Daily Archives: July 19, 2008

Energy Efficiency is the First Step in Energy Conservation (and Budget Savings)

If you’re a buyer of computers, electronics, machinery, automobiles, buildings, or anything else that requires power, the first thing that should be on your mind these days, with petroleum and oil prices going through the roof, is energy. It now costs more to power an average desktop workstation for its expected life-span than it does to buy it, just as it does to power and cool your average server. Getting 40% off MSRP on a pick-up truck that only gets 15 mpg isn’t a great deal anymore if it’s going to be driven 30,000 miles per year, because, at current fuel costs, you’ll be spending 45,000+ in fuel costs over 5 years … over two times what you’ll be paying for the truck!

That’s why it was great to see a recent article in Industry Week on Growing the Energy Efficiency Market that re-iterated the fact that energy-efficiency technologies can reduce energy consumption by 25% or more, echoing the results of a recent McKinsey study that also found that improved energy efficiency can cut energy requirements by 25% in many developed countries, as I noted in my post on Cutting Carbon Footprints on the Country Level.

The Industry Week article focussed on a recently released ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) report on The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture. The report, which was supported by the Civil Society Institute, the Kendall Foundation, and the North American Insulation Manufacturer’s Association, found that:

  • The U.S. has the potential to reduce energy consumption by an additional 25% to 30% through strategic use of energy efficient technologies
  • Energy-Efficiency has met about three-fourths of the demand of new energy related services since 1970, proving that it works
  • Investments in more energy-efficient technologies could result in an efficiency market worth more than 700 Billion by 2030

Furthermore, as Industry Week alone has pointed out over the last month or so, opportunities for energy efficiency improvements, as well as new sources of energy, are everywhere.

  • In Let Motor Efficiency Drive Competitiveness, Too, we find out that not only does energy account for 97%+ of the total life-cycle cost of an AC induction motor, but that adjustable speed drives can often reduce power consumption by as much as 50% in some implementations! Furthermore, high efficiency motors alone have the potential to reduce industrial power consumption by as much as 18% across the board!
  • In another article, Industry Week informs us that a new material benefits fuel cells and that MIT has developed direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) based on this material that improve power output by more than 50%. (Furthermore, this should also lead to the creation of even higher performance batteries for handheld electronics in the near future.)
  • And in power from seaweed?, they noted that the production of bioethanol from seaweed might soon be a possibility. If it was possible to produce this fuel in an energy efficient manner, it might make biofuel a viable alternative. Right now, as I’ve pointed out many times, the focus is on corn-based ethanol, which is extremely energy-inefficient to produce (over six barrels of oil are required to produce eight barrels of lower-efficiency ethanol) and reduces the global food supply. In contrast, seaweed is not a key food crop and certain species of seaweed have higher oil concentrations than most land-based crops. It would be fantastic if everything works out.

If you want to be more energy efficient, you might consider checking out the ninth edition of the Plant Engineers and Managers Guide to Energy Conservation. A review can also be found in Industry Week.