Global environmental challenges
It was a disarmingly simple question but, embarrassingly, I didn’t have a clue when first asked that 18 months ago. Even though I’d have to describe myself as a genuine tightwad when it comes to expenditures, I simply had no idea, strangely enough, about how much money my four-person household was spending on electricity — nor how much carbon dioxide was being produced.
Now, after a year of carefully tracking the daily use of electricity, I’ve discovered a bit about when and where power is being used and, in theory, saved — without much pain. It seemed like a no-brainer and it honestly was not hard to cut our consumption by 1,000 kilowatt hours in 2008 to 5,000 kWh — saving about 200 euros and 500 kg of CO2 in the process. There were only minor sacrifices: rigidly turning off “standby” switches and unused lights, pulling plugs on little-used appliances, putting in energy-efficient lightbulbs, using the washing machine sparingly and the dryer only rarely, and replacing an inefficient dishwasher with a low-energy model.
In the past year, we used as little as 4 kWh on some days (in the summer) and as much as 30 on others (in the winter) — although most days were in the 10-to-17 range. Annoyingly, the house “wasted” about 3 kWh per day when we were away on holiday — largely due to the refrigerator, which I’ll be emptying and turning off next time. The 2008 total of 5,000 kWh (which amounted to an electricity bill of about 1,000 euros) isn’t bad for four people (one rule of thumb I’ve seen is 1,500 kWh per person/year) but I’m convinced that usage could be even less (the benchmark of 1,000 kWh per person/year is considered “thrifty”).
So the goal at home for 2009 is to cut electricity consumption by another 1,000 kWh (saving another 200 euros and 500 kg of CO2) to 4,000 kWh. Having a photovoltaic system on the roof (it produced 3,800 kWh that went into the grid) has helped wake me up to the mathematics and economics of power consumption and the goal of producing 100 percent of the electricity we need is now tantalisingly within reach. (The utility has to pay me 49 cents per kWh for the solar power I “export” into their grid while I have to pay 20 cents per kWh for the electricity I “import”.)
New York’s famed Broadway lights are getting a green tint. Not literally, of course, but this week the Big Apple’s iconic theaters vowed to make their “Great White Way” shine with more energy efficient bulbs.
The industry has already changed 10,000 interior and exterior bulbs, and that’s just the beginning.