Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Peak Oil Crisis: Electrical Efficiency

FCNP | Last week the Virginia Commission on Energy and the Environment held a day long meeting to hear testimony on the future role of electricity in the commonwealth.

Representatives of the various power companies serving the state testified as to their plans and their commitment to reaching the state's goal of reducing electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2022. As it turns out, this goal turns out to be murky as nobody ever said what the 10 percent should be based on - 10 percent of current consumption so that the state is actually using 10 percent less 14 years from now, or 10 percent less than what 2022 consumption would be if no efforts to conserve electricity were undertaken. In the latter case the state could actually be burning considerably more electricity in 2022 as the state's population is expected to grow and it is likely that a lot of electric or plug-in hybrid cars will be refueling off the electric grid by then.

The most interesting presentation of the day, however, was made by a non-profit group called the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). This group believes that making the most efficient use of the electricity we already generate is the best and cheapest way to gain more electricity. While converting over to more efficient electricity consuming devices (such as compact fluorescent bulbs) is not free, the Council cites studies that replacing end user equipment, adding insulation, etc. can cost anywhere from one half to one quarter the cost of installing and fueling new electricity generating capacity. This includes wind generated electricity which gets its energy for free.