Comenius

PROGRAMME

Energy efficiency

There are several inter linked factors contributing to our ever increasing use of energy. One is our growing population which is unlikely to stabilise before 2050 and at a total of 9 billion people. Contrast this with the world’s population 100 years ago which was around 2.0 billion. Another factor is our own individual use of energy which has increased dramatically in developed countries since the start of the industrial revolution in the home and at work.

Our major uses of energy include transport, generation of electricity and providing space and water heating in buildings. If we define energy as the capacity for doing work then we have developed machines over a period of many years to do the work that was previously done by hand. The energy that these machines consume has been provided primarily by coal, oil and gas and it is in the combustion of these fossil fuels that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are produced as a by-product.

? Why has our energy usage increased over the past 100 years? What usage do you think is making the greatest contribution to global warming?

There are 3 basic ways in which we can reduce the environmental impact of our energy use –

  • Using less energy
  • Using energy more efficiently
  • Converting our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable sources; we have considered these sources and noted how they can be used around our home in the renewable source section

Average energy consumption
As described in the carbon footprint section, in the UK, space heating consumes the largest amount of energy, but car usage produces the largest emissions of carbon dioxide. In countries further north more energy might be consumed because of the more extreme climate while in countries to the south, less energy will be required. The level of thermal insulation is an important factor in determining how much energy will actually be consumed.

What is also significant is how much less energy is consumed by public rather than personal transport.

Using less energy
In order to reduce our own energy consumption, each of us has to consider how and where we use energy. This is illustrated in the adjoining sketch of a living room with its energy consuming appliances such as lighting, TV, radio and heating.

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