James O’Donovan looks at ways we could reduce our energy consumption at home, at work and in our lifestyle
The Irish per capita energy use in kiloWatt hours per person per day (kWh/p/d) comes to:
34 (electricity) + 26 (transport) + 30 (heating) + 4 (flights) = 94 kWh/p/d
(This excludes the energy embedded in our imports).
An eleven-fold expansion of our renewable energy sources could potentially generate a very significant 68 kWh/p/d. But a series of energy conservation measures and behaviour changes have the potential to transform Ireland to a society powered predominantly by renewable energy.
Six simple personal actions are suggested in the website Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air. It is important to do these actions both at home AND at work to realise the energy savings. All of these actions will reduce your bills and save you money:
- Read all your meters, at home and at work, (gas, electricity, water) every week, and identify easy changes to reduce consumption (e.g., switching things off and not leaving them on standby (saving 10% of the energy used for a device). Possible electricity saving of 4 kWh/p/d.
- Change your lights to fluorescent or LED at home and at work. Possible electricity saving of 3 kWh/p/d.
- Wear warm clothes indoors and then it’s easy to turn down your thermostat to 16 or 17°. Make sure the heating is off when no-one is at home. Do the same at work. Possible saving of 10 kWh/p/d but a heating saving of 5 kWh/p/d is more realistic.
- Reducing your flying by 50% would yield a possible aviation saving of 2 kWh/p/d. Currently aviation fuel is untaxed. A substantial carbon tax on aviation fuel could be used to fund a high speed electrified rail network that could displace domestic flights. Increased use of teleconferencing, etc. would also help. But since the number of flights increases annually I have assumed no saving here.
- Wash laundry in 30° cold water. Stop using a tumble-dryer; use a clothes-line or airing cupboard. Possible electricity saving of 2 kWh/p/d.
- One car per family and using other transport modes would reduce fuel use. Possible saving of 10 kWh/p/d. This would be encouraged with an improved public transport system. Assume a possible transport saving of 5 kWh/p/d is possible.
These six steps combined provide possible savings of 19 kWh/p/d, a 20 % reduction in energy use reducing our energy demand to 75 kWh/p/d. (Electricity 25 kWh/p/d, transport 21 kWh/p/d, heating 25 kWh/p/d, flights 4 kWh/p/d).
A further Two expensive actions:
Whereas the above actions are free, easier to implement, and save money these two actions are costly and usually require contractors:
- Eliminate draughts, double glaze windows, improve wall, roof, and floor insulation. Possible savings of 10 kWh/p/d.
- Replace fossil-fuel heating by ground-source or air-source heat pumps. Possible savings of 5 kWh/p/d – this means that all heating is done with electricity.
These two actions combined provide a total saving of 15 kWh/p/d reducing an average Irish person’s energy use by nearly 35% to 60 kWh/p/d (Electricity 25 kWh/p/d, transport 21 kWh/p/d, heating 10 kWh/p/d, flights 4 kWh/p/d) which is below Ireland’s 68 kWh/p/d renewable energy potential.
The conclusion is that combining energy conservation measures including a deep retrofit of inefficient Irish buildings, behaviour changes, and increased energy efficiency would enable our domestic energy demand to be met primarily from renewable energy but this will require a substantial and costly investment over many years. Although costly, it will counteract climate change and massively reduce air pollution which is responsible for 7 million lives a year globally.
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