Energy sobriety / frugality is critical to the energy transition

I haven’t published regularly since 2018… Since my last blog post here I have trained for a technical degree in green buildings and renewable energy, interned as an Energy advisor for the healthcare sector and started a job as an energy manager for local communities. I have been busy and this partially explains why I haven’t published anything in months.

Another reason is that the global pandemic we have been facing for over a year and a half has had a toll on my mental health, as it has with millions of people around the world.

Last but not least, for all of us, so much has happened in the past few years. Climate change is no longer a distant future threat but a hard reality impacting us. The extreme weather events the IPCC and the scienfitic community forewarned us about decades ago are now here : epic floods, monster fires, severe droughts. All continents are being hit hard.

The international community and the elected representatives of most countries are still oblivious to the need for direct and massive action now. Most speeches still concentrate on “Net Zero by 2050”, long after the end of their terms. Businesses are more or less doing the same thing, and the Financial Times have published a great article about why such reasoning and targets are absurd.

(Yes, the Financial Times, not exactly a little gazette by three hippies and two dreamers, have been publishing great articles about our much needed energy transition and civilization transformation and I just wish more people read them and heed their calls.)

To finally, at long last get to the point of this blog post : we need to invest as much time, money and resources in cutting and slashing our energy demands as we put into renewables.

Solar, wind, biogas, geothermal and the likes are great and we need many a times their current installed capacities, but nothing will be achieved on carbon levels without massive efforts in energy efficiency, conservation and sobriety / frugality.

The French energy transition – the ADEME – states that in France 7 to 13 percent of energy could be saved very easily at little to no cost. This is just energy being completely wasted for no reason besides lack of sound management.

7 to 13 percent might not look like much, but within a region, a country, a continent, this adds up to dozens of coal-fired and gas-fired plants adding carbon dioxide to our atmosphere for no reason. We are talking about gigawatt-hours if not terawatt-hours of electricity and heat being generated for empty rooms, offices and homes.

7 to 13 percent might not look like much, but within a region, a country, a continent, this adds up to millions if not billions of Dollars or Euros that are not invested in energy efficiency or renewable energy sources, thus preventing the creation of a virtuous circle that could drive energy demand down.

What’s the best in this estimate ? It’s probably an under evaluation for France. Every single light left on, every single empty room left with the heater at its comfort setting is energy wasted. Solutions are simple to put in place and often cost nothing or very little.

Management is about measuring and improving the use of resources. The trouble is, most businesses and institutions around the world just pay their energy bills without having the resources to analyse the data out of their energy bills. This is due to a lack of agency, time and competences. I have seen this in both the US and my home country.

Energy management is about analyzing energy use and costs and finding ways to improve and thus cut both. At a time when energy is getting more and more expensive, this should be everyone’s priority.

If large organisations and corporations can have their own energ managers, outsourcing this can help in solving such issues. This can be done by public agencies for hospitals and local communities and so on. My internship as energy advisor and my current job as energy manager are public funded and provide massive energy demand cuts.

Medium sized businesses need energy managers and should hire at least one if they haven’t already. Small shops and communities should band together to hire one too. It’s worth it in terms of money saved and it’s more than worth it in terms of carbon emissions prevented.

Of course, in a society and civilization that promotes economic growth and having and spending always more ad infinitum, this is a big problem.

If you are interestedin in this topic, here are two articles on Euractiv:

Europe’s path to carbon neutrality: A move to ‘sobriété énergétique’? November 2018.
‘Energy sobriety’: A disruptive notion catching on in France. January 2019.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Energy sobriety / frugality is critical to the energy transition”

  1. Thank you for all you shared, Edouard, including the resources at the end. Appreciating the work you are doing and wishing you well-being.

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