Energy Waste Worries American Businesses Now

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energy wasteIt used to be pretty easy to predict America’s attitude about energy waste. The billboards everywhere that blare gasoline prices left us buoyed or dismayed about our energy prospects. And we consumed or conserved accordingly.

But something has changed in the American psyche, particularly among businesses. Even though oil and natural gas prices are low, Americans are are trying to save energy.

“I would say we haven’t seen any less interest in energy efficiency in our business. We have seen growth,” said David Bonn, vice president, sales & client development at Schneider Electric, one of the nation’s behemoth suppliers of energy efficiency equipment for factories, stores and buildings.

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In fact, the nation appears to be on a long-term energy-saving binge. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that energy use will rise a meager 0.4 percent per year, even as GDP grows an average 2.4 percent annually through 2040.

State Pressure

States play a big role keeping on the pressure to save energy. Governors are taking the long-term economic view.

“One of the long-term, state- and region-wide benefits of investing in energy efficiency is that it reduces demand and helps avoid the need to invest in additional infrastructure,” said Jamie Howland, director Acadia Climate and Energy Analysis Center.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder provided an archetypal example last week when he called for eliminating energy waste to meet 15 percent of Michigan’s energy needs.

“Michigan needs to change its attitude from seeing waste elimination as a nice-to have add-on and see it as the cornerstone for Michigan’s next energy policy,” Snyder told state lawmakers.

More Aware of Electricity Prices

It’s not just oil and gas prices that are down. The real price of electricity is lower than it was prior to 1995, according to the EIA. Power prices did bump up in 2014, and are expected to rise again, although less, in 2015.

Consumers, of course, feel these variations when their utility bills arrive. But businesses now increasingly see the changes immediately through use of energy monitoring and visualization

energy waste

Schneider Resource Advisor visualization tool

tools that show real-time electricity pricing — an equivalent to the gasoline billboard but right on their desks.

Seeing the data immediately influences energy behavior, Bonn said. Once they see the data, businesses want the “so what,” he said. They want to do know how to use the information to reduce energy waste.

They are motivated, of course, by costs, but that’s no longer the only driver.

Many want to use the data for benchmarking, comparing themselves against competitors or their own past performance, or to meet city or state reporting requirements.

Businesses also are increasingly keen in their pursuit of sustainability goals. For example, more and more companies are taking savings from lower energy costs and reinvesting a percentage into green energy, Bonn said. Schneider calls this a smart dividend re-investment strategy.

‘Energy waste’ is new rallying cry

Bonn specifically hears the term “energy waste” used more and more by businesses, rather than the more conventional ‘energy efficiency’ or ‘conservation.’

“They want to eliminate waste. When the financial people hear about waste it can perhaps garner more attention than ‘energy efficiency projects,’” he said.

Of course, before we pat ourselves on the back too much, you could say today’s Americans are saving a lot of energy without a lot of effort too. The savings reported by EIA come in part from structural changes in the economy — the U.S. has shifted away from manufacturing to less energy-intensive manufacturing. And appliance and fuel efficiency standards help too. We save energy without even trying because equipment and cars operate more efficiently. Power plants also are becoming more efficient as older plants retire and new, more efficient generators take their place.

Whatever the reason, America’s energy-savings binge is good news. Energy prices are nothing if not volatile. Oil prices, in particular, may be down today, but we’ll see where they are tomorrow.

energy waste

  1. US spare capacity exhausted
  2. Arab Oil Embargo
  3. Iranian Revolution
  4. Iran-Iraq War
  5. Saudis abandon swing producer role
  6. Iraq invades Kuwait
  7. Asian financial crisis
  8. OPEC cuts production targets
  9. 9-11 attacks
  10. Low spare capacity
  11. Global financial collapse
  12. OPEC cuts production targets
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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

Comments

  1. What is Wasted Energy? It is combusted energy that is going up the chimney as Hot exhaust and CO2 and water.
    Lets give it a purpose and recover it transform it and utilize it.
    Want to make a difference in the battle against Climate Change? Commercial buildings and industry and the power plants are putting a lot of wasted energy into our atmosphere.
    Recover it. Transform it. Utilize it.

  2. Some technologies are available, just waiting for somebody seriously interested to save water and energy.
    A simple way to save water and energy : http://www.wesavings.eu
    I tried a crowdfunding operation with Indiegogo based in California without any success at all : it seems that people are much more interested to develop new gadgets than by water saving.
    I contacted a lot of people involved in water saving without any return, on top of that the GPG (GSA, US General Services Administration) did not choice to test this technology : water wasting not yet important for USA.
    Where are those concerned with water and energy wastings ?
    How to contact them, to get them involved ?

  3. Vidyadhar Joshi says:

    Hard to believe. All those monster trucks, fuel guzzling cars disappeared? Gas turbines without exhaust heat recovery (all heat goes to waste). Seems to be too late, too little.

  4. Andy Maybury says:

    Well said all.

    We need to use the heat produced from power stations by retrofitting CHP (combined heat and power) systems in place, eg, District Heating Networks.

    Saving hot water can readily be done by using mini-bore pipes (8mm or 10mm) to each tap rather than large, branching pipe systems. Keeping the temperature as low as possible also reduces losses.

    It seems that people have cottoned on to the fact that oil prices are increasingly volatile (a classic sign of a commodity in short supply) and although some are making use of the current low prices, the longer-term outlook must be to become less dependent on fossil fuels.

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  1. […] AEE has started selling a service to assist with tracking this type of legislation. Another article about how business worry about energy waste seems to explain the call for legislation and a market […]

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