Tue | Sep 18, 2018

The difference conservation makes

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Conservation is the least-cost response to high energy bills.

Caribbean leaders grapple daily with attracting the bucket loads of money and technical know-how it requires to transform the energy sector to include renewable sources, thereby warding off climate threats, while putting a dent in a ballooning energy bill.

There is also a role for their constituents: conservation.

With a little effort and minimal investment in some instances, conservation can result in significant gains for the climate struggle and the individual's pocket.

Dr Devon Gardner, programme manager for energy and head of the Energy Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat, recently walked The Gleaner through some options.

First, he said, people need to understand that "peaking power plants are really what result in the higher operating cost for your power".

"They are those power plants you have to bring online when there is a high demand and take off line later. You are investing in all this generating capacity for really four or five hours a day when the tourist, (for example), gets from the beach and all the lights are turned on in the hotel room, with the AC blasting or when a man comes from work and is bathing and has the TV blaring," he explained.

A first step in the interest of the climate struggle and toward the cost savings, therefore, is a reduction in the peak demand for electricity.

"Conservation is the cheapest way to do so," Gardner said. "With conservation alone, you can easily get rid of between five and 10 per cent of your electricity use.

"You can use the air conditioning at 23 instead of 19, turn the lights off when you are not in a room. You also have to find ways of operating the laptop so that it minimises heat. The processors in the laptop require cooling, so if you lock up the ventilation by putting it on a bed, the laptop has to do the extra work to cool," he added.

One can, Gardner said, also invest in "energy-efficiency applications" as seen in some refrigerators and ACs as well as LED TVs.

Importantly, he noted, "If you have something designed to produce light and you are getting a lot of heat from it, it means that there is energy that is not going to produce light, but to produce heat, which is a service not required.

"You don't really need electricity. What you require is service. You want to watch a movie, so you turn on the TV, or you turn on the light to see. So if you have a device that allows you to get the same quality service and it uses less energy to do so, then you are better off," added Gardner.




A classic example is LED versus incandescent bulbs.

"Fifty to 60 per cent of the energy that goes to a LED bulb is being converted to light, so it means that most of the energy that reaches that bulb is converted to a useful form. In the case of incandescent bulbs, you are looking at five per cent. It means that 95 per cent is not being converted; 95 per cent is being manifested as heat," he said.

"The side impact of that is when you use incandescent bulbs, you probably have to put in another device (such as a fan or air conditioning) that gets rid of the heat. So it fails you twice. With the LED bulb, you may not need a fan, or if you are using air conditioning, then it works less, which means less electricity use and less money," he added.