By Steven Castle, GreenTech Advocates
I keep harping on energy efficiency and conservation not getting the attention that other green technologies like solar and wind do. But I can’t help it. The evidence keeps mounting.
Here’s an article in The Guardian in the United Kingdom, concerning a report by the Energy Saving Trust on The Elephant in the Living Room, which proposes weaning us off of smartphones, flat-panel TVs and other electronics that make our demand for electricity go up, up up.
McKinsey & Co. estimate our use of gadgets will only increase. But should we curb our use of them, or use them to enable better efficiency?
Yes, our reliance on electronics and gadgets will likely increase energy demand. But let’s get realistic. Weaning us off of electronics is not going to happen. Not in the U.K., not in the U.S. Not in developing countries that are just starting to enjoy our modern conveniences. Therefore, we need energy efficiency technologies to help us control the energy use of the electronics in our homes.
This is happening, with energy management and monitoring systems that are becoming more and more affordable and more and more automated—eventually leading is to a set-it-and-forget-it energy-saving future, where your home systems will alert you about an energy-related event in your home when you need to know about it.
Many experts, including U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, agree that energy efficiency is vital not only to reducing global warming and climate change, but to help fuel our economy with the jobs needed to conduct energy efficiency retrofits of millions of homes and buildings and help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and foreign oil.
Chu has described energy efficiency as not just the low-hanging fruit, but the fruit lying on the ground. McKinsey and Co. estimates we can save $1.2 trillion on energy efficiency. And venture capitalists are investing in energy-efficiency technologies.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s recent Quadrennial review cites energy efficiency as a priority—in both homes and businesses. Yet next to sexier subjects such as renewable energies like solar and wind and electric vehicles, energy efficiency continues to get short shrift, especially in media reports.
Take this Boston Globe interview with energy expert Daniel Yergin, chairman of energy forecasting firm IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, who says energy efficiency is “a fundamental energy source’’ that doesn’t get enough attention. In other words, saving energy contributes to the energy we have available to us. Yet that gets all of a line or two buried deep in the interview and a mention in the caption. The rest of the interview explores renewables and oil.
Yep, energy efficiency doesn’t get enough attention. Not even in an interview, when the subject says it doesn’t get enough attention.
How can we expect consumers to show follow through on being energy efficient when members of the media can’t follow up with questions on energy efficiency?
And now we’re supposed to get rid of our gadgets? This points to the even greater need for energy efficiency, yet people seem to want to consider every other alternative, even unpalatable and unrealistic ones.
We need to get used to it: The age of energy efficiency is here. And our gadgets can actually help us be more efficient. It’s time not to discard them, but simply to put them to better use.