Why Energy Efficiency is Critical to Tackling Global Climate Change
Introduction to Curbing Global Climate Change
Energy efficiency is the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing global climate change. Renewables may grab the headlines, but energy efficiency is quietly leading the charge for carbon neutrality. Reducing energy demand immediately cuts carbon emissions from power generation and enables improving renewable power generation technology (solar, wind, etc.) to better meet our global power consumption needs.
Recent studies demonstrate that energy efficiency projects can cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, getting us halfway to our climate goals. Additionally, these same studies demonstrate the tremendous cost savings opportunities presented by energy efficiency initiatives.
Energy Efficiency Can Achieve $700 billion Cost Savings in U.S. Alone
The Energy Efficiency Impact Report by the American Council on an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) takes an in-depth look at the potential global impacts of energy efficiency initiatives, policies, and technologies in multiple economic sectors. The report evaluates energy savings and emissions reductions in buildings, industry, and transportation if further investments are made in energy efficiency projects and technologies.
In addition to cutting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, the report finds that energy efficiency measures would achieve $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone. Additionally, the report highlights that efficiency improvements in buildings can provide 40% of the total energy savings opportunity and 33% of the emissions reductions. The numbers in the study are impressive, and they are repeatable and consistent with findings from across the globe.
For individuals dedicated to energy efficiency, this research is not surprising. While flashier technologies get much attention, energy efficiency needs to be presented as a powerful weapon to continue to fight global climate change. The usage equation is simple: energy not used means emissions not generated. Efficiency technologies, such as Helios Automatic Tube Cleaning System, should be implemented first to help reduce the overall demand for electricity, and reduce the need for building new power plants.
Eliminating the perception of Efficiency being mistakenly equated with sacrifice and conservation is another challenge for industry experts. “Conservation” means a change in behavior, such as turning off T.V. when you leave the room, whereas “Efficiency” involves the technological changes that make energy consumption more efficient, thus lowering demand. Both Conservation and Efficiency are important for lowering greenhouse emissions, but one requires investment in R&D, and both public and private sector collaboration and deployment.
Reducing 40% of Global Greenhouse Emissions is Within Grasp
A similar report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds that investments in energy efficiency can deliver 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions reductions required to be in line with the Paris Agreement. The IEA has also found that cooling energy use in buildings has doubled since 2000, making it the fastest growing end-use in buildings.
Obviously, energy efficiency opportunities abound, and perhaps no single group has a larger opportunity to make a positive global impact than owners-operators of commercial and institutional buildings.
But efficiency improvements, carbon neutrality, and reduced power bills are not the only incentives for adopting energy efficiency technologies.
Reducing the Pressure on Limited Water Resources
Not only does energy efficiency drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it also reduces the pressure on limited water resources. Local water scarcity is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, everywhere from the western United States to sub-Saharan Africa, and investments in energy efficiency reduce water consumption requirements for power generation stations and building cooling systems. Reduced power demand also reduces the amount of water required to generate that electricity or cool buildings.
Traditional methods of electricity production require tremendous amounts of water. Solar photovoltaic (P.V.) and wind power use negligible amounts, but energy efficiency technologies and processes use zero water. Reducing demand for energy consumption also means reducing the need for additional water supplies to meet that demand.
Droughts and heatwaves are continuing to place pressure on water supplies both directly and indirectly. When the heat rises, so does demand for air conditioning causing demand spikes and brownouts as we have experienced frequently in southern California. This brings the need for more water to generate electricity, but where do you find it because of drought?
The role of energy efficiency for reducing the demand for water should be a top priority, yet, it is often ignored. Energy efficiency and water conservation go hand in hand and an efficiency focus is one of the most effective strategies in reducing greenhouse emissions in the energy sector. In 2021, with the accelerating rate of climate change, escalating risks require greater investment in energy efficiency technologies and methods to help mitigate those impacts.
Energy efficiency is an indispensable tool in achieving global climate targets, and an investment in energy efficiency is an investment for positive economic, environmental, and societal impacts. If we truly want to improve global climate conditions and fight climate change for future generations, we need to adopt energy efficiency technologies and practices broadly and aggressively. Besides, more efficient use of limited global resources just makes sense.
The workhorse of the clean energy world is energy efficiency and should be given the spotlight it deserves. Solar and other renewable technologies have been receiving the buzz and fanfare, but a greater investment in energy efficient technologies can make a significant contribution to lowering greenhouse emissions to save our planet.