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Energy Efficiency: A Phrase We Speak Too Much and Practice Too Little

Solar panels, windmills, and biofuels are all over the news as up-and-coming energy technologies, but what gets less coverage is the clean, easy, free, and limitless renewable energy source you’re probably not using: efficiency.

It’s easy to overlook energy efficiency as a renewable resource because it is subtracting energy use from the grid instead of generating it via other means, but it is perfectly legitimate to consider no energy as renewable energy.  After all, the great thing about renewable power is that it replaces some of the electricity generated by fossil fuels, right?  Well, when you are diligent about energy efficiency, not only do you eliminate the need for some of the electricity generated at your local coal plant, but you don’t even need to invest in wind or solar technology to do it (other than open windows and sunshine, that is).

Energy efficiency created a huge market for technology, and it makes perfect sense.  The high tech efficiency gadgets that have emerged on the market enable consumers to effectively reduce their energy consumption with little consequence to comfort and productivity.  It is important to understand that the goal of consumers who use efficiency technology is to reduce their energy use and costs, so the end product of the efficiency market is energy reduction, and this is where customers truly benefit.  Gadgets such as smart meters and intelligent building management systems are worth their cost because, not only are they really cool, but they save tons of money in the long run.

Other efficiency techniques directly pay consumers to not use energy.  Demand response (DR) programs have exploded in popularity in the last 15 years.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) states in its 2010 report Demand Response & Advanced Metering that,

The potential demand response resource contribution from all U.S. demand response programs is estimated to be more than 58,000 megawatts (MW), or about 7.6 percent of U.S. peak demand.

58,000 MW is worth a lot of money in the energy marketplace, and DR programs pay consumers outright for not using that energy.  This is just one example of the high value of energy efficiency.  New energy efficient technology, like the NEST Learning Thermostat, building management systems, and demand response programs are means to an end – a goal of reduced energy consumption worldwide.  This is good for energy consumers and the planet.  It’s a win-win!  If there’s a downside to using less electricity, I can’t think of what it is.

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  • Jan E(vert) Gravemaker

    Amen, efficiency is the lowest cost form of energy, low investments, guaranteed rate of return, short pay back periods, low or no upkeep, by the way it also curbs global warming.

  • Amber Rhodes

    Although the commenters on the articles I’ve been reading seem to think that living more efficiently (energy use included) is a waste of time and too little, too late – and will simply decrease our overall quality of life. Being more efficient with resources (fuel, food, water, space, etc.) is something we are all capable of doing, and for the vast majority of us is not going to decrease our quality of life.

  • Jessica Kennedy

    Yes it seems that over the years people in the developed world have been consuming more resources per person than ever! Energy included. We could definitely learn to conserve and consume less, and probably without even inconveniencing ourselves!
    Thanks for commenting!

  • http://www.smartwattinc.com Kayla Bellair

    Great article – with a consumer base who often connects ‘renewable energy’ with either Solar or a Prius, it’s nice to see a focus on the benefits of efficiency measures!