Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Most Cost Effective Energy Solution

The Department of Energy is promoting something called "trip linking." It is a very simple, even obvious idea. Instead of making 5 trips in your car to run 5 different errands, plan out your day and make just one trip with 5 stops. You will save gasoline because you will drive fewer miles (e.g., just one trip down your driveway instead of 5). You will also reduce emissions even if you drive the same distance because your car engine runs more efficiently when it is warmed up than when it repeatedly turns over from a cold start.

I heard this message on the radio several times this week. Do we really need to tell people something so simple and obvious?


One of my company's technology partners recently had an enlightening experience with energy education and awareness. They installed a smart electric meter that allowed every employee to see their building's energy consumption on a real time basis on a computer screen. Pretty soon a lot of employees began noticing that there were distinct spikes in energy consumption throughout the day. Being curious, some employees tried to figure out what was causing the spikes.

Turns out it was the elevator. Every time someone used the elevator, the little chart on the screen jumped.

Once people realized how much electricity was being consumed by the elevator, they began to walk up and down the stairs.

Two months after simple energy consumption awareness began, the company announced that electricity consumption in the building had dropped by more than 3%. Then the fun began. Employees wondered how much electricity could be saved if they conscientiously turned off lights when not needed. And if they turned off their computers at night. Pretty soon, everyone in the building was taking little steps to reduce their energy consumption ..... and watching the results on their computer screens.

After 7 months, the company had reduced its electricity consumption by more than 14%. No huge investments in technology. A 14% reduction in energy consumption merely by making people aware of the energy they were wasting.

So, what is the most cost effective energy solution?

Awareness and education.

John Howley
Woodbridge, New Jersey