Energy efficiency is a good way to save money

 By Nicholas Newman

Power generation is one of the biggest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for 28 percent of total CO2 emissions. The idea to reduce the use of fossil fuels, in favor of renewables, has therefore gained worldwide acceptance and attention. However, there is another way to reduce greenhouse gases, and that is to improve and regulate the demand and usage of energy…

Energy efficiency has been called the “first fuel” because all countries can adopt energy-saving technologies that cut wastage, improve efficiency and that “generate” excess power. Prime examples of measures that make a difference include the adoption of Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights which are much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs or replacement of old inefficient central heating boilers with modern fuel-efficient ones. The efficient use of energy in everyday activities, the IEA estimates, saved some 450 million metric tons of oil equivalent in 2015. These efficiency savings also cut world energy spending by at least $500 billion in the same year.

Measures to improve energy efficiency

Improving insulation, draught-proofing, installing double glazed windows and replacing old white goods appliances with modern energy-efficient ones are relatively inexpensive measures, but they yield impressive results. In Britain, for example, improvements in energy efficiency have saved the typical U.K. household around £290 per year since 2008. An even bigger game-changer will come from “programmable systems that can sense the need for current flows and system leaks from secretly energy-draining appliances,” predicts William R. William, CEO, Altresco Group. This technology will significantly cut background energy consumption of television sets, computers, radios and the increasing number of smart home devices.
Significant retrofitting of offices, hospitals, factories and commercial offices with energy efficient heating, lighting, ventilation and air-conditioning and white goods could lower power bills by up to 39 percent, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of these buildings. In addition, “exploitation of waste heat by its re-use for heat generation or cooling can add further energy efficiency savings since, according to the U.S.-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 66.5 percent of our energy usage is wasted” says Williams.

Road transport is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases. In the U.S. Transportation contributes 28 percent of greenhouse emissions. This has been tackled in recent years by lighter, more aerodynamic car design and technology, which have reduced fuel consumption. In the U.K., the Committee of Climate Change calculates that further improvements in energy efficiencies could cut carbon emissions from new cars by 12.3 million metric tons by 2020 – around 10 percent of total surface transport emissions in 2008. In the not-too-distant future widespread adoption of electric road vehicles could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from road transport.

Energy poverty

The European Commission sees improving energy efficiency as a means to lift the estimated 54 million European households out of energy poverty — those struggling to attain adequate warmth, pay their utility bills on time and live in homes free of damp and mold. Investments in energy efficiency for such households could be repaid in better health and fewer demands on health services and a better quality of life. A study, by the U.K. Energy Research Centre Energy, released September 2017, suggests that national installation of smart meters, more efficient heating, cooling, hot water and ventilation devices, could reduce the energy consumed in U.K. households each year by a quarter and save £270 of the average household energy bill of £1,100.

Obstacles facing energy efficiency

While improving energy efficiency in homes, power generation and transport would yield dramatic results, efforts have been hampered by a combination of lack of public interest, cost, lack of government policy and/or support as well as technological issues.

For many consumers, at least in the developed world, energy efficiency is just not an issue. As Juan Miguel Pérez Rosas, CEO Finboot LTD states, “I do not believe as consumers we think much about the energy we use. We are application focused. We are concerned with our product’s services having a good performance but not so much on what they consume. From a corporate point of view perhaps this changes a bit, companies might want to scale-up their production and perhaps that is where fiscal incentives and regulations play a big role.”
Technologists and investors often need a political and regulatory environment that supports the realization of improved energy efficiency. For example, U.S. standards for fuel economy have risen from 22.2 miles per gallon in 2007 to 35 in 2020 and 54.5 miles per gallon by 2026 and car manufacturers are responding to meet these standards, reducing emissions and motorist’s fuel bills at the same time. Should the Trump administration freeze fuel standards at 41.7 miles to the gallon, this is still an almost doubling in fuel efficiency over twenty years, in a country renowned for its high car ownership and gas guzzlers.
Innovations generally need time to gain investor interest and market acceptance. For instance, many factories have still not invested in variable speed drives to control the motor speeds of industrial and office equipment despite potential energy savings of almost 50 percent from this new technology. This is surprising since a 20 percent cut in energy costs represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5 percent increase in sales in many businesses.
Increasing energy efficiency makes good business and environmental sense. In practice, many of the easy ways of improving energy efficiency have already been adopted. The next stage, to get a quantum leap in energy efficiency, is likely to prove harder and costlier.


about the author
Nicholas Newman
Freelance energy journalist and copywriter who regularly writes for AFRELEC, Economist, Energy World, EER, Petroleum Review, PGJ, E&P, Oil Review Africa, Oil Review Middle East. Shale Gas Guide.