Need for Awareness about Energy Conservation

Economic Review, February 1990 | Go to article overview

Need for Awareness about Energy Conservation


In order to make a more effective use of available energy resources, Energy Conservation looks at ways and means of reducing waste: in the conversion process, in the distribution system, and on the user's premises. The conversion process is essentially handled at power stations where coal, oil or gas is converted into electricity, or at refineries where crude oil is converted to its useable products like gasoline, diesel and lubricating oil. The distribution system consists of power transmission lines that connect the power station to the electricity consumer, as well as the transportation network that conveys gasoline to petrol pumps. The energy lost or wasted in these systems is essentially beyond the control of the energy user.

It is in the third area, that is, the energy consumed on the user's premises, where personal action on the part of the consumer can yield significant benefits. What can the domestic user of energy do to reduce wasteful consumption and save on energy bills? The answer is a surprisingly large number of things that otherwise seem insignificant and require little effort, but can, in fact, make the household much more energy-efficient. A little thought devoted to our daily habits, from an energy conservation standpoint, can reveal a number of oversights that lead to wasted energy. For instance, how often have we seen a garden tap left on? Instead of watering the garden, the water may be flowing straight into drain. It is not only water but, somewhere along the line, energy that is also being wasted. Energy is used by the filtration plant, the water treatment plant, and the various pumping stations that convey the water to the garden. We find it convenient to remain oblivious of such wastages, but should we continue to incur such losses, especially since the effort involved in stemming them is so minimal? It is ultimately the end-user that has to bear the costs of shortages and the increased charges resulting from them.

In our kitchens, we often use electric hot plates, ovens and heaters, when we can use gas. Here also is an enormous potential for saving. If we use an electric cooker, less than 25 per cent of the heat energy of the fuel burned in an electric power plant gets into the cooking pot. Most of the energy is wasted at the power station itself and in the transmission system. But if we were to use gas as the fuel for the kitchen, no less than 75 per cent of the heat value of the fuel could be used productively. Switching from electricity to gas therefore improves the heat utilization efficiency by 200 per cent in the kitchen. The exception to this rule is microwave ovens, which can be quite efficient.

When we do use gas for cooking, do we use it economically? In most households that have servants, at least one gas ring is kept on all the time, whether needed or not; the servant does not pay the bill and is not bothered to turn it off. Also when meals are being cooked, the rings are often in the fully open position. The flame reaches round the pot and up to one-half of the heat goes to warm the kitchen! We don't realize that with the flame turned down to the three-quarter position, the heat transfer to the pot will not be reduced much but the heat wasted will be cut substantially.

For space heating as well, the use of electric heaters should be avoided and gas heaters used instead where possible. The reasons are very simple: besides being much more expensive to use for the consumer, electricity usage is also less efficient compared to gas for the reasons described in the previous paragraph, and therefore represents a bigger drain on the country's resources. Electricity use is best confined to those applications for which it is particularly suited or where an alternative is not readily available. One doesn't have to look far for more ideas to save energy. …

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