Thursday, May 26, 2016 ENERGY 101ENERGY EFFICIENCY
To be efficient is to be as productive as possible with the resources we have, with minimum waste, and energy efficiency is no different. It’s not just about saving energy (and money) by using less of it, but it’s about being wise with our energy usage. Switching the lights off when you leave a room, or wearing multiple layers instead of turning on the central heating are certainly a good place to start if you want to save money on your next bill, and do your little bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but energy efficiency is more proactive, intentional and long-lasting.
In our homes often it means investing in new technologies or appliances – those that use less energy or fuel to do the same job or provide the same service. For example, newer household appliances (such as refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines) are far more efficient than their older counterparts because of advances in technology and production, and a greater awareness of the importance of energy efficiency. If your white goods are more than ten years old and still plodding along, it’s definitely time for a change!
Such forward-thinking adjustments often involve a certain financial outlay initially, but the great thing about energy efficiency is that it cuts down on both wasted energy (contributing to pollution) and wasted costs, so if you spend a little now you’re likely to save a lot in the long run.
In all areas of business, the aim is to be efficient with resources and to reduce costs. The same should be true of energy consumption, but as we so often take our energy for granted (office lighting, heating, computers, boiling the kettle for a mid-morning coffee break…) this is often overlooked as an area where significant savings can be made. Replacing older company cars with electric cars or hybrids, for example, is one way to improve efficiency (and it also contributes to the company’s CSR, which is never a bad thing!).
In 2014, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked the world’s 16 largest economies in terms of their energy efficiency in construction, industry and transportation, as well as overall national efforts to cut costs and reduce waste (there’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition to boost us all into action!). Germany and Italy came out on top, with China in 4th place, the UK and Japan in 6th, and the US in 13th, ahead of Russia, Brazil and Mexico.
So what makes the difference? Many factors come into play here, but there are certainly some positive lessons to be learned. Germany and Italy have both invested public funds in more energy efficient infrastructure (notably buildings and transport), and incentives such as tax credits and loans encourage further private sector investment. In Italy, drivers are incentivized to replace older vehicles with more fuel-efficient models.
There is also a lot to be said for actively encouraging non-motorized travel by making these options more accessible and appealing – a viable network of bike lanes that cyclists can enjoy without fearing for their lives, for example.