Thursday, February 11, 2010

Saving the planet with leverage

According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC):
In the United States alone, buildings account for:
•    72% of electricity consumption,
•    39% of energy use,
•    38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,
•    40% of raw materials use,
•    30% of waste output (136 million tons annually), and
•    14% of potable water consumption.
 And according to the US Dept of Energy:
  • For 2009, total electrical generation was ~3297 TWh. Of which:
    • 2960 TWh (90%) was from non-renewable sources
    • 337 TWh (10%) was from Hydroelectric and other renewables.
 And if you believe this research result is typical:
The norm is for savings from direct feedback (immediate, from the meter or an associated display monitor) to range from 5-15%.
Then 10% savings of 72% of electricity consumption is 7.2% of 3297 TWh = 231 TWh.
That's 69% of the total renewable energy generated in 2009.

So if you wanted to make the carbon from 231 TWh of electricity disappear, would it be cheaper to spend your money on:
  1. increasing the renewables capacity by 69% 
  2. putting a smart meter and feedback display / system in every home and business?
And which one could be done more quickly?

That's part of why energy efficiency and control systems is my focus instead of energy generation. They'll both get you there but one seems much more cost effective and possible in the short run than the other.