Efficient energy use, sometimes simply called energy efficiency, is the goal to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. In lay man terms it basically means using less energy to provide same service.
For example when you replace an appliance, such as refrigerator, computer or light bulbs with a more energy efficient model, the new equipment provides the same service but uses less energy.
This is not to be confused with Energy conservation which involves going without a service to save energy. Turning off your bulb will be energy conservation, however replacing your incandescent lamp with a compact fluorescent lamp, which uses less energy, is energy efficiency.
The main motivation of energy efficiency is to reduce energy use which in turn reduces energy costs and may result in a financial cost saving to consumers. Reducing energy use is also seen as a solution to the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world’s energy needs in 2050 by one third, and help control global emissions of greenhouse gases.
It is estimated that between 2010 and 2040, Africa’s energy demand will grow by 85 percent. While new power generation and associated infrastructure are critical to bridging the gap between energy supply and demand, the role of energy efficiency as a least-cost energy resource is critical to reducing overall demand, decreasing the need for expensive peak capacity, and allowing electricity supply to be expanded to meet increasing demand in a timely, low-cost, and sustainable way.
One example of energy efficiency making a difference in overall demand is Ghana’s appliance labeling program (labeling appliances to show consumers the energy consumption and efficiency of the product) and associated regulations. These efforts have resulted in estimated peak energy savings of over 120 megawatts (MW). As a result, this program has displaced the need for $105 million (USD) in generation investment and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 110,000 tons annually. Appliances and lighting are primary consumers of electricity in residential and commercial buildings. And as more Africans become connected to the grid, the efficiency of appliances and lighting becomes even more critical to cost-effectively meet demand, mitigate supply constraints, and improve utility sector performance. For example, a 40-watt solar panel can power a 25-watt incandescent light for almost five hours a day. However, if the latest high-efficiency appliances are used, the same system could power two brighter LED lights for the same five hours, while also powering a color television, a fan, a mobile phone charger, and a radio for more than three hours per day.
A focus on energy efficiency in Africa can help reduce energy intensity, realize energy savings, lower the carbon footprint, create jobs and markets for energy efficiency related products and services, and allow electricity generation expansion to meet increasing demand in a timely, low-cost, and sustainable way.
Despite the many benefits of increasing energy efficiency investment in Africa, there are key challenges, some of which are more difficult to overcome than others. For example, rural-urban economic disparities and opportunities have led to rapid urbanization, resulting in significant peak demand growth. While urbanization is difficult to manage, demand growth and inefficient use of energy can be managed by technical and economic approaches to demand side management and energy efficiency, another major challenge of the energy efficiency initiative is the limited awareness of the benefits provided by energy efficiency and limited understanding of energy efficiency as an energy resource. These challenges continue to perpetuate the supply-side focus for meeting Africa’s energy needs.
This is one challenge this article hopes to tackle as knowledge is power and the more Africans subscribe to the energy efficiency initiative, the easier it becomes to achieve our Power Africa goals of adding 30,000 MW of new power generation and expanding access to power to 60 million new households and businesses connections.
We must also keep in mind our long-term aim to double access to cleaner, reliable, and efficient electricity in Africa. Therefore, it’s critical to share information with these new energy consumers about the benefits of efficiency — living in better insulated houses, working in efficient buildings or factories, and buying efficient appliances and lighting that allows every kilowatt generated to deliver more services.
Africa’s energy consumers can contribute their quota to this goal by
· Replacing old appliances (computer, electric cooker, television, Refrigerator etc.) with newer more energy efficient models.
· Adopting a new approach to house illumination by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps.
· Exploring various energy efficiency techniques and adapting to the changing economic and technological climate.
· Paying more attention to the environment and playing their part in Africa’s renewable energy plans and greeninitiative.
Invariably, the success and growth of Africa’s power sector is a goal we all share and a dream in which we all must play our part to achieve.