July 08, 2012

Conservation is only a small part of a viable and realistic energy plan

World Energy Consumption changes from 1990 to 2008. Total energy consumption increased over 19 years 20% in the USA and 39% in the World and even 7% in Europe. It increased 146% in China.

All of the conservation and efficiency improvement efforts of the past years has slowed the growth in energy usage. The energy per capita in the US did decrease by 2% and increased by 1% in Europe but about 15% of the energy per capita was a shift of energy intensive manufacturing to China. There was improvement of GDP per kwh of about 1% per year.

The world economy will grow by about 70-80% by 2025. An increase of $50 trillion. 4-5% GDP growth per year needs to be in a viable and realistic plan.


Here is a list of 27 most effective actions to achieve energy conservation and savings from an environmental magazine. The list is from 2008. What is the adoption rate of these actions ? How much does it cost each household to adopt them ? What is the payback time for the energy saved from a more efficient refrigerator to pay for the energy to make the refrigerator ?


The biggest conservation and efficiency gains would come from rebuilding cities to be more dense. Shifting to denser downtown cores with taller skyscrapers. However, the maximum gains without decreasing wealth is increasing conservation and efficiency by about 2% per year and is usually about 1% per year.

Hong Kong and Japan have ultradense skyscrapers and quite high income per capita. They are two to three times more energy efficient than the USA. Weather differences need to be taken into account.

Sky City is five times more energy efficient than standard buildings. They can also be built very quickly and cheaply and could enable a rapid shift in the building stock.

Buildings use 50% of the raw materials used each year in the world and 40% of the energy

If all building were made this way the system could reduce the raw material usage to 10% and energy usage to 8% of world usage.

Efficiency does matter and new turbine technology will be able to boost efficiency by about 20%. Steam generation will go from 35% to 44% efficient and combined cycle will go from 50% efficient to 65%. To achieve most of this gain in efficiency the old turbines will have to be replaced or retrofitted or the entire plant would have to be replaced.

Natural gas can be used to generate electricity in a variety of ways. The most basic natural gas-fired electric generation consists of a steam generation unit, where fossil fuels are burned in a boiler to heat water and produce steam that then turns a turbine to generate electricity. Natural gas may be used for this process, although these basic steam units are more typical of large coal or nuclear generation facilities. These basic steam generation units have fairly low energy efficiency. Typically, only 33 to 35 percent of the thermal energy used to generate the steam is converted into electrical energy in these types of units.

EPRI - Innovations in Natural Gas Turbines … Next 20 Years (29 pages)

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