November 5, 2012

Powering Down Monday

There is a lot of discussion right now about our energy future. Although most economists have not yet made a connection between the economy and the limits of natural systems, those less invested in the current paradigm know where we are headed. Unless your head is buried in a pile of cash, you can see that infinite economic growth in a finite system is not possible.

We have a limited amount of energy available to us, renewable or non-renewable. The cheap energy we have enjoyed in recent years is all but gone, which is putting extreme stress on all our systems. Less accessible, more expensive energy will be the end of our current energy intensive way of life.

Barring a stunning energy discovery in the near future, our only option will be to power down. We are going to have to reduce our energy consumption dramatically, and our standard of living will change.

But a lower standard of living does not have to mean a lower quality of life. Perhaps some of the changes that we will have to make in the coming decades will be improvements.

Living a more simple, more sustainable lifestyle is one way that we can power down, and perhaps increase our quality of life at the same time.

Coal is the most common source of energy for electricity production globally

We can look to Australia as an example - they have recently experienced an unprecedented drop in electricity usage. There, a 2011 Energy Update showed an almost 7% decrease in grid electricity consumption over the previous two years.

The reasons for Australians powering down during this time period are somewhat sketchy, but some have hypothesized as to what is contributing to this conservation conundrum.
  • Energy efficient commercial buildings and homes
  • Online shopping instead of 'going out'
  • Smaller houses with more people per house
  • Residents installing solar cells
  • Better street lighting
  • Higher prices for electricity encourage conservation
  • The Global Financial Crisis - energy use dipped globally for the first time in 30 years after 2008
I think it is better to be proactive and in control of our own energy use. We can choose to power down now, or wait and be forced to later.

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