Do you switch off lights when you leave a room or boil just the right amount of water for your cuppa? Perhaps you pootle along the motorway at 50mph to save pennies and conserve fuel?
In light of the climate emergency and cost-of-living crisis, that’s all well and good but energy efficiency goes way beyond changing our own individual consumption. The powers that be – communities, businesses, governments – must all change drastically too.
From transport, construction and communication to food and farming, everything requires way too much energy. Global carbon emissions remain at record levels with no sign of decrease, according to the annual Global Carbon Budget report published today. If we carry on as usual, there’s a 50 per cent chance that global heating of 1.5 degrees will be exceeded in just nine years when my children will still be teenagers. That’s terrifying.
“This year we see yet another rise in global fossil CO2 emissions, when we need a rapid decline,” says Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, who led this study. In the report, climate scientists highlight ‘turbulence’ in the emissions patterns resulting from the pandemic and energy crisis. Even the stats scream instability.
Perhaps it’s because reducing overall consumption doesn’t make the most sensational business plan or guarantee the biggest profit margins?
Global systems need an almighty overhaul to streamline supply chains so that a successful green transition will be swift enough. But replacing fossil fuels with green energy supplies is no quick fix. Partly because renewable technologies haven’t been scaled up enough yet. And partly because renewable energy is produced in peaks depending on the weather conditions and usage fluctuates according to various factors, such as time of day or night. Fundamentally, only if we reduce the overall demand for energy can the supply of renewables meet a bigger proportion of global requirements.
Danfoss, a top global engineering firm that specialises in energy efficient technology has just published a comprehensive analysis of the huge gap that currently exists between supply and demand. In its report, ‘The neglected demand side of the green equation’, Danfoss’ chief executive, Kim Fausing, points out that “the build-out of renewables will not be even near sufficient if we don’t curb our demand for energy”.
While electrification is enabling the green transition, energy efficiency goes one step further and reduces the systemic cost of electrifying. As the International Energy Agency (IEA) states, energy efficiency can take us one-third of the way to net zero.
For every dollar spent on energy efficiency, we can avoid spending more than $2 on energy supply.
Yet, as energy consumption accelerates and global demand for cooling (such as refrigeration and air conditioning) escalates, energy efficiency is an enormous elephant in the room, politically. Perhaps that’s because reducing overall consumption doesn’t make the most sensational business plan or guarantee the biggest profit margins? But actually, for every dollar spent on energy efficiency, we can avoid spending more than $2 on energy supply. Both environmentally and economically, everyone benefits from a circular approach to energy. Design out waste, avoid heat loss, get energy smart and value this resource more than ever before, in your own home and everywhere else too.
Right now, at COP27, we need world leaders to take meaningful, tangible and immediate action – that simply can’t come soon enough. As Fausing puts it, “the greenest, safest and cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use”.