Saving the World, One Light Bulb at a Time Why Conservation Is the World's Best Energy Source
Warnings of a coming climate catastrophe caused by greenhouse gas emissions are growing louder. But the pressure for economic growth around the globe is pushing gas and oil prices higher. The solution seems deceptively simple: conserve energy by using it more efficiently. So why aren't more people doing exactly that?
A satellite image of Europe at night: Residents of Western Europe's industrial nations waste enormous amunts of electricity, petrol, heating oil and gas. Without any noticeable decrease in quality of life, consumers could reduce their energy consumption by one-fifth.
The thermometer shows 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The apartment building has two boilers supplying its heat. Both are running even though its above freezing outside. One would be more than enough, says Lentz. But what really stuns the energy specialist is the fact that each unit has a water capacity of 2,500 liters (660.4 gallons), which he considers absolute nonsense.
The deal pays off for both client and contractor -- and helps the environment at the same time. Energy savings average between 15 and 20 percent, but are often even more. The clever concept is becoming quite popular in Germany; there are already some 500 energy contractors like WGB providing services to real estate companies, supermarkets and even prisons. And their market share is growing by about 15 percent each year.
The conservation industry
Conserving energy is rapidly becoming a growth sector. The new industry is creating thousands of jobs in areas where German firms are already leaders. Who would have thought 20 years ago that modern technology for wind and solar energy would eventually become an export hit? Or that shares in these companies would be traded on the stock market?
Graphic: Energy Consumption and Savings Goal
And the future of new economic powerhouses like China and India depends on a steadily growing global energy supply. But where modern technology falls by the wayside in their rapid development, massive quantities of natural resources are wastefully being burned and pumped into the atmosphere. That makes no sense economically, and it's environmentally insane.
Climate change reports released by the United Nations last week and in February came to rather worrisome conclusions about the state of worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming. That in part has encouraged leaders of all political persuasions and nationalities to declare themselves ready to make environmental protection a priority. The alarming forecasts even led German Chancellor Angela Merkel to announce: Its five minutes till midnight. But can anything actually be done to turn back the clock?
Future superpower China is already the worlds second biggest consumer of oil after the United States, even though the Asian giant is hardly motorized. Only 19 out of 1,000 Chinese drive a car, whereas in America some 780 people out of 1,000 do. And China is second only to the United States when it comes to belching greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Graphic: International comparison of energy efficiency
In the past, it was enough to simply drill for new oil and gas fields, burn larger amounts of coal and build more nuclear power plants. But these days even enthusiastic growth optimists are pointing out the limits of such a strategy: Its too expensive, too dangerous, and -- above all -- too dirty.
One reliable source of energy is not even close to being depleted: Simply saving it may be the safest and cleanest option mankind has. It also happens to make a tidy profit.
- Part 1: Why Conservation Is the World's Best Energy Source
- Part 2: Potential Savings in Europe of 60 Billion Each Year
- Part 3: The Spirit of Saving Is Returning
- Part 4: Positive-Energy Homes and Next-Generation Lighting
- Part 5: The Growth Market for Green Energies
- Part 6: Pushing Consumers to Act