The Invisible Fuel

The Biggest Innovation in Energy is to Go Without It
The cheapest and cleanest energy choice of all is not to waste it. Progress on this has been striking yet the potential is still vast. Improvements in energy efficiency since the 1970s in 11 IEA member countries that keep the right kind of statistics (America, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden) saved the equivalent of 1.4 billion tones of oil in 2011, worth $743 billion. This saving amounted to more than their total final consumption in that year from gas, coal or any other single fuel. And lots of money is being invested in doing even better: an estimated $310 billion-360 billion was put into energy efficiency measures worldwide in 2012, more than the supply-side investment in renewables or in generation from fossil fuels.

The “fifth fuel”, as energy efficiency is sometimes called, is the cheapest of all. A report by ACEEE, an American energy-efficiency group, reckons that the average cost of saving a kilowatt-hour is 2.8 cents; the typical retail cost of one in America is 10 cents. In the electricity-using sector, saving a kilowatt hour can cost as little as one-sixth of a cent, says Mr Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute, so payback can be measured in months, not years.

The largest single chunk of final energy consumption, 31%, is in buildings, chiefly heating and cooling. Much of that is wasted, not least because in the past architects have paid little attention to details such as the design of pipework (long, narrow pipes with lots of right angles are far more wasteful than short, fat and straight ones). Energy efficiency has been nobody’s priority: it takes time and money that architects, builders, landlords and tenants would rather spend on other things.

In countries with no tradition of thrifty energy use, the skills needed are in short supply, too. Even the wealthy, knowledgeable and determined Mr Liebreich had trouble getting the builders who worked on his energy-saving house to take his instructions seriously. Painstakingly taping the joins in insulating boards, and the gaps around them, seems unnecessary unless you understand the physics behind it: it is plugging the last few leaks that brings the biggest benefits. Builders are trained to worry about adequate ventilation, but not many know about the marvels of heat exchangers set in chimneystacks.

To continue reading this article go to: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21639016-biggest-innovation-energy-go-without-invisible-fuel?zid=313&ah=fe2aac0b11adef572d67aed9273b6e55
Source: The Economist
 
 
 
 
 
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The Invisible Fuel

The cheapest and cleanest energy…