We’ve frequently discussed the environmental costs of new power generation, including wind and solar on public lands and centralized versus distributed generation.  All energy production has environmental consequences. But while everyone’s talking about the pros and cons of the next generation technology, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council has found that although it may not be as sexy, the real ‘bang for the buck’ is in conservation.

Conservation could provide 85 percent of power

The new plan envisions the Northwest actually using less power in 10 years than it does now, even as the population rises, he said.

Council member Dick Wallace of Washington said conservation measures cost less than half of what new power generation costs, and they don’t add new carbon emissions.

 
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Brian Ertz

11 Responses to Conservation could provide 85 percent of power

  1. avatar matt bullard says:

    You are cherry picking just a bit, as the first paragraph of the article says, “85 percent of the Northwest’s new power needs over the next 20 years can be achieved through conservation…” It is a relatively important distinction to note that the article is talking about NEW power needs, not ALL power used by the region.

  2. avatar jdubya says:

    Matt, unfortunately you are right. As much as I support many of the missions of the Sierra Club, I find their intellectual dependence upon conservation as a red herring. The numbers of people in the US is rising, the number of electricity gobbling machines is rising (and if we all adopt some kind of a plug in hybrid in the next 25 years that increased electricity use will rise dramatically) yet we all feel good when tossing our old lamps out for fluorescent models. We need real alternatives that generate real killawatts that don’t destroy the land, and don’t release CO2 and other greenhouse gases. A real challenge in the next few decades.

  3. avatar matt bullard says:

    I don’t want to minimize the importance of conservation, as it is clearly very important. I will not argue with anyone who says that energy conservation should be the number-one priority. But to state that we will not need new generating capacity, either to handle growth or as a replacement for coal or decommissioned hydro is to simply ignore reality. Brian is correct when he says that all energy production has environmental consequences. Its just that some have fewer consequences than others.

  4. avatar April Clauson says:

    Do not buy the electric cars that will be coming out if you are really concerned about saving energy and burning clean energy. In about 2 years or so the hydrogen market/cars will open up, that does not require electricity and it is totally clean emissions, and does not take a lot of resource to produce.

  5. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    matt,
    i used the same title as the article itself

    “But to state that we will not need new generating capacity, either to handle growth or as a replacement for coal or decommissioned hydro is to simply ignore reality.”

    who said we will not need new generating capacity ? i referenced the debate about the wisdom of where that generation ought come from. similarly, the conservation initiatives the plan vaguely references are very humble, even so – 85% of growth in demand is caught by them for the next 20 years. who knows what the new ways of conserving energy and increasing efficiency will mean then ? it won’t mean anything if new, artificially cheap power sucks out the market incentive to make that our focus.

    the rush to push new power plants is jingoistic. it’s brilliant marketing – but bad policy.

  6. avatar matt bullard says:

    Headlines can be deceiving, as it often pointed out on this blog. I thought that the most salient point was found in the first paragraph, which was not mentioned in your discussion…

  7. April,

    Actually at the present hydrogen gas is extremely expensive to produce. Granted it is the most abundant element in the universe, but on Earth essentially all of it is chemically bound in a molecule to some other atom or atoms. It takes more energy to free the hydrogen than you have to use when you are finished.

    However, there are some advances in biochemistry that might produce bacteria that can do the work and free the gas. That would make a hydrogen economy possible, but it will be more than a couple years.

  8. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    the headline is also deceiving in that it sounds as if conservation has the maximum potential to conserve 85% of our energy needs (growth) – when in reality, just the few conservation programs cited -*by no means all of the conservation & efficiency options out there, let alone potential future technological innovation*- as the verbiage implies, have the potential to accommodate growth in demand by 85%

  9. avatar jdubya says:

    “”Do not buy the electric cars that will be coming out if you are really concerned about saving energy and burning clean energy. In about 2 years or so the hydrogen market/cars will open up, that does not require electricity and it is totally clean emissions, and does not take a lot of resource to produce.””

    Well then you know something more than I do. Everything I have read indicates making hydrogen to fuel this fleet of cars consumes an enormous amount of energy such that any real net effect of energy conservation is minimal. Can you direct me to the specifics of this new and improved way of making hydrogen?

  10. A casual observer from Europe is always amazed how much conservation potential goes unused (and unnoticed) in the US. I´m absolutely sure that a little more conservation would end in measurable energy savings. Why not exploit this potential as a quick-win instead of waiting for tomorrows technologies – and find a new excuse, when this is finally available. Just one or two examples I noticed myself, out of many to choose from:
    Have you ever considered shutting down the engine of your car……
    – while waiting at a railway x-ing for a 100 car freight train to slowly pass by
    – when visiting a restaurant for dinner
    – when hiking in a National Park (It was a convertible with roof open!)
    – while (as a housekeeper) you perform your work indoors
    I know that the diesel engine is not very popular in the US, considered something for large trucks only. The diesel at the moment is one of the most efficient, clean, yet powerful options (maximum torque -gives you that “bang for the buck”) – and it´s readily available now! Somewhere I read that you got about 250.000.000 vehicles active. Just imagine the potential offered by having only a percentage of these diesel powered and the owners of all being more conservation conscious. And, is it really necessary that during winter private and public rooms are so overheated that everybody wears T-shirts only while in summer everything is cooled down to below freezing level? Do not misunderstand me, I do not want to play the “wise guy” here, just add a different perspective.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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