Energy Efficiency and Energy Savings


In a world where fossil fuels threaten to raise global temperatures, we have to turn to renewable energy sources to prevent further GHG emissions. In a world where renewable energy is unable to supply enough energy to replace fossil fuels – and can also lead to pollution and biodiversity loss, what do we do?

We reduce our demand as much as possible while striving for energy efficiency.

Energy Extraction

Efficiency is important when evaluating energy extraction processes. In essence, extraction efficiency is just a comparison between the amount of energy extracted and energy consumed during the extraction process. That seems simple, but it can get a little complicated since those amounts typically vary over time.

For fossil fuels, burning easily accessible oil, gas, or coal sources leads to high efficiency, since little input energy is needed to retrieve the fuel. As easily accessible sources dry out, fossil fuels have and will continue to become more expensive, and associated energy costs will follow suit. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop extracting oil or other fossil fuels any time soon. Employing a similar supply/demand mechanism than metals [described in Mining], millions of barrels of oil could continue to be extracted daily for decades – if we don’t actively decide to phase them out of our global energy mix.

There is a hard stop though, once the extraction efficiency lowers to uneconomical levels due to rarer deposits. At that point, we’ll likely have to say goodbye to fossil fuels. Again, it’d be much better if we separated from fossil fuels on our own terms before then. Not only to avoid further emissions as soon as possible, but also to adapt to a fossil-fuel-free world smoothly – a world that seems like science fiction due to our current dependence on fossil fuels and their products.

For renewables, efficiency has improved considerably for multiple technologies, but many of these advances are the result of more complicated materials being used – which can increase a technology’s production/disposal impacts. As we complete our energy transition, we’ll just need to think a bit more about the entire life-cycle of renewables to make sure their challenges are being addressed. That’ll help us find the optimal ratio between renewables and lowering consumption.

Energy Consumption

Efficiency is also important after the energy has been extracted. Carpooling, adjusting your home’s thermostat, and opting for second-hand products are samples of an incredibly vast playbook of eco-friendly actions that can help us maintain a good quality of life while using less energy [i.e. increasing our energy efficiency]– and less of other resources as well.

Of course, individualized solutions such as those listed above are only one small part of the solution. Changing policies and regulations will be crucial to quickly affect large scale change. As we’ve mentioned in a previous section, systemic issues require systemic solutions. Nonetheless, if individuals want to reduce their personal impacts on the environment, CyclopediApp can help.

Identifying which actions we can take to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss can be challenging, as it takes research, planning, and time. Here, we’ll let you skip all of that and provide you with the information you need to make eco-friendly decisions that fit your lifestyle. As you apply these solutions, you’ll find yourself saving on electricity and water bills, and in other areas as well.

However, we need to share the same goal of reducing our consumption and emissions. Using these solutions to increase energy efficiency should lead to energy savings – not the rebound effect.

Note that the following caution isn’t intended for low-income families that could truly benefit from increased consumption.

We need to be careful of the rebound effect. In the past, increasing energy efficiency has not led to a decrease in energy consumption. Instead of reducing our energy bills, we tend to take this as a green light to consume more. For example, when using the telephone was terribly expensive, conversations were held to a couple minutes at most. Now, we still pay excessive amounts to the phone companies, but for unlimited talking, texting, and data. We pay the same price, it’s just that the value of the service is increasing. Similarly, when dealing with energy efficiency, the rebound effect can push us to maintain our high energy consumption levels – or even increase them [e.g. increasing lighting usage because LED lights are more efficient than old lightbulbs].

Objectively, it is more efficient. Alas, we’re at a time where we need more than efficiency – we need savings. We need to reduce our raw consumption of energy and natural resources by avoiding the rebound effect to take a meaningful step in the right direction.