“The relationship between electricity and productivity is so important that it should be considered in developing federal… energy and economic policies.” Those words are from 1986, in a book called Electricity in economic growth: a report published by the National Academies Press. In the context of that quote, here is a question. Would you expect productivity to grow, stagnate, or decline if the electricity system is based on the least efficient and most expensive forms of electricity?
Next question: what is the most efficient form of electricity? Answer: the kind that uses the least resources. That could be distilled into a simple metric: resources consumed per kilowatt-hour generated.
Resources include land and fuel. Land is measured in square miles, square kilometers, acres, and hectares—it depends on whether you use imperial (British or US) or metric units.
And fuel: most electricity is generated using coal, natural gas, oil, uranium/plutonium, and running water. Some people would add wind to the list, but that’s mostly because wind gets a lot of headlines. Don’t confuse headlines with reality. Wind is a bit player, even on grids where governments are bending over backwards to bring more of it in. Solar also gets a lot of headlines, but it is simply so minuscule that we can ignore it in this analysis.
So in terms of resources consumed to make electricity, what is the most efficient form of electricity?