It’s no secret that our energy sector is undergoing major changes. Coal is largely being replaced with natural gas. Renewables are growing in leaps and bounds. These changes come with challenges but have significant benefits as well.
Renewables have created the need for a more flexible grid and helped to reduce emissions. Natural gas isn’t as clean as renewables but is cleaner than coal, and the rapidly falling price of this resource has kept energy prices affordable.
These trends get most of the media attention, but there’s a less flashy unsung hero that has the potential to dramatically transform the way we power our lives — Energy Efficiency.
What is Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency refers to reducing the amount of energy needed to accomplish a task. Although efficiency might not get as much attention as some other technologies, it’s beginning to be looked at more often as an important resource.
Energy efficiency plays a role on the small scale as well as within the big picture of the electric grid. For instance, you can replace an incandescent light bulb with a more efficient compact fluorescent bulb. This fluorescent bulb will produce the same amount of light but use less energy. You could also purchase an energy-efficient refrigerator that’s designed to require less power than other fridges.
On a larger scale, improvements in how we generate and distribute this energy can make the grid more efficient. In India, around 19 percent of the electricity generated is lost through heat and other inefficiencies as it travels to the end user. When compared to a world average that is just over eight percent.
Why It’s Important
Using less energy to get the same returns results in cost savings, which makes energy efficiency an attractive resource for businesses and individuals. When using fossil fuels, it also reduces harmful emissions.
Although renewable generation and consumption have increased dramatically in recent years, fossil fuels still make up a large percentage of the energy market. While renewable may provide a majority of our energy someday, that future is still a bit far off. Until then we need to focus on using less energy, as well as using cleaner energy if we aim to solve our environmental problems.
As India’s economy grows, so does its demand for energy. In order to combat the higher emissions levels that result from this increased energy use, the government in India has launched several initiatives related to energy efficiency.
Some of these efforts focus on the consumer side of things. The Unnat Jeevan By Affordable LEDs and Appliances for All (UJALA) program, for instance, seeks to distribute more efficient LED bulbs. So far, it’s supplied 230 million LED bulbs, 2.3 million LED tube lights and 800,000 energy efficient fans, which is estimated to have saved 32 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.
The National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) is working to promote energy efficiency on a broader scale. Its Perform Achieve and Trade Scheme (PAT) seeks to improve efficiency and make it more cost effective by providing credits to businesses that reduce their energy use. If a business surpasses their target, they can sell these credits to other businesses that can use them to reach their targets.
Still, a study by Siemens Financial Services of global industrial equipment manufacturers found that India has approximately 17.9 percent of unused energy efficiency potential. Taking advantage of this potential could result in overall savings of 60 percent in industrial electricity use. India should provide additional funding to manufacturers, especially small and medium-sized ones, to invest in energy efficient equipment if it wants to tap it into these prospective savings.
As the world changes the way it produces and uses energy, the industry must balance cost, environmental impact, reliability, and growing demand. In order to meet these challenges, we’ll have to take a multi-pronged approach that involves using new forms of energy as well as using less of it overall.