What is Energy Conservation? How Can we Help

A Brief Introduction To Energy Conservation

Why is the conservation of energy so important? The concept of energy seems quite simple: expend a force and you do work. At the highest levels, this means dropping water to turn turbines in hopes of producing electricity.

Or splitting and fusing atoms to harness their potential. At the lowest levels, flip a switch or push a button and life becomes that much easier. Human beings are by far the most creative architects of transferrable energy in the known universe, and with the advent of the mass production of energy, a massive multi-trillion-dollar industry has become the backbone of civilization as we know it today.

Physicist William Rankine postulated that energy can neither be lost nor destroyed, it can only be transferred. That is not to be mistaken, though, for a suggestion that energy cannot go wasted.

Although nearly all sectors of the global economy seem to have seamlessly integrated themselves with the energy industry, there exists a responsibility to ensure that energy is conserved.

One could say that this responsibility exists especially because sectors of the global economy have integrated so. In any case, many regions of the world feel the brunt of poor conservational practices. They feel these through lopsided energy distribution, lower standards of living, and the adverse effects of global warming.

More on this later in this article, though. For now, let us familiarize ourselves with the concept of energy conservation.

Energy conservation loosely refers to practices, policies, and strategies that are aimed towards minimizing the consumption of an energy resource. It either entails more efficient use of energy or a reduction in energy consumption. In this article, we will examine how much energy the world produces as a function of global demand. We will also look at the importance of conserving energy as well as strategies we can implement in our daily lives to use energy more sparingly.

The World’s Power Grid

The ways of energy conservation are numerous. The benefits of energy conservation are far reaching.

We need energy to serve household purposes. Lighting and heating quickly come to mind. In the modern world, industries, transport, and the corporate world all beg for their daily stipend of energy.

Energy availability has direct consequences on the standard of living of communities who need it. Annually, our usage of energy continues to spike. A 2018 report by Vaclav Smil, in his book ‘Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives,’ stated that as of 2018, we used approximately 135,000 more terawatts per hour (TWh) than we did in the year 1800!

That’s close to a 3000% increase! The most popular sources of energy, in order, have been oil, coal, gas, water, nuclear energy, wind, and the sun. As you can probably already see, non-renewable sources of energy have had greater popularity than their renewable counterparts.

Predictably, the highest consumption of such energy occurs in North America, China, and the Middle East before Europe and other parts of Asia and the world follow along.

Energy production varies by region and energy type. The Middle East are global leaders in the production of oil. China produces the most coal and thus hydroelectric power.

The United States has led the way in the production of natural gas, nuclear energy as well as wind-powered energy. In a strange twist, Germany leads the world in solar energy production. This is courtesy of extensive investments into solar panel fields.

There have also been some collective efforts. For example, the United States and China accounted for 75% of the world’s electricity production in 2018. In some regions, the boom in production fuels high-value trade that catalyzes energy consumption. For example, even though the Middle East produces the most oil, it is the United States that consumes the most.

Members of the SADC region of Southern Africa enjoy affluent trade in electricity. The numbers are glaring, the energy sector is hot, but, as always, the energy distribution is the thorn in the side of the world.

It is estimated that 16% of the global population has inadequate access to electricity. That’s a resounding 1.6 billion people who have little to no electricity to power businesses, schools, or homes!

As suggested earlier, standards of living are adversely impacted by the absence of consistent and reliable sources of energy, so expectedly, much of the 16% will be found in the developing world. The world runs on a system that seems to consume energy at the same rate, or slightly faster than it is produced.

Understanding this sets a solid foundation for answering our next question, why is the conservation of energy so important?

Why is Energy Conservation so Important?

As we have seen so far, the world relies heavily on non-renewable sources of energy. As these are not infinite, the growing demand for energy could either deplete our reserve of raw materials like coal or oil or, it could make these materials so scarce that their prices would soar. This would have two unavoidable consequences:

  1. The percentage of people lacking reliable access to energy would increase, crippling global economies.
  2. Those already lacking energy would be buried even deeper in the vicious cycle of poverty

Moving on, energy saved is energy that can either be traded or donated to regions desperately needing it. Consider for a moment the report given by the New York Times.

According to the newspaper, the United States loses approximately $57 billion in wasted energy yearly. Now take that amount and compare it to Zimbabwe’s electrical debt. Zimbabwe gets part of his electricity from South Africa, specifically the electrical company ESKOM.

As of 2019, Zimbabwe owed ESKOM the equivalent of some $40 million. A large figure, but peanuts when we compare it to what is wasted by another country. Let’s take this paradigm even further. Zimbabwe is by no means the most heavily afflicted country in terms of the unavailability of energy.

Imagine what a figure as large as $57 billion could mean to even smaller countries facing energy struggles in the developing world.

We should also conserve energy because it is our responsibility towards nature. Maintaining its delicate balance means using no more than we need to for survival. Moving away from the ethical conversation, energy conservation has some very personal benefits.

Benefits of Energy Conservation

To be direct, energy conservation saves you money! Every watt you save goes towards lowering your monthly rates. Cumulatively, if the demand for energy decreases in a particular community, the available supply can be sold at a lower price or at least a more stable one.

Cheaper Public Transport

One of the benefits of energy conservation is cheaper public transportation.

1) Public transport becomes much cheaper, and this is all but a ripple effect. An economy that has less money lost towards the energy industry has more to give towards expanding the labor force, and so by saving energy, you help to create jobs!

Job Creation

2) You also help to create jobs because when a community has a sufficient reserve of electricity, for example, shops can stay open longer, small businesses can be opened and available technology can be used to its fullest extent. Therefore, by saving energy, you become a direct contributor to the development of your economy.

Some energy, like hydroelectric power, requires that coal be mined. Now, there are quite a few methods of mining coal, but as the demand increases and coal reserves deplete, it becomes more likely that miners are sent to more dangerous lengths to extract the precious minerals.

Mining along geological faults deep in the earth’s crust or extensive shaft mining are all risks that we can spare others by using energy more sparingly. In a nutshell, we relieve tension on the energy industry and its employees by using energy more sparingly.

Health Implications

Another benefit of conserving energy is less pollution resulting in better health.

Saving energy can also have important implications for your health. As we are about to learn, energy conservation drastically reduces pollution. Pollution puts you at risk of different cancers, cardiac conditions, pulmonary conditions, and so forth.

Conserving energy contributes towards living in a cleaner community and a clean community is essential in the fight against these ever more common health conditions. As we look back on the benefits now, it’s clear that energy conservation is good for you, for others, and most importantly, for your pocket! Now to put it practically…

How To Cut Back On Energy Usage

As suggested by the definition, energy conservation requires planning, awareness, and consistency. It is a function of aligning our way of life with our goals for the future. There is much that can be done on an individual level to not use more energy than is necessary. Although this section will largely discuss electrical energy, the same principles of responsibility and forethought apply most anywhere. To cut back on the energy use:

  • Switch off lights in rooms that are not currently in use.
  • Do not leave mobile devices charging long after the batteries are full.
  • Limit your usage of high-voltage appliances like irons and ovens to only when it’s really necessary.
  • Replace traditional bulbs with halogen bulbs or LED bulbs.
  • Weatherize your home or install efficient windows to reduce heating expenses.
  • Consider taking public transport, instead of using your car.
  • Get your car serviced regularly.
  • Ensure that your car uses the right type of oil.

Collectively, a lot can be done to save energy. Some communities have tried:

  • Load shedding programs.
  • Continuous roadworthiness tests for cars.
  • Increased reliance on renewable energy and grants to help community members pursue renewable energy.

Again, energy conservation is all about using not more than we need.

Energy Conservation For The Environment

Energy conservation helps protect the Earth. The ways of energy conservation are almost limitless.

If not for ourselves or our pockets, energy conservation needs to be done for the planet. The pollution caused by fossil fuels in the form of sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide is a direct contributor to global warming.

These “power plant emissions” are pumped into the atmosphere during the production of electricity through the burning of coal or the combustion of fuel by our vehicles. The greenhouse effect reveals itself through rising global temperatures, rising water levels, stronger natural disasters, acid rain, and smog.

The brunt of these effects, as mentioned earlier is felt most in the developing world, where much of the industry is still the primary industry. By being more mindful of our usage of energy, we proactively engage the world’s global warming problem and align our lifestyle to mitigate its effects.

The conservation of energy also works against the effects of activities that damage the land, mining being one of them. When a piece of land is mined for minerals, it often takes decades for the area to fully regenerate.

With the extensive mining going on in the world today, large pieces of land are left uninhabitable by plants and animals. Entire ecosystems die when the demand for energy makes acquisition efforts excessive.

Oil spills, nuclear accidents, and the dumping of toxic waste are all sad catalysts of environmental degradation. Not to mention how they deplete our reserve of fuels.

The need to protect the environment serves as the most sterling answer to the question, “Why is the conservation of energy so important?” In a sentence, only through long-term conservational efforts and strategies can we begin to mitigate the effects of land degradational activities and maintain a relative balance between our need for energy and the environment’s responsibility to host life.

Conclusion of Energy Conservation…

The need for energy is an inescapable truth of life in the modern world. Energy essentially translates to economic prosperity. Using energy in our daily lives has made life so convenient and at the same time, it has created a dependency. This means that for as long as we live, we will always seek ways to generate energy.

We have taken an in-depth look at how we do that today. We understand the need to conserve energy and were able to analyze the benefits of conserving energy to each household, to each community, and our planet. Energy conservation is not an option or chore performed by only a few. It is the responsibility of all humans and the shining road towards a prosperous future.

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