Seven Ways to Save the World
Forget and old idea that conserving energy is a form of self-denial-riding bicycles, dimming the lights, and taking fewer showers. These days conservation is all about efficiency: getting the same-or better-results from just a fraction of the energy. When a slump in business travel forced Ulrich Romer to cut costs at his family-owned hotel in Germany, he replaced hundreds of the hotel's wasteful light bulbs, getting the same light for 80 percent less power. He bought a new water boiler with a digitally controlled pump, and wrapped insulation around the pipes. Spending about $100,000 on these and other improvements, he slashed his $90,000 fuel and power bill by $60,000. As a bonus, the hotel's lower energy needs have reduced its annual carbon emissions by more then 200 metric tons. "For us, saving energy has been very, very profitable," he says. "And most importantly, we're not giving up a single comfort for our guests."
Efficiency is also a great way to lower carbon emissions and help slow global warming. But the best argument for efficiency is its cost-or, more precisely, its profitability. That's because quickly growing energy demand requires immense investment in new supply, not to mention the drain of rising energy prices.
No wonder efficiency has moved to the top of the political agenda. On Jan. 10, the European Union unveiled a plan to cut energy use across the continent by 20 percent by 2020. Last March, China imposed a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency by 2020. Even George W.Bush, the Texas oilman, is expected to talk about energy conservation in his State of the Union speech this week.
The good news is that the world is full of proven, cheap ways to save energy. Here are the seven that could have the biggest impact:
Space heating and cooling eats up 36 percent of all the world's energy. There's virtually no limit to how much of that can be saved, as prototype "zero-energy homes" in Switzerland and Germany have shown. There's been a surge in news ways of keeping heat in and cold out (or vice versa). The most advanced insulation follows the law of increasing returns: If you add enough. you can scale down or even eliminate heating and air-conditioning equipment, lowering costs even before you start saving on utility bills. Studies have shown that green workplaces (ones that don't constantly need to have the heat or air-conditioner running) have higher worker productivity and lower sick rates.
Water boilers, space heaters and air conditioners have been notoriously inefficient. The heat pump has altered that equation. It removes heat from the air outside or the ground below and uses it to supply heat to a building or its water supply. In the summer, the system can be reversed to cool buildings as well.
Most new residential buildings in Sweden are already heated with ground-source heat pumps. Such systems consume almost no conventional fuel at all. Several countries have used subsidies to jump-start the market, including Japan, where almost 1 million heat pumps have been installed in the past two year to heat water for showers and hot tubs.
Who says you have to pay for all your conservation investments? "Energy service contractors" will pay for retrofitting(翻新改造) in return for a share or the client's annual utility-bill savings. In Beijing, Shenwu Thermal Energy Technology Co. speccializes in retrofitting China's steel furnaces. Shenwu puts up the initial investment to install a heat exchanger that preheats the air going into the furnace, slashing the client's fuel costs. Shenwu pockets a cut of those savings so both Shenwu and the client profit.
If saving energy is so easy and profitable, why isn't everyone doing it? It has to do with psychology and a lack of information. Most of us tend to look at today's price tag more than tomorrow's potential savings. That holds double for the landlord or developer. who won't actually see a penny of the savings his ivestment in better insulation or a better heating system might generate. In many people's minds, conservation is still associated with self-denial. Many environmentalists still push that view.
Smart governments can help push the market in the right direction. The EU's 1994 law on labeling was such a success that it extended the same idea to entire buildings last year. To boost the market value of efficiency, all new buildings are required to have an "energy pass" detailing power and heating consumption. Countries like Japan and Germany have successively tightened building codes, requiring an increase in insulation levels but leaving it up to builders to decide how to meet them.
The most powerful incentives, of couse, will come from the market itself. Over the past year. sky-high fuel prices have focused minds on efficiency like never before. Ever-increasing pressure to cut costs has finally forced more companies to do some math on their energy use.
Will it be enough? With global demand and emissions rising so fast, we may not have any choice but to try. Efficient technology is here now, proven and cheap. Compared with all other options, it's the biggest, easiest and most profitable bang for the buck.
1. What is said to be the best way to conserve energy nowadays?
a) Raising efficiency. c) Finding alternative resources.
b) Cutting unnecessary costs. d) Sacrificing some personal comforts.
2. What does the European Union plan to do?
a) Diversify energy supply. c) Reduce carbon emissions.
b) Cut energy consumption. d) Raise production efficiency.
3. If you add enough insulation to your house, you may be able to ___.
a) improve your work environment c) get rid of air-conditioners
b) cut your utility bills by half d) enjoy much better health.
8. Energy service contractors profit of clients'____.
9. Many environmentalists maintain the view that conservation has much to do with ______
10. The strongest incentives for derive from _____.
1 A raising efficiency
2 B cut energy consumption
3 C get rid of air-conditioners
4 B some 40 percent
5 D providing subsides
6 A recycling heat and energy
7 D We choose the most efficient models of refrigerators and other white goods
8 Annual utility-bill savings
10 The market itself