The Low-Hanging Fruits of Energy

When examining climate change and energy conservation, minds often tend toward large-scale grid technologies. While solar technologies and energy storage systems are big end goals, researcher from Iowa State University state that there are intermittent steps that should be considered.

“Many people consider energy efficiency to be the low-hanging fruit,” says Yu Wang, who studies global energy policy and energy efficiency at Iowa State University. “If you’re facing the target of trying to mitigate climate change, energy efficiency should be the first choice because it’s cheap and easy in comparison with other options.”

Importance of Energy Conservation

For Wang and others, replacing old incandescent bulbs with LED lighting is an important step in energy conservation. While it may seem like a move this small would have no impact on the overall energy consumption of the country, Wang and other researchers estimate the swap could yield an electrical savings of 10.2 percent by 2035.

Another step toward a more energy efficiency society deals with policy at all levels.

“In general [the future of renewable energy] is really up to the politicians to change the energy infrastructure,” says John A. Turner, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “We have pretty much all the technologies we need. We certainly need to be able to upscale them and get things cheaper, but the issue is how do you replace an essentially established infrastructure with a new one? You need political support.”

(MORE: Read Green Savings: How Policies and Markets Drive Energy Efficiency.)

While researchers are working on implementing renewable grid policy on a massive scale, Wang and associates are looking at the policies that currently exist that are typically glossed over.

Less Money, More Energy

“Most of the current programs and policies for energy efficiency can provide significant energy savings at a cost that is lower than the retail rate that we pay for electricity,” Wang says. “That means if you invest in energy efficiency, you will be able to get your money back and at the same time save energy.”

Unfortunately, most people are not implementing these efficiency measures in their homes. Due to misinformation, a vast majority of U.S. residents believe that these alternatives are more expensive. Typical homeowners believe that a large sum of money must be invested up front to move toward clean energy, but Wang states that this is not true.

“Energy efficiency programs don’t only look at your old appliances such as an old refrigerator or microwave. They also look at the cooling and heating equipment or old windows that need to be replaced,” Wang says. “Sometimes they will also help you to install all the possible measures and offer financial supports.”

(MORE: Podcast: Critical Issues in Renewable Energy)

The Bigger Battle

While the battle against climate change will touch every area on the spectrum, every little bit counts. All avenues, including small energy conversation efforts, impact the final outcome. And switching your lightbulb does not require a large investment or a lifestyle change, but it could mean big things for the environment.

“We should not just forget about the demand-side resources, and energy efficiency is one of them that can save us a significant amount of energy and at the same time save us money,” Wang says. “Energy efficiency is such an important, low-cost solution to climate change.”

[Image: Philips]

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