Lesson 5: Energy Efficiency and Conservation

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A considerable amount of energy is wasted in industry, commerce, transport, agriculture and the household sector. Fortunately, there are opportunities for energy savings. As we try to explore these opportunities to use energy efficiently, we are confronted with some barriers that militate against the efficient use of energy. The good news, however, is that there are some benefits associated with the efficient use of energy - environmental, financial and economic benefits.This lesson therefore focuses on:

  • the concept of energy efficiency in relation to Ghana
  • barriers to the efficient use of energy
  • the benefits to be derived from the efficient use of energy

Icon objectives.jpg
By the end of this lesson you should be able to:
  • understand the the concept of energy efficiency especially in the Ghanaian context.
  • know the barriers militating against the efficient use of energy.
  • understand the environmental, financial and economic benefits associated with the efficient use of energy.

Lesson Content

The Concept of Energy Efficiency in Relation to Ghana

Sometimes the concept of energy efficiency is presented in such a way as to make people loose interest. When people do not get the right understanding they may equate energy efficiency to "energy deprivation". We therefore need to understand the concept of energy efficiency very well.

Energy efficiency and conservation means elimination of practices and processes that waste energy while at the same time attaining maximum comfort and convenience in the most efficient way. Energy efficiency does not mean doing without energy but means producing the same comfort and services with less energy. Conservation involves curbing wastage and increasing efficiency of a given amount of energy to provide more comfort or services with the same input of energy. Conservation practices must therefore not affect the way of life or comfort of end-users (consumers). Substantial energy savings from conservation practices appear possible without significantly affecting the way people live. Energy efficiency would include saving heat, utilizing energy to its best advantage, using less energy per person while maintaining maximum comfort improving the efficiencies of converter technologies, and operating technology at its best efficiency. It is estimated that 20 – 30 percent of energy resources in Ghana goes waste in industries, commercial enterprises, transport sector, agricultural sector and the household sector. The reasons include the use of obsolete technologies (equipment), inadequate maintenance, and lack of knowledge about the very steps that could be taken to improve the efficiency of energy use. Currently, it is estimated that that the level of energy waste in the use of electrical energy by consumers is over 20 percent, implying that consumers waste more than the entire generation of the Kpong Hydropower Plant.

Energy efficiency programmes have enabled some countries to expand their economies without greatly expanding their energy infrastructure. For example, over the past two decades, industrial output in the advanced OECD countries has grown by over 40 percent with only six percent increase in energy consumption. However, energy consumption in developing countries in general, outstrips industrial growth. In Ghana for instance, whilst industry grew at 2 – 4% per annum between 1989 and 1997, energy consumption over the same period grew at 10 – 14 percent. This is mainly due to lack of energy management practices that results in energy waste.

As stated earlier, a considerable amount of energy is wasted in industry, commerce, transport, agriculture and the household sector. Fortunately, there are opportunities for energy savings. The culture of energy management must strongly be developed. Efforts must be made to provide energy consumers with better access to energy efficient end-use technologies (appliances/equipment). Additionally, there is the need to provide consumers with information about ways to increase energy efficiency and the associated environmental, financial and economic benefits. We can collectively do something about the energy waste if we are equipped with knowledge about ways to decrease waste it is therefore important that we know about ways to decrease the waste, if not completely eliminated.

Barriers to the Efficient Use of Energy

Work in Progress

Benefits to be Derived from the Efficient Use of Energy

The efficient use of energy has many benefits. They include the following.

  • Energy bill savings.
  • Lower energy cost.
  • Reliable power supply and greater energy security.
  • Availability of more energy to other consumers.
  • Environmental conservation
  • Reduction in energy resources depletion rate.

Energy bill savings

The most obvious benefit to be derived from the efficient use of electricity is the savings on our energy bills. When we use energy efficiently, we reduce our consumption. Pay lower energy bills and thus save money. The more we reduce energy waste, the lower our bills would be. If we are to avoid huge energy bills, then we need to save energy. We always have to remember that the most expensive energy is the part that is wasted and that the prudent way to survive in the ever increasing cost of energy may be the judicious us of energy.

Lower energy cost

The efficient use of energy could lead to a relatively lower energy cost, particularly electricity. By avoiding energy waste, we could curtail the additional investment in plants to meet increase in demand when energy is wasted. The rate of investment in energy infrastructure can therefore be slowed down leading to overall control of otherwise a higher rate in the cost of electricity to all. Additionally, when thermal power plants are used to meet increase in demand for energy, the cost of energy increases Power from hydro plants is relatively cheaper to produce as it costs roughly three times to produce a unit of electricity when using thermal power plant as compared to hydro power plant. Whereas it costs about $1,000 to add 1kW of thermal power capacity to existing power supply system and will cost between five and 10 cents in fuel to generate 1kW of electrical energy, it will require only about 20 per cent of this amount to release 1kW of capacity into the system through the use of energy efficient lamps. In some countries, successful energy efficiency programmes have reduced demand and thus delayed or even eliminated the need for new power plant development.

Reliable power supply and greater energy security

Efficient energy use means a more reliable power supply with fewer blackouts and voltage fluctuations. The energy crisis that hit the country during the first half of 1998 brings into focus the ordeals of unreliable power supply, blackouts and voltage fluctuations. With efficient use of energy, the rate at which water from dams is used to produce electricity could be reduced. Hence the dam levels may not readily reach critical values that would necessitate power curtailment. While supply side management would enable us to adequately cater for an increase in demand for electricity, the heavy and expensive capital outlay which it entails does not make it an attractive alternative option. The demand side management remains the more appealing option to ensure energy security. Blackouts and power fluctuations in our locality may sometimes be due to overloading of the local transformer. When transformers are overloaded, they may automatically go off thus denying us the use of power. When we use energy efficiently, the overloading of transformers could be reduced and thus provide reliable power supply.

Availability of more energy to other consumers

The efficient use of energy could help more people to enjoy the facility. The wasted energy could otherwise be made available to other users who need it. Additionally, the efficient use of energy will result in more energy being made available to the nation’s development and a growing economy less vulnerable to energy shortages. Efficient use of energy can lead to increase in energy available to other consumers without proportionate increase in the demand on primary energy sources or capital investment in energy production. This is equally true for both electricity and fossil fuels.

Environmental conservation

Energy efficiency in the long run helps to protect the environment. The avoidance of energy waste results in less energy usage with the resultant reduction in energy-related environmental problems (see Unit 5). For example, the extraction, processing and use of fossil fuels are accompanied by devastating environmental degradation. Avoidance of energy waste could therefore reduce the environmental degradation associated with the extraction, processing and consumption of fossil fuels. Energy conservation would also enable Electricity Utilities to generate less power and thus postpone the need for power new power station development including hydro power plants that have adverse environmental impact.

Reduction in energy resources depletion rate

Using energy efficiently means that energy supplies would last longer. The world’s demand for energy is constantly increasing as population continues to grow. Also, the world is witnessing new technologies, new labour-saving devices, and new forms of recreation. Most of them require the use of more energy. Thus, our energy consumption is gradually increasing and would forever continue to increase. We could however reduce the rate of our use of energy resources by using energy efficiently. Conserving energy could thus make our present energy resources last longer.