Energy efficiency is a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. Something is more energy efficient if it delivers more services for the same energy input, or the same services for less energy input. For example, a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb uses less energy (one-third to one-fifth) than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, thus, a CFL is considered more energy efficient. Similarly, an efficient air conditioner takes less energy to cool/heat a home to a given temperature, than a less efficient model. When you replace an appliance, such as a refrigerator or clothes washer, or office equipment, such as a computer or printer, with a more energy-efficient model, the new equipment provides the same service, but uses less energy. This saves you money on your energy bill, and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere.
COST- EFFECTIENESS OF ENERGY EFFICIENY
Increasing energy efficiency often entails a large amount of money up-front, but in many cases, this capital outlay will be paid back in the form of reduced energy costs within a short period. This makes efficiency improvements an attractive starting point for reducing carbon emissions. Energy efficiency is a proven cost-effective strategy for building economies without necessarily increasing energy consumption, as the California experiment corroborates.
The California Experiment
The state of California began implementing energy-efficiency measures in the mid-1970s, including building code and appliance standards with strict efficiency requirements. During the following years, California’s energy consumption has remained approximately flat on a per capita basis while national U.S. consumption doubled.
Figure 1: Per Capita Electricity Consumption: California vs. Rest of the United States, 1960-2010. (U.S Energy Information Administration, 2014)
California’s energy efficiency efforts over the past several decades have helped:
• Save residents and business more than $65 billion
• Make household electric bill 25 percent lower than the national average.
• Create a more productive economy, generating twice as much economic output for every kilowatt-hour consumed compared to the rest of the United States.
• Decrease utility bills for millions of low-income households.
• Cuts as much climate-warming carbon pollution as is spewed from 5 billion cars annually. (Devra Wang, 2013)
From the California experiment, there is a general acquiesce that energy efficiency can help keep lights on, cuts bills, generate jobs and reduce pollution. So the next time you find yourself buying any electrical appliance, ruminate on the California experiment, and buy a more energy efficient device.
Energy conservation is the act of saving energy by reducing a service. In other words, to conserve energy, you need to cut back on your usage. Examples include driving your car fewer miles per week and, unplugging your computer or home appliances when they are not in use.
You can keep these terms straight by thinking of energy conservation as ‘cutting back’ and energy efficiency as using energy more ‘effectively.’ Energy efficiency uses advances in science and technology to provide services and products that require the use of less energy. Examples include replacing older model appliances, such as a refrigerator or washing machine, with newer, energy-efficient models. Modern appliances use significantly less energy than older models, yet provide the same or better service. (Dr. Gillaspy, 2012)
BENEFITS OF ADOPTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Energy efficiency is high on the political agenda as governments seek to reduce wasteful energy consumption, strengthen energy security and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Improving energy efficiency is one of the most constructive and cost-effective ways to address the challenges of high energy prices, energy security and independence, air pollution, and global climate change. The many benefits of energy efficiency include:
• Environmental: Increased efficiency can lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants, as well as decrease water use.
• Economic: Improving energy efficiency costs significantly less than investing in new generation and transmission. Energy efficiency can also boost the local economy and create downward pressure on natural gas prices and volatility.
• Utility System Benefits: When integrated into energy resource plans, energy efficiency can provide long-term benefits by lowering baseload and peak demand and reducing the need for additional generation and transmission assets.
• Risk Management: Energy efficiency also diversifies utility resource portfolios and can be a hedge against uncertainty associated with fluctuating fuel prices and other risk factors. (United States Enviromental Protection, 2014).
Figure 2: Schematic depiction of the benefits of Energy Efficiency; Energy Conservation, Climate Change, Sustainable development.
Strong policies will continue to drive energy efficiency investment, even in a low oil price environment. Energy efficiency investments are set to keep growing driven by more assertive and more comprehensive policies. Several factors indicate that the energy efficiency market will remain robust in the medium term. Principal among these is the existence of strong and increasingly stringent policies, which recognize energy efficiency measures as being among the most cost-effective means of helping to tackle energy security, productivity, local air pollution and climate change challenges.