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Chemical engineer working in the field of bulk chemicals for e.g. plastics and energy, specifically energy efficiency and renewables.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A sustainable energy company?

I take this story from Gernot Wagner. He goes into the reasons behind why the energy company in a free market is adapting what would seem to be bad tactics. While this analysis is valid in my opinion, a deeper message can be wrought from the story.
When a person decides to purchase a car, one of the main considerations in Europe is the mpg or L/km. That is the amount of the fuel needed to drive a certain distance; an efficiency rating if you will. This think has been around for many years due to the high taxes exerted on the gasoline price. In recent times, the idea has extended to other electrical goods like washing machines etc. 
The reason for this is to help the consumer make a choice, a choice that can save them money. By using less electricity the consumer can reduce their electricity bill. They are also making another choice that they probably do not realize. They are reducing their energy consumption by moving away from inefficient machines thereby reducing the burden on the resources available to them. This is the ultimate goal of the energy efficiency scheme as launched by the EU. This scheme aims to reduce primary energy usage without reducing the quality of life. However it is not working and the EU admits that it will miss its 2020 target achieving only a 10% saving instead of 20%.
Here is where the message from Gernot's post arrives. The EU should not only be focusing on efficiency with new appliances but also focusing on using less electricity. Simple examples include street lights which could be reduced. At the home, leaving items on standby or even on when not used (e.g. t.v./radio) can also be eliminated. It’s all about developing a habit of turning things off when not in use.
Typically this is not the goal of an energy company. The company will want people to continue using more energy so that their profits can increase. That is why we see many companies advertising their great 'advances' in alternative energy so that the amount of energy we use does not need to be reduced (a story I do not believe). Instead the first message that any energy company with a real view to sustainability should have is for people to reduce their consumption. People should drive smaller cars, increase efficiency in their homes etc. When a company does not put this message to the fore and still considers themselves sustainable or aiming for sustainablity, ask yourself is that a truly sustainable message?

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