Energy efficiency is a process to reduce the amount of energy or fuel needed to produce a product or service.
It means getting a job done using less energy and, in the process, reducing utility bills and pollution.
Energy efficiency not only helps lower energy costs but is also an effective means of combating climate change.
When electricity or fuel costs less, consumers have more money to spend on other things. Businesses have lower operating expenses, which improves their competitiveness in the market.
Why Is Energy Efficiency Important?
Reduces Climate Pollution
Energy efficiency consumes less energy and, consequently, fewer emissions take place.
Fewer emissions of greenhouse gases will reduce the negative effects of climate change.
Minimizes Health-Related Problems
Although a reliable source of energy in the U.S., the use of coal comes with tremendous costs and health hazards. Coal emits air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.
Energy efficiency can reduce the amount of fuels burned. Consequently, it lowers the associated health-related dangers.
Energy efficiency is also a source of job creation.
Saving energy frees up resources, which can produce in-demand goods and services.
While jobs are created by practicing energy efficiency directly (e.g., installing insulation), other jobs are indirectly created. Utility bill savings recycle back into the economy via consumer spending or business investments. These activities, in turn, create new jobs.
Using less energy to complete a particular task means lower operating expenses, which saves companies money over time. Additionally, energy-efficient technologies last longer and require less maintenance than older technologies.
Reduces Dependence on Fossil Fuels
One of the prime sources of energy, coal, creates air pollution. This is highly dangerous to human health and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change.
Energy-efficient technologies, such as heat pumps and solar panels, use alternative power sources instead of coal. These alternative sources contribute fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels.
Examples of Energy Efficiency
Heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat from cold areas to warm areas. This way, an individual can have warm water during winter or cool air in the summer without using natural gas or other fuel sources.
Since it does not burn any fuel, this process is very efficient. It also does not produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
In the U.S., electricity-generating technologies, such as solar panels, can take advantage of abundant sunshine to generate power. These sources can also replace traditional sources that emit harmful pollutants and cause climate change.
According to Resources for the Future, electrification, which is the process of switching from fossil fuels as a source of energy to electricity, could “reduce carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from the transportation, building, and industrial sectors, which account for 65 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions”.
Another example of energy efficiency is smart meters. These help monitor energy use or switch off electrical appliances remotely to reduce unnecessary electricity consumption during peak times.
Although a growing trend, smart meters are still not universal. When installed, however, this technology allows for two-way communication between utilities and consumers regarding energy consumption.
This way, consumers can identify areas of excessive energy use and reduce unnecessary expenses.
Additionally, smart meters give utility information about outages. This allows them to perform repairs before major power disruptions affect large populations.
A very common yet easy way to save on heating and cooling bills is through insulation.
It prevents indoor heat loss in winter and minimizes indoor temperature fluctuation during both seasons. This allows consumers to save money by using the same amount of gas or electricity needed for their heating and cooling needs.
Although the U.S. has made significant progress in energy efficiency over the last few decades, there is ample opportunity for improvement.
Energy efficiency can benefit consumers in terms of reduced energy costs, reduced pollution, and improved health.
These benefits are evident in an energy-efficient method called electrification, which means using electricity to provide heating, cooling, or hot water rather than relying on natural gas or propane.
Another growing example of energy efficiency is switching to LED lighting, which also makes room for potential savings. On average, it can save around $4,000 over the typical lifespan of LEDs at 20 years.
Although the U.S. is showing greater efficiency in different sectors of its economy, there is still ample room for improvement if individual states coordinate with the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This would help the country uphold its pledge to the Paris Agreement and achieve its emissions goal.
1. What does LED mean?
LED is an acronym for "light-emitting diode". LED devices produce light by running an electrical current through a semiconductor material. This is different from incandescent bulbs, which channel heat energy as visible light.
2. What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help slow down climate change and its effects across the globe. The agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015, at the COP21 summit in Paris.
3. What is the commitment of the United States to the Paris Agreement?
The United States aims to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030. It also has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.
4. How do smart meters benefit individuals?
Smart meters provide consumers with information about their energy usage, including daily usage trends, that can help them identify excessive electricity use and wasteful practices. This allows for proper management of appliances to limit unnecessary expenses and wasted resources.
5. What is electrification?
Electrification is a great example of energy efficiency because it saves homeowners money across the board by using electricity to provide heating and cooling needs rather than natural gas or propane.