It seems like only yesterday that the electricity industry faced a supply side crisis. Every time they built a new power plant it was more and more costly. So, at the prodding of Amory Lovins and others the world considered demand (consumer energy use) side alternatives to the supply side bias that dominated energy company planning.
The mathematical framework was called least cost planning or integrated resource planning and included an expanded portfolio of alternatives which for the first time included energy efficiency. They were right… it was far less expensive to consider helping and paying some of the cost of customer energy efficiency upgrades than to build power plants.
But, there were other efforts as well included in the plans… like improving the efficiency of things consumers bought. Through these efforts refrigerators were designed that used only about 25% of the energy and lighting energy was reduced to about 5-10% of the historical energy consumption.
The impacts of all these changes have been a significant positive on our energy use. And, along the way the early investments in solar and wind have now matured and become cost effective to include in the supply side of the equation. Batteries are coming along and will certainly be an increasing member of the portfolio.
So, here we are after all these years and we now have another metric to include in our math: carbon.
Well then, the first step is to define the accounting of that as a member of the portfolio. We should consider the carbon emitted by the operation of the device along with the carbon footprint for the production of the device itself along with the carbon footprint for the recycle or disposal.
Really… is that really the right question any longer? Shouldn’t we ask what the alternative is to even have that at all?
It seems we have to go back to the planning basics for society itself including whether we need to control populations. China did that for years and has recently changed its policy, but the single child policy was law for decades. Are we going to consider this option? After all, we have to plan for the water, food, education, and protection of people in our modern society.
No Joel… we can’t touch that in our free society with life liberty and the pursuit of happiness as our bedrock for decisions.
Well then, we need to define what it means to have a home for people to keep them off the streets and to feed, cloth and keep them healthy. Are the methods we use today sustainable over time or do we need to rethink how we design communities? Isn’t that more responsible than just thinking we can build the energy and infrastructure to perpetuate our previous assumptions?
No Joel… we tried asking people to eat one less hamburger and that blew up in our faces. We know that a vegan diet is healthier but see the previous statements about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can’t ask people to change behaviors like this.
Then, we better be prepared to spend a lot more money to solve the problem.