Energy Primer

Online textbook adapted from Chapter 1 of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA).

This Energy Primer aims at a basic-level introduction to fundamental concepts and data that help to understand energy systems holistically and to provide a common conceptual and terminological framework before examining in greater detail the various aspects of energy systems be them technological, economic, or environmental.

As such the text aims to provide a basic introductory reader suitable for the core content of any introductory-level energy class or as framing complement to more specialized energy classes. Customary energy texts usually focus on describing current energy industries through a supply side perspective, which this Energy Primer does not intend to duplicate. (In depth treatments of energy supply and industry aspects of energy systems are provided in Chapters 11 to 15 of the Global Energy Assessment, all available online.

Interactive version:

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction and Roadmap
2. The Global Energy System
3. Historic Energy Transitions
4. Energy/Exergy Efficiency and Intensity
5. Energy Resources
6. Production, Trade, and Conversion
7. Energy Impact on the Human and Natural Environment
8. Heterogeneity in Energy Use
9. Basic Energy Economics
Appendix A: Accounting for Energy
Appendix B: Conversion Tables

Please use the following refernce when citing this work:
Grubler A, Nakicenovic N, Pachauri S, Rogner H.-H, Smith KR, et al., 2014: Energy Primer. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria, pp. 1-118.

Download the final report here or visit the GEA chapter pages to download individual chapters and further supplementary material.

For more information on the Global Energy Assessment (GEA)

This text extends and updates Chapter 1 of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA) (Grubler et al., 2012) which draws on earlier publications with comparable content by the authors including: Goldemberg et al., 1988; Nakicenovic et al., 1996b; 1998; Rogner and Popescu, 2000; Grubler, 2004; and WEA (World Energy Assessment), 2004.

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Last edited: 20 July 2020


Arnulf Grubler

Emeritus Research Scholar

Sustainable Service Systems Research Group|Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group|Energy


and Environment Program

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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