by means of the coefficient of the extraction of potential sources, which is the ratio of the quantity of energy sources being used to the potential reserves. The coefficient of efficient use—the product of the efficiencies of the individual processes, from the extraction of energy sources to their use—is also applied in energy-consuming processes for the various branches of production and for the economy of the country as a whole.

All processes associated with the operation of an energy system and with the forecasting and planning of its operation are the object of study of the general theory of energy systems. The development of complex energy production and use systems and of theories underlying such systems began, essentially, in the second half of the 1920’s. The early 1960’s witnessed a qualitatively new trend in the development of the Soviet energy industry that consisted in the concentration of energy-producing facilities, the formation of interconnected power systems, grids, and the creation of the Mir electric power grid, which connects the Integrated Electric Power Grid of the European USSR with the power systems of the member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). It is recognized that the magnitude and rate of production of energy sources determine, in the final analysis, the energy available per worker in all branches of the national economy. Electric power and heat systems consume about 80 percent of all fuel extracted in the country; 30 percent is used to generate electric energy, and 50 percent to produce heat. The remainder goes to meet the needs of production processes.

Figure 1. Hierarchical structure of a national energy system

About 30 percent of the demand for heat in the USSR is met by district heat and power plants; the remaining 70 percent is met by industrial and municipal boiler installations, along with heaters and stoves for individual use. Industry and transportation consume 43 percent of all heat produced; the housing sector and municipal services, 33 percent; and agricultural production and domestic use, 24 percent.

The delivery system for fuel plays an important role in determining how efficiently fuel is used. In the USSR it costs 0.1–0.2 kopeck per km to deliver 1 ton of coal (by railroad), 0.15–0.30 kopeck per km for 1 ton of mazut, 0.15–0.70 kopeck per km for 1,000 cu m of natural gas (by pipeline), and 0.05–0.15 kopeck per km for 1 ton of petroleum (by pipeline). Expenditures on extraction, transportation, storage, and preparation for use determine how economical a given fuel is.

The energy systems of the USSR are operated and organized according to principles consistent with centralized economic and political management and the planned development of the energy facilities. A systems approach is adopted in the management of the energy systems. The administration of energy production and use in the various branches of the economy and in the various regions of the country is carried out in an integrated manner, and the management of energy production and use is organized hierarchically. In addition, the effects of energy production and use on the environment are always taken into account. The problem of environmental effects is becoming increasingly important: greater capital investment and a heightened awareness of the problem of environmental pollution are needed. Measures designed to reduce the harmful effects of electric power plants on the environment are regarded as an integral part of an energy-producing facility, as early as the design stage; it is no longer sufficient to add installations to a complex that has already been built. The early implementation of environmental measures is called for primarily because of the increase in the installed capacities of energy-producing facilities, which convert no less than 6–7 billion tons of standard fuel into various types of energy every year.

The “energy effect” of man on nature is assuming the scale of natural geophysical and geologic phenomena that alter the climate of the earth. Although the amount of energy generated on the earth is still only hundredths of a percentage point of the energy that the earth receives from the sun, the heat released in energy production and use has already altered the earth’s climate to a noticeable extent, particularly in those “energy-intensive” regions in which thermal pollution of the biosphere is occurring.

The pollution of the biosphere is caused by the low level of efficiency at which energy is converted: 8–10 percent in mobile plants and 25–30 percent in stationary plants. The enormous quantity of heat that is wasted warms the water, earth, and air. The errors that have been made in designing the reservoirs of hydroelectric power plants with only the problems of hydraulic power engineering in mind have led to highly undesirable consequences. When fuel is burned, such products as ashes, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide are released into the atmosphere, causing great harm to the biosphere.

All these harmful effects on the environment can be substantially reduced, and in the long term eliminated, by using a systems approach to the design of energy-producing installations; in this approach the power system is regarded as interacting with other systems fundamental to man’s existence and with the biosphere. Difficulties in developing power-engineering that are presented by the increasing sizes and areas demanded by power plants may be classified as ecological problems. Intensive work on the design of engineering structures and the performance characteristics of power equipment, however, make it possible to sharply reduce the size of power plants and of the sites they occupy: in 1900 50 cu m of space was required per kilowatt of capacity of an electric power plant; in the 1950’s the figure had been reduced to 6 cu m, and by 1975 improvements in power equipment had reduced the figure to tenths of a cubic meter.

In the USSR a unified policy governs the application of the achievements of scientific and technological progress to the solution of national economic problems. Consequently, the development of energy production and use is closely tied to the protection of the environment. Natural resources are being used rationally. The necessary measures are being taken to combine scientific and technological progress with a cautious attitude toward the country’s natural riches and to ensure that progress does not lead to pollution of the air and water and to the depletion of the land. The development of the energy industry, like that of other industries, requires changes in the nature of social production, which must be organized in such a way that production processes make full use of raw materials and do not entail waste.


Elektricheskie sistemy: Kibernetika elektricheskikh sistem. Moscow, 1974.
Melent’ev, L. A. Optimizatsiia razvitiia i upravleniia bol’shikh sistem energetiki. Moscow, 1976.
Chernukhin, A. A., and Iu. N. Flakserman. Ekonomika energetiki SSSR, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1975.
Venikov, V. A. “Energetika i biosfera.” In Metodologicheskie aspekty issledovaniia biosfery. Moscow, 1975.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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