The huge potential of energy efficiency
I am a huge advocate of energy efficiency since my Master’s thesis on the French residential sector and even believe this is the panacea to all our energy and climate problems.
So when two recent studies brought further data, I thought it would be nice to share them with you. One comes from the Earth Policy Institute – Lester Brown’s NGO – and the second one from an official US agency.
What can be done in lightning in replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs can also be done in all the aspects of our lives. It is high time to stop wasting energy !
As Lester Brown noted in TreeHugger:
Projections from the International Energy Agency show global energy demand growing by close to 30 percent by 2020, setting the stage for massive growth in the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming our planet.
But as my colleagues and I at the Earth Policy Institute demonstrate, by dramatically ramping up energy efficiency the world would not only avoid growth in energy demand but actually reduce global demand to below 2006 levels by 2020.
As we note in Time for Plan B, we can reduce the amount of energy we use by preventing the waste of heat and electricity in buildings and industrial processes and by switching to efficient lighting and appliances. We can also save an enormous amount of energy by restructuring the transportation sector. Many of the needed energy efficiency measures can be enacted relatively quickly and pay for themselves.
Buildings are responsible for a large share of global electricity consumption and raw materials use. In the United States, buildings account for 70 percent of electricity use and close to 40 percent of total CO2 emissions. (Note: it is the same in France and in the European Union) Retrofitting existing buildings with better insulation and more-efficient appliances can cut energy use by 20 to 50 percent.
Much of the energy we use for lighting today is wasted as heat rather than used for illumination, so switching to more-efficient lighting can have a quick payback. (…) The energy saved by replacing one conventional incandescent 100-watt bulb with a CFL over its lifetime is enough to drive a Toyota Prius hybrid from New York to San Francisco.
If everyone around the world made the switch and turned to high-efficiency home, office, industrial, and street lighting, total world electricity use would fall by 12 percent, equivalent to the output of 705 coal-fired power plants.
Similar efficiency gains can be realized with household appliances.
(…) Japan’s Top Runner Program takes the most efficient appliances on the market today and uses them to set the efficiency standards for tomorrow. Between 1997-98 and 2004-05, this program helped Japan boost the efficiency of refrigerators by 55 percent, air conditioners by close to 68 percent, and computers by 99 percent. This sort of program, which continuously encourages technological advancements, can serve as a model for the rest of the world.
(…) Well-designed transportation systems also play a prominent role in increasing energy efficiency.
(…) Restructuring urban transportation systems around rail, light rail, and bus rapid transit (with designated lanes for buses), while making safety and accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists a priority, not only deals with the problems created by the “car-is-king” mentality, it also saves energy.
Much of the energy savings in the transport sector come from electrifying rail systems and short-distance road travel, while turning away from petroleum products and toward renewable sources of energy. Mass transit is key.
(…) Overall, investing in energy efficiency to offset increasing energy demand is often cheaper than expanding the energy supply to meet that demand. Efficiency investments typically yield a high rate of return and can help fight climate change by avoiding additional CO2 emissions.
(…) For a more detailed article, see Time for Plan B: Cutting Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2020 or Chapter 11 “Raising Energy Efficiency” in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization which is available for free downloading.
GreenTech Media also provides us with valuable data:
Energy efficiency programs in the United States could save the country 236 billion kilowatt hours – the equivalent of 14 New York Cities – by 2030 if they’re kept up, says the Electric Power Research Institute.
Replacing old office lights with more efficient fluorescent models, building consumer electronics and power strips that save energy, installing smart thermostats in homes: these are the kinds of energy efficiency programs that could help the United States shave its future power use by 22 percent by 2030.
Moves such as these would save the country 236 billion kilowatt hours, or 14 times the energy consumed by New York City.
To conclude I would like to note that beyond energy efficiency, behavioral changes also have to take place as both means are complementary means to reach the same goal, a sustainable society and civilization.
And you, what do you think about this topic ? I look forward to reading your comments !