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Energy Return on Investment (EROI)


Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a financial and economic metric that measures the amount of usable energy a process or system produces compared to the energy used to extract or produce it. Simply, it calculates the ratio of the energy delivered by a process to the energy consumed by that process. The higher the EROI value, the more energy efficient the process is considered.


E-R-O-I is usually pronounced by saying each letter individually, like “E-R-O-I”. The whole phrase “Energy Return on Investment” is pronounced as follows in phonetics: /ˈɛnəɹdʒi rɪˈtɜrn ɒn ɪnˈvɛstmənt/.

Key Takeaways

  1. EROI is a key measure of the sustainability and efficiency of energy production: The Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a critical metric used to assess the overall sustainability and efficiency of different energy sources. It calculates the ratio of the amount of usable energy generated to the amount of energy expended to obtain it. High EROI values signify that a larger amount of energy is produced relative to the energy invested, making the energy source more efficient.
  2. EROI influences economic feasibility of energy sources: Beyond an environmental viewpoint, EROI is imperative from an economic aspect as well. A high EROI corresponds to lower costs for energy extraction, production, and distribution. Energy sources with a low EROI might not be economically viable in the long run as the costs to exploit them can exceed the energy they produce.
  3. Non-Renewable energy sources typically have decreasing EROI, while renewable energy sources’ EROI can increase over time: Due to depletion of easily accessible resources, non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels present a diminishing EROI over time. Conversely, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power have seen an increasing EROI in recent years owing to advancements in technology and improved efficiencies in capturing and storing these forms of energy.


Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is an important concept in business and finance as it evaluates the total amount of usable energy derived from a particular energy resource against the total energy expended to obtain that energy resource. The concept is critical in determining the economic feasibility and sustainability of different energy sources. If the EROI is high, it indicates that the energy production is efficient and the resource is economically viable. Conversely, a low EROI indicates that more energy is consumed in the extraction process, making it less efficient and potentially unsustainable. Therefore, EROI plays a crucial role in guiding decisions about investment in energy projects, infrastructure development, and energy policies.


The term Energy Return on Investment (EROI) serves as a key measure in the world of economics and energy economics, allowing organizations and economists to assess the overall efficiency of an energy resource. The central purpose of EROI is to establish the worth of an energy source by calculating the net energy return generated from the amount of energy consumed in its extraction, production, and distribution.EROI’s use becomes crucial when deciding upon whether an energy source can be a viable and sustainable option for the long-term. It invokes an in-depth analysis and understanding of both the cost and pay-off of an energy resource. The ratio helps businesses and policymakers compare various energy sources and make informed strategic decisions. High EROI values imply that a small amount of energy yields a high energy output, making the source efficient and worthwhile; conversely, a lower EROI value suggests less efficiency in energy production. Consequently, EROI is a pivotal component in the design and analysis of future energy strategies and policies.


Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a key concept in the field of energy economics. It is a ratio that compares the amount of energy output from an energy source to the amount of energy input to extract it. Here are three real-world examples:

1. Oil Extraction: In the early days of oil extraction, the EROI was relatively high because oil was abundant and easily accessible. For example, for every barrel of oil spent on drilling and extraction, companies could get about 100 barrels in return, giving an EROI of 100:1. However, as easily accessible oil reserves have depleted and companies have to resort to remote locations or unconventional methods such as fracking, the EROI has dropped significantly. Nowadays, the EROI is estimated to be between 10:1 and 20:1, depending on the location and extraction method.

2. Solar Power: The EROI for solar power varies significantly depending on the technology and location, but it’s consistently rising as technology improves. In the 1970s, the EROI for solar panels was less than 1, meaning that it took more energy to produce the panels than they would ever generate. Nowadays, the EROI for solar panels is estimated to be between 10:1 and 30:1, and with continued improvements in technology, this number is expected to keep rising.

3. Wind Power: Wind power has a relatively high EROI, in part because the ‘fuel’ (wind) is free and the technology is relatively simple. It’s estimated that the EROI for wind power is between 20:1 and 50:1. However, factors such as varying wind speeds can affect the efficiency of wind turbines, and hence their EROI.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Energy Return on Investment (EROI)?

Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a ratio used in economics to compare the amount of energy produced by a particular source to the amount of energy used for its production. It’s a key measure in the study of energy systems, energy economics, and sustainability.

How is EROI calculated?

EROI is calculated by dividing the energy produced by a process with the energy expended in producing that energy. For example, if producing a barrel of oil requires the energy equivalent of half a barrel of oil, then the EROI would be 2:1.

Why is EROI important?

EROI is a crucial indicator of the sustainability and economic feasibility of different energy sources. A high EROI means an energy source yields more energy than is required to extract or produce it, which is beneficial economically and environmentally.

Does a higher EROI mean more profit?

Not necessarily. While a higher EROI often signifies a more efficient energy production process, it doesn’t directly translate into higher profit. Profits depend on a range of factors beyond EROI, such as market prices, production costs, and government policies.

How does the EROI of renewable energy sources compare to nonrenewable sources?

Typically, nonrenewable energy sources, such as coal and petroleum, have higher EROIs as the energy output is substantial in relation to the input. However, as extraction and production become more difficult, their EROIs decline. Renewable energy sources may have lower EROIs initially due to high production costs, but in the long term, they can be more sustainable as their energy input is primarily sun, wind or water, which is not depleted during use.

How can businesses benefit from understanding EROI?

Businesses can benefit from understanding EROI because it can help guide investment and decisions based on sustainability concerns. It can also help businesses predict future energy costs, particularly those arising from fossil fuels, and potentially avoid sources of energy with low EROI.

Can EROI change over time?

Yes, EROI can change over time. Factors like technological advancements can improve the EROI of an energy source, while depletion of resources and more difficult extraction processes can decrease it. As such, continuous monitoring of EROI is essential for effective energy management.

Related Finance Terms

  • Net Energy Gain (NEG)
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Energy Payback Ratio (EPR)
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • Fossil Fuel Depletion

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