Energy is essential for development. Worldwide 1.3 billion people continue to live without access to electricity, equivalent to 18% of the global population. Nearly 97% of those without access to electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. Giving everyone access will require strong growth in energy supply. Global energy demand is set to grow by 37% by 2040, according to IEA.1

Steel is critical for supplying the world with energy. Whether based on fossil fuels, nuclear technology or renewables, steel is indispensable in producing and distributing this energy. Steel also has an important role to play in improving the efficiency of these energy sources.

Steel is used in all areas of renewable energy.

Biomass: steel is used extensively in agriculture.

Solar: steel plays a key role in converting solar energy into electricity or hot water. It is used as a base for solar thermal-panels and in pumps, tanks and heat exchangers.

Wave and tidal: a steel pile is the main component of a tidal turbine in tidal energy systems. Steel is also used to fabricate wave energy devices. The steel used is formulated to withstand the challenges of the marine environment.

Hydroelectric: steel is needed to reinforce concrete dams.

Wind: steel is the main material used in onshore and off-shore wind turbines. Almost every component of a wind turbine is made of steel, from the foundation, to the tower, gears and casings (see Steel Solutions in the Green Economy: Wind turbines).

Steel is used in nuclear and fossil fuel-based energy:

Mining equipment

Offshore oil platforms

Equipment for oil and gas extraction and production

Natural gas and oil pipelines and storage tanks

Power plants.

Steel is used for the production and distribution of electricity:

Transformers (magnetic steel core)

Generators and electric motors

Power distribution pylons and steel-reinforced cables.

Steel is used for energy transport and distribution:

Ships, trucks and trains used to transport fuel

Transport networks: steel is required for bridges, tunnels, rail track, and in constructing buildings such as fueling stations, train stations, ports and airports.

Innovative steel solutions contribute to improved efficiency

Below are a few examples of how steel is being used to improve the efficiency of energy production.

Transformers: Transformers step down the voltage from power stations to household voltage. The magnetic core of transformers is made of steel. As a result of continual development and increased application of new electrical steel grades, the energy loss in modern transformers can be reduced by 35% compared to conventional ones.

Wind towers: Steel provides the strength for taller, more efficient wind turbines.

Fossil fuel power plants:

High temperature-resistant steels have made efficiency in steam power plants possible and have the potential to be developed and employed even further.

Combined heat and power (CHP) allows waste heat in power plants to be used for power generation as heat energy, increasing the overall efficiency of fossil fuel power plants. The waste heat is transported exclusively in steel pipes.

Steel’s role in energy production and distribution.


1 International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2014, page 1, 'central scenario'.

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