Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting along with less

By Dave Rochlin - Originally posted on

There's a new study out by the highly respected firm Mckinsey, which concludes that, in the US alone, we have the potential to reduce energy consumption by 23% by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste, and resulting in the abatement of 1.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually – the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads.

This is not based on new clean energy sources, or some future high tech solution like hydrogen powered flying cars. (Question: Does a flying car count as taking a car off the road?) It is based on energy efficiency - simply consuming less.

The cost? Well it isn't all free...but what is most interesting about the report is that they identify the expenditures that actually save more than they cost, and rank them based on their return on investment. High on the list are lighting, appliances/electronics, and water heating, things groups like Energy Star, utilities, and even ClimatePath have been touting for some time.

In a country where using fossil fuels is almost a sign of patriotism (a bizarre notion, given our reliance on foreign oil), some pretty sizable changes are needed to capture these savings. To sum up the Mckinsey study's conclusions, an energy policy based on supply needs to be replaced by one based on demand. Treating energy efficiency as an energy resource, more investment in energy efficiency, and cooperation between utilities, regulators, government agencies, manufacturers (and consumers) are all part of the solution.

A lot of this savings is in commercial buildings and facilities, where better codes and incentives to spend up front are needed. But that doesn't let us off the hook at home. Discover the operating costs of tankless water heaters, front load washers and other appliances before dismissing them in favor of cheaper models. And if you work in a commercial building, ask what your company and your landlord are doing to reduce energy costs. Especially in this economic climate, landlords will bend over backwards to please tenants...and they'll be saving money in the long run as well. Energy Star has a great guide for building upgrades.

Photo copyright janetmck at (CC license.)

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