Also known as: Energy Demand Management, Energy Demand Reduction.
Energy use contributes to our quality of life. The challenge is to reduce our energy demand while maintaining or improving our quality of life.
We can do this through:
- Energy efficiency - producing the same outputs (goods and services) but using less energy to do so.
- Output substitution - Shifting demand from more energy intensive to less energy intensive activities, goods and services.
Need for Energy Conservation
Why take up the energy conservation challenge?
Consumption of greenhouse intensive fossil fuels is causing climate disruption, while alternative, low greenhouse intensive energy sources are in limited supply, or will require substantial time and money to develop. We need energy conservation to fill in the gap.
A combination of greenhouse intensity reduction and energy conservation is often cheaper that just relying on one or the other exclusively.
As with many forms of resource consumption where demand exceeds supply, it is not a good idea to simply augment energy supply without first examining the sources of demand, and seeing how that demand could be reduced, often with a low up-front investment and with numerous additional benefits.
Need for Energy Conservation in Australia
Much of Australia's energy supply is greenhouse gas intensive, and so contributes to global warming and climate change. (Most of Australia's electricity comes from brown-coal powered generators, for instance.)
We can reduce greenhouse emissions by reducing demand for energy. And by making our energy supplies less greenhouse intensive (eg by substituting wind power for brown-coal-fired power), but this in turn will require energy demand reduction.
Alternative energy is generally more expensive than fossil fuel energy and supply capacity is more constrained (by limits on the land available for fuel plantations, and on sites suitable for wind turbines, hydroelectricity generators, and geothermal power generators, for example).
So either way, energy demand reduction will be critical to greenhouse emission reduction in Australia.
Will reducing energy demand be easy in Australia?
The availability of cheap energy from fossil fuels has made Australia very energy dependent. The need to reduce energy demand in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is therefore a big challenge for Australians. On the other hand, cheap energy has meant that that many opportunities for demand reduction have been overlooked because energy savings have not been a priority.
How to Reduce Energy Demand
We can reduce energy demand by substituting low energy intensive products and activities for high energy intensive products and activities. And by reducing the amount of energy required for a given product or activity.
- Travelling by bicycle or public transport rather than by car.
- Preferring destinations closer to home in order to shorten journeys made by motorised transport.
- Building smaller but better designed and crafted homes (substituting labour for energy.)
No Regrets Energy Demand Reduction
How to maximise the side-benefits of energy demand reduction.
One way of easing the transition to a low energy future, is to look for energy reduction opportunities that have added benefits (benefits in addition to reducing greenhouse emissions).
- A shift from private cars to public transport, walking and cycling, has the added benefit of making our cities safer and more pleasant to live and move around in, and frees up land for other uses.
- Increasing the density of urban vegetation in order to moderate outdoor and indoor temperature extremes, provides more habitat for wildlife, and makes urban environments more attractive for tourists and residents.
- The reorganisation of factories and supply chains, in an effort to reduce energy use in industry, provides an opportunity to reduce wastage of materials and space as well, and to make industrial systems more flexible in what they produce and so better able to adapt to changing consumer taste.
- Reducing demand for electricity can help avoid expensive infrastructure upgrades in order to supply increasing demand.
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