The world consumes a lot of energy every day. For example, the United States uses nearly a million dollars worth of energy each minute, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the US consume about one quarter of the world’s energy resources. Among industrialized nations; 16 percent of the world’s population consumes 80 percent of its natural resources.

Energy is more than numbers on a utility bill; it is the foundation of everything we do. All of us use energy every day—for transportation, cooking, heating and cooling rooms, manufacturing, lighting, water-use, and entertainment. We rely on energy to make our lives comfortable, productive and enjoyable. Sustaining this quality of life requires that we use our energy resources wisely. The careful management of resources includes reducing total energy use and using energy more efficiently.

Energy conservation includes any behavior that results in the use of less energy. Energy efficiency involves the use of technology that requires less energy to perform the same function. A compact fluorescent light bulb that uses less energy to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent light bulb is an example of energy efficiency. The decision to replace an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent is an example of energy conservation.

In Europe, energy consumption could be reduced by more than a fifth and save up to 45 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2010 by applying more ambitious standards to new and existing buildings. The right mix of government regulation, greater use of energy saving technologies and change in behaviour, can substantially reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the building sector which accounts for 30-40 per cent of global energy use.

Energy efficiency, along with cleaner and renewable forms of energy generation, is one of the pillars upon which a de-carbonised world will stand or fall. The savings that can be made right now are potentially huge and the costs to implement them are relatively low if sufficient numbers of governments, industries, businesses and consumers act.

The building sector alone could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02 around the world. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol.

We need both to invest on a large scale in existing technologies and to stimulate innovation into new low carbon technologies for deployment in the longer term. There is huge scope for improving energy efficiency and promoting the uptake of existing low carbon technologies like PV, fuel cells and carbon sequestration.

There needs to be international consensus on how we can speed up the introduction of these technologies. And there are already many great examples of companies here in the UK showing the way:

- Ceres Power based in Crawley, UK and utilising technology developed at Imperial College have developed a new fuel cell that has unique properties, and
- Ocean Power Delivery transmitted the first offshore wave energy from the seas off Orkney to the UK grid.

• Residential

Households use about one-fifth of the total energy consumed in the United States each year. About 60 percent is in the form of electricity; the remainder comes mostly from natural gas and oil.

Much of this energy is not put to use. Heat, for example, pours out of homes through drafty doors and windows and under-insulated attics, walls, and floors. Some idle appliances use energy 24 hours a day. The amount of energy lost through poorly insulated windows and doors equals the amount of energy flowing through the Alaskan oil pipeline each year.

Energy-efficient improvements can not only make a home more comfortable, they can yield long-term financial rewards. Household operations account for about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. They also make a significant contribution of the common air polluting emissions. The average home contributes up to two times as much carbon dioxide as the average car. Using a few inexpensive energy-efficient measures it can reduce the average energy bill by 10 to 50 percent and, at the same time, reduce air pollution.

• Heating and Cooling

With all heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, you can save money and increase comfort by installing proper insulation, maintaining and upgrading equipment, and practicing energy-efficient behaviors. By combining proper maintenance, upgrades, insulation, and thermostat management, you can reduce energy bills and emissions by half. A two-degree adjustment to your thermostat setting can lower heating bills by four percent and prevent 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. Programmable thermostats can automatically control temperature for time of day and season for maximum efficiency.

• Insulation

Warm air leaking into your home in cooling seasons and out of your home in heating seasons can waste a substantial amount of energy. You can increase home comfort and reduce heating and cooling needs by up to 30 percent by investing a few hundred pounds in proper insulation products.

• Doors and Windows

About one-third of a typical home’s heat loss occurs around and through the doors and windows. Energy-efficient doors and windows should be insulated and sealed tightly to prevent air from leaking through or around them.

• Landscaping

Although it isn’t possible to control the weather, certain landscape practices can modify its impact on home environments. By strategically placing trees, shrubs, and other landscape structures to block the wind and provide shade, residents can reduce the energy needed to keep their homes comfortable during heating and cooling seasons. If the landscaping is well done, residents receive the additional benefits of beauty and increased real estate values. A well-planned landscape is one of the best investments a homeowner can make.

• Electricity & Appliances

Appliances account for about 20 percent of a typical household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators, clothes washers, and dryers at the top of the consumption list. Refrigerators should be airtight; make sure the gaskets around the doors are clean and seal tightly.

• Lighting

Much of the expense for lighting is unnecessary, caused by using inefficient incandescent light bulbs. Only 10 percent of the energy consumed by an incandescent bulb produces light; the remainder is given off as heat. Technologies developed during the last 10 years with fluorescent lighting can help cut lighting costs 30 to 60 percent while enhancing light quality and reducing environmental impacts.

Increasing your lighting efficiency is one of the quickest and easiest ways to decrease your energy bill. If you replace 25 percent of your light bulbs in high-use areas with fluorescents, you can save about 50 percent on your lighting bill.

Greater use needs to be made of existing technologies like thermal insulation, solar shading and more efficient lighting and electrical appliances, as well as educational and awareness campaigns.

• Water Heating

Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 14 percent of your utility bill. Heated water is used for showers, baths, laundry, dishwashing and general cleaning. There are four ways to cut your water heating bills—use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater and pipes, and buy a new, more efficient water heater.

One of the easiest and most practical ways to cut the cost of heating water is to simply reduce the amount of hot water used. In most cases, this can be done with little or no initial cost and only minor changes in lifestyle. A family of four, each showering for five minutes a day, uses 700 gallons of water a week. You can cut that amount in half simply by using low-flow, non-aerating showerheads and faucets. Other ways to conserve hot water include taking showers instead of baths, taking shorter showers, fixing leaks in faucets and pipes, and using the lowest temperature wash and rinse settings on clothes washers. Lowering the temperature setting on your water heater can save energy.

• Transport

Overall, there are 33 million vehicles registered for use on UK roads in 2006, including cars, vans, taxis, buses and trucks. Globally, the market for new passenger cars is increasing by some 3.8% to 50.7m units annually.

Transport is responsible for about a quarter of UK emissions of carbon dioxide, the vast majority of this coming from road transport. Emissions from road transport are increasing because rising traffic levels are eliminating the small gains being made in fuel efficiency. By changing our habits and using public transport, car pooling, walking or bicycling, you can achieve considerable emission savings. Other measures can also add to improvements in the drive towards a low-carbon economy:

- Introduce higher Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates for gas guzzlers to be phased in over five years, and immediately reduce VED on the most fuel-efficient cars to zero.

- Increase support for renewable alternatives to conventional petrol and diesel, grown from crops such as oil seed rape and sugar beet.

- Increase grants for the purchase of low emissions vehicles such as hybrids, which run on a mixture of petrol and electricity.

• Industry

The UK emissions from heavy industry account for 40 per cent of total UK C02 emissions. This comes from power plants, farms, construction of industrial buildings and houses. The rapid urbanisation of the world’s population is leading to the prospective development of more manufacturing units, and new urban buildings.

Government policies on building codes, energy pricing and financial incentives need to encourage reductions in energy consumption, and the co-operation of all those involved in the building sector. In developed countries the main challenge is to achieve emission reduction among mostly existing buildings, and this can largely be done by reducing the use of energy.

In other parts of the world, especially places like China where almost 2 billion square metres of new building space is added every year, the challenge is to leapfrog directly to more energy efficient building solutions.1

Manufacturing the goods we use every day consumes an enormous amount of energy. The industrial sector of the U.S. economy consumes one-third of the nation’s total energy demand. In the industrial sector, energy efficiency and conservation measures are not driven so much by consumers as by the market. Manufacturers know that they must keep their costs as low as possible to compete in the global economy. Since energy is one of the biggest costs in many industries, manufacturers must use energy efficient technologies and conservation measures to be successful. Their demand for energy efficient equipment has driven much of the research and development of new technologies in the last decades as energy prices have fluctuated.

Individual consumers can, however, have an effect on industrial energy consumption through the product choices we make and what we do with packaging and the products we no longer use.

Other efficiency measures should include:

- Improved efficiency in producing electricity which can be utilised for energy consumption of building and appliances.
- Use of renewable energy – power of the wind, sun, water, tidal and other forces to generate energy.
- Packaging should be kept to a minimum and should be renewable, reusable and bio-gradable.
- Minimal material waste
- Accuracy and precision in manufacturing
- Improved techniques in sensors
- Detection of faults in manufacturing

• Consumer society

Not only are we a consumer society, we are also a ‘throw away’ society. For example, America produces almost twice as much solid waste as any other developed country; the average citizen produces more than 1,000 pounds of rubbish each year.

The most effective way for consumers to help reduce the amount of energy consumed by the industrial sector is to decrease the amount of unnecessary products produced, and to reuse items in their original form wherever possible. Purchasing only those items that are necessary, and reusing and recycling products wherever possible can significantly reduce energy use in the industrial sector.

The 3 Rs of an energy-wise consumer are easy to put into practice. Reducing waste saves money, energy and natural resources, and helps protect the environment.

Reduce - Buy only what you need. Purchasing fewer goods means less to throw away. It also results in fewer goods being produced and less energy being used in the manufacturing process. Buying goods with minimal packaging also reduces the amount of waste generated and the amount of energy used.

Reuse - Buy products that can be used repeatedly. If you buy things that can be reused rather than disposable items that are used once and thrown away, you will save natural resources. You’ll also save the energy used to make them, and reduce the amount of landfill space needed to contain the waste. Savings also result when you buy things that are durable. They may cost more initially, but they last a long time and don’t need to be replaced often, saving money and energy.

Recycle - Make it a priority to recycle all materials that you can. Using recycled material as the feedstock for manufacturing almost always consumes less energy than using virgin (raw) materials. Reprocessing used materials reduces energy needs for mining, refining, and many other manufacturing processes.

Recycling a pound of steel saves 5,450 BTUs of energy, enough to light a 60-watt bulb for 26 hours. Recycling a ton of glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil. Recycling aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy required to produce aluminum from bauxite. Recycling paper cuts energy usage in half.

• Energy Sustainability

Efficiency and conservation are key components of energy sustainability––the concept that every generation should meet their energy needs without compromising the energy needs of future generations. Energy sustainability focuses on long-term energy strategies and policies that ensure adequate energy to meet today’s needs, as well as tomorrow’s.

Sustainability also includes investing in research and development of advanced technologies for producing conventional energy sources, promoting the use of alternative energy sources, and encouraging sound environmental policies.2


1. People and Planet, ‘Huge climate payout from energy efficient building,’ 30 March 2007