Energy Reduction

Energy Reduction

When many talk about sustainable energy, the question "How can we produce the energy we need more sustainably?" invariably sets the foundation for discussion. We must not forget however about the question "How can we reduce our energy needs as well as looking at improving the sustainability of energy sources?".

When it comes down to it, as humans, we really just value quality of life. Money is only one aspect of quality of life, and although is important, money is certainly not the be all and end all of things we desire. Most marketing these days will link spending money to other desires in our life.

When we build a house, we can build it sustainably. We can use deciduous trees to block out sun in summer and let sun hit the walls in winter. We can put eaves and insulation in the walls. We can build water reservoirs into floors and walls as thermal sinks. In fact we can design and build a house which almost never requires heating or cooling in order for its occupants to remain comfortable.

Of course through out the coal era, energy was cheap and it was easier and perhaps cheaper to just build cement blocks with little sensitivity to the outside elements, and fill each room with an air conditioner and a heater. Now that coal must go, peaking demand has pushed prices up, and consumers are complaining about the cost of living, governments have to subsidise the energy industry heavily so that struggling families can stay warm in winter and cool in summer. We have been a victim of our own easy access to cheap electricity and national wealth.

This is why when we mention sustainability everyone seems to shudder at the thought of losing all of life's comforts. The point is that with a little common sense and forward thinking we don't have to reduce our quality of life to be sustainable. It really is that simple.

Through history we have gone through several phases. Recently the industrial revolution followed by the age of technology (or the internet). Now quite clearly we enter the recycling and sustainability revolution. New mines will be on our old rubbish tips as Earth's precious metals are quickly depleted. By-products of processes will be recycled to make new products and our throw out attitude will promptly be revamped. A reduction on our thirst for energy is the first step towards this ambitious goal, and the more intense we look at potential improvements, the more comfortable the transition will be.