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I have the following sentences:

  1. "Optimization methods can lead to (a) better utilization of renewable energy sources"
  2. "Optimization methods lead to (a) better utilization of renewable energy sources"

My question is, whether it is a mistake to use the article 'a' in this context. I used to have the articcle there but Grammarly tells me to get rid of it. As something like this can be found frequently in my thesis, I'd appreciate it if anyone could comment on my question.

3 Answers 3

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Utilization can be used both as a countable and as an uncountable noun.

If you're using it in the uncountable sense (as it seems to be the case) it is not grammatical to use an indefinite article.

Either leave the article out or use the definite article "The" depending on the context

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  • Thanks Arunkgp for your answer (I accepted it). I have a follow-up question regarding the sentence ''The methods lead to higher (a) usage of locally generated PV." Would you also leave the article (a) out in this sentence? I'd really appreciate a comment from you (or someone else)
    – PeterBe
    Apr 15, 2020 at 8:13
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    I presume you're asking me whether it should be "higher usage" or "a higher usage". One of the definitions of "Usage" is "the amount/mode of use", therefore it's valid to use the expression a "higher/lower usage" to signify the rate/speed/amount of usage.
    – Arunkgp
    Apr 15, 2020 at 9:05
  • Thanks Arunkgp for your comment. So you would say "a higher usage" in this example if I understood correctly.
    – PeterBe
    Apr 15, 2020 at 9:33
  • As long as you're talking about a higher amount/degree of usage, yes I would.
    – Arunkgp
    Apr 15, 2020 at 9:38
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    Since the definition for "Usage" includes "amount/mode of use", yes. "a higher usage" has the meaning you intended whereas "a better utilization" can be misleading is used in the same context.
    – Arunkgp
    Apr 15, 2020 at 15:39
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It is not a mistake but a choice. If you don't use it you do not insist on the possible fact that there exists a variety of ways of utilizing energy, in other words, a variety of utilizations; if you use the article, then you understate that there might not be just one single way of coming up with a better utilization , but several.

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There's no need to use utilization where use will do. In fact, swapping in use will help illustrate the difference between using an indefinite article and not, I think:

Optimization methods lead to a better use of renewable energy sources.

Optimization methods lead to better use of renewable energy sources.

Can you see the difference in sense now? It's a bit subtle, but the first sentence reads as: optimize and we'll use them for something else. I think you mean the second sentence though: optimize and we'll use them more efficiently.

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  • Thanks Tinfoil Hat for your answer. I do not really understand the first sentence. What I want to say is that optimization methods generally lead to (a) better utilization of renewable energies. This means that if optimizaiton methods are use, renewable energy can be used in a better way.
    – PeterBe
    Apr 12, 2020 at 17:05
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    Utilization isn't the same thing as use in this context. You can't really go with use here, it should be utilization. Utilization is about increasing (or quantifying) the amount of resources deemed useful. Use refers to how they get used. Better optimization means more potentially profitable sites for wind turbines - improving utilization. It says nothing about what the electricity gets used for.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 12, 2020 at 17:35
  • @PhilSweet: The noun use can always be used in place of utilization. eliteediting.com/resources/use-vs-utilize Apr 13, 2020 at 16:13
  • No it can't. Utilization is a metric, use is not a metric. Your link never mentions utilization. It only compares the verbs use and utilize, and states they are not the same either. And use can not always substitute for utilize. The link doesn't cover the meanings that are unique to utilize. "I used a frying pan as a weapon" means I still have a frypan. "I utilized a frying pan as a weapon" means I weaponized a frypan, and there is no reason to suppose it is still usable as a frypan - improvisation vs malicious intent.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 13, 2020 at 20:22
  • @PhilSweet: To have used a frying pan as a weapon suggests nothing about the ownership, state, or usability of the frying pan as such; you're reading something into the proposition. Apr 13, 2020 at 20:30

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