Why Energy Conservation Will Remain Crucial
Even after switching to scrub power, we’ll still have to limit energy use.
If we switch to renewables, we won’t have to worry about saving energy. Right?
Improper! One reason to save lots of energy is to limit carbon emissions from the energy we use. That’s going to essential until the energy system has been completely cleaned up. But energy conservation is essential for reasons that transcend the direct effect on emissions. Before I get to the explanations, I would like to elucidate what I mean by energy conservation and why it’s different than energy efficiency.
The concept of energy conservation is straightforward: reduce the whole amount of energy you’re using. That will sound like energy efficiency, but they’re quite different. Energy efficiency means using less energy to supply the identical goods or services (reminiscent of driving your automobile or heating your own home). That may mean a decrease in your total energy use, but not necessarily. If cooling your own home gets cheaper since you’re more energy efficiency, you may resolve you possibly can afford to maintain your own home even cooler. In the long run, you may use more electricity, not less.
First, a clean energy system goes to want a whole lot of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries. Those, in turn would require an enormous expansion in the quantity of minerals we want. Based on a recent report of the International Energy Agency, we could see a near tripling in copper demand for solar panels, in addition to big increases in demand for cadmium, tellurium, gallium, and lead, in numerous amounts and combos depending on which technologies win out. Windmills require rare earths, plus more copper for cables connecting offshore wind. Batteries will probably cause an enormous surge in demand for lithium and nickel. How all of this works out relies on which technologies find yourself within the lead, but every technology on the market would require a whole lot of latest mineral use.
Conserving energy will reduce demand for these minerals. That can help keep the value of power down, which is essential for equity reason and likewise so as to speed the energy transition. Mining inevitably comes with environmental harms, as does process ore, and we’d wish to keep those risks down as well. Finally, to the extent needed materials are in brief demand, the complicates the logistics of getting things built and deployed quickly.
The opposite reason to maintain energy use low is to scale back the quantity of land needed to site renewables. The energy transition goes to require an enormous increase within the variety of solar farms and wind turbines. An article last 12 months within the science journal Nature estimated that “with solar energy accounting for 25 to 80% of the electricity mix, land occupation [ranges] from 0.5 to 2.8% of total territory within the EU, 0.3 to 1.4% in India, and 1.2 to five.2% in Japan and South-Korea.” Much of this land is already in use for agriculture, so using up that land is prone to push production into less productive land. The indirect result will be to extend emissions — for instance, less land for soybean fields in Iowa can raise world prices, incentivizing deforestation in Brazil. Bottom line: if we use less energy, we use less land.
There are a whole lot of ways to scale back energy use. When it comes to transportation, reducing vehicle weight will reduce the facility draw for electric vehicles. So will congestion charges that discourage driving or encourage carpooling. Getting people to walk, bike, or use public transportation may even cut energy use, as would encouraging telecommuting. There are a selection of other techniques for cutting constructing and industrial use of energy.
My point is straightforward: Energy conservation isn’t only a tool for cutting carbon. It’s going to stay essential even once we’re well into the transition to a net-zero economy. Thus, it’s going to be essential in each the short run and the long run, but for various reasons.