Our civilization is 98 percent energy inefficient 1


You know it if you have been reading this blog for some time : I am an energy efficiency nut. While less sexy than renewables, consuming energy more efficiently is just the most important part of our transition towards sustainability.

As The Climate Group  writes :

A new report indicates 98% of all energy produced globally is wasted through inefficiency. Addressing this issue, boosting energy production would greatly increase the economy and create millions of new jobs.

To visualize this number, the authors explain, consider that when boiling an egg only 2% of the energy consumed goes into actually producing the boiled egg: the rest is wasted in heating the pan, the kitchen air and the water around the egg.

The 2015 Energy Productivity and Economic Prosperity Index, authored by The Lisbon Council, Ecofys and Quintel Intelligence and commissioned by Philips, shows doubling energy productivity improvement to just 3% would reduce the global fossil fuel bill by more than €2 trillion (US$2.28 trillion) by 2030 and could create more than 6 million jobs in the next five years.

(…) “The economic case is compelling: energy productivity means producing more with the same amount of energy.  It can help avoid the high cost of actions to mitigate the business impact of climate disruption. But businesses need a clear policy framework in order to set long-term strategies, and we urge governments to undertake all necessary steps toward this essential solution.”

98 percent inefficient ! While this sounds like a bad joke, I was thinking of examples to further illustrate that. And then I thought about cars, light bulbs and houses.

As I wrote in this post all the way back to 2010, the internal combustion engines that power our cars, trucks and many other vehicles around the world are 85 percent inefficient. Now, if you add up the fact that a car is around a tonne and that it moves generally a person weighting less than a hundred, you get the idea of how cars are an inefficient way to move around. So yes, biking is great…

Another example of our frightening inefficiency are light bulbs. As you perhaps remember, incandescent models – which are being fortunately phased out progressively – are over 95 percent inefficient as they produce A LOT of heat. CFL and LED models consume five to ten times less while providing the same light…

Last but not least, my hobby horse, my favorite topic : housing. As I discovered almost a decade ago while working on my Master’s thesis at Audencia Nantes- read the main findings there – an old house consumes five to ten times more to heat and cool than a modern one. Passive housings need very little to keep warm in winter and cool in summer.

So, to conclude, and having analyzed this, 98 percent inefficiency figure doesn’t surprise me much.

Can you imagine how much energy it represents ? Can you even imagine how much fossil fuels are burned needlessly ? Imagine if we switched to electric vehicles and bikes to travel and go around town. Imagine if we replaced all our incandescent bulbs with LED ones. Finally, imagine if we weatherized and insulated all buildings… This is THE project of our time !


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