The use of cheap electricity in the development of the U.S. economy is a critical part of what has helped create the American dream. We should not underestimate the importance of the use of energy to the American economy and on the American innovation and way of life. This is not an endorsement to waste. It is a warning against Malthusian approaches. Changing our way of life can have many unforeseen consequences.
However, we are now encountering a few unexpected side effects that need management:
- Our energy use is wasteful to the point that it is now a drag on our economy.
- The GHG emissions and their effect on global warming cannot be ignored.
- The price of energy is rising.
It is time to rationalize our energy consumption. Our goal is to use conservation and efficiency to maintain electrical production at 2010 level, while increasing use (like electrical cars) and providing for the population increase. Rationalize is the key word.
We need to improve electrical energy efficiency and we need to use technology and investment to do it. As long as we stick to this guideline, our energy efficiency efforts will increase our competitiveness and will allow the American dream to continue to flourish. For example: we do not need to drive in dark streets – we need to light the streets with more efficient technology.
Below are a few recommendations:
- National implementation of energy efficiency measures that worked in states like California where electricity use per capita is 50% of the U.S. average. We have enough data on which policies work and which ones don’t. We just need to implement them across the nation. If it works, why invent it again? Decoupling, housing codes, appliance standards, etc. work very effectively.
- A federal program to lower the price of LED lighting and increase its use dramatically. It may require laws that will curtail the monopoly play in the sector and will ease the patent law implementation of LED. LED lighting is the most energy efficient (by thousands of %). It’s the initial cost of a lamp that delays its implementation (and the resistance from various stakeholders).
- Eliminate the “Replace to fluorescent” laws and public funding – it is the wrong direction. The technology is extremely problematic and limited. It will create a black market for incandescent lamps since most people will not want to use it. The environmental damage from mercury could poison our drinking water. The right direction is LED. Fluorescent is the preferred direction for manufacturers because the lamp burns much quicker than LED. It is extremely problematic for certain diseases like epilepsy.
- We convert significant amounts of alternate current to direct current at the point of use such as light bulb, PCs, electronics, etc. It is expensive to produce and is wasteful. We need:
- Technology developments that will change the home and business electrical systems to fit the rising use of direct current without wasting energy. We need it for new houses and for old ones (where it is impossible to change the house wiring). For example, wiring most of the house for direct current converted at the house entry point and have AC power only in selected points (e.g., the refrigerator)
- Federal and state standards based on the new technology for new houses and offices and for old ones. An enforcement mechanism to speed up the transition.
- Standards for “standby consumption” by electronic equipment. We need a nationwide minimum standard and implementation schedule for various appliances (like TV, PCs, etc.)
- New technology and national standards for supplying and selling electricity back to the grid by the users (e.g., by roof-top solar panels). This will encourage the development of distributed generation and storage technology and will allow the use of car batteries to support the grid in case of power shortages.