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Efficiency is the key October 13, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in energy conservation.
Tags: , , , ,

Most of the talk in energy policy these days is about creating new sources of energy.  However, I hearken back to the Carter 70s, where the mantra was conservation.  We were unsophisticated back then.  Insulation was two inches thick, and solar heat meant water barrels or flagstones behind double-pane glass.  We’ve learned a lot since then, but have failed to implement what we know.

At the 2008 Clinton Global Institute Annual Meeting, Andrew Winston, Founder, Winston Eco-Strategies, led a session on Energy & Climate Change – Ending Energy Waste.

At the begining of the seminar, he made a statement about energy waste:

One of my favorite (statistics) is all that energy that goes into those data centers, those big server farms that are powering all of the technology we have today about 3 or 4-percent that goes in the door is used to actually process some data. Some people tell me that’s a high number. The rest is lost to cooling, duplication, all sorts of things. So there is this opportunity for orders of magnitude and change in how we do things. This is the easy stuff.”

He quotes Amery Eleven as saying these ideas are “not the low hanging fruit, but the fruit on the ground.”  This stuff ought to be easy.  He tells the story of UPS, which now has a system where they now say they don’t take left turns, because they found they were spending too much time and fuel waiting to turn left, and programmed their routes in right-hand circles.

To make the point, Diana Farrell from the McKinsey Global Institute said that the discussion on reducing carbon emissions has had positive economic consequences.  She says that “about 1/3 of the opportunity to abate CO2 is in things that are, if you like, negative costs.”  With a little bit of up-front capital, many of these things can achieve positive rates of economic return, even as they reduce carbon emissions.  She says there are already viable technologies that are commercial available that could cut 150-percent of US energy use.  And if the up-front capital could be found, it’s likely to see an Internal Rate of Return of 17% on the investment – a 6-year payback.

Bill McDonough, a world-renowned designer and architect, then brought up the fact that 40% of the energy used is for buildings, because “you can’t start applying renewables to an inefficient thing,” and that “intelligent design is the best way to conserve.”  SImple things, like white rooftops (like at all WalMart stores) and skylights.

This is of course more important for the developing world, like China and India and the Middle East, but also important for us, trying to dig out of an economic crisis caused by old thinking about problems.  These are great ideas.

Note:  A transcript of the session is available from the CGI website.



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