Power plant overlaid with trivia about energy efficiency

Energy efficiency affects the environment by helping combat climate change. It reduces air and water pollution, lowers carbon emissions, and can help reduce damage to critical ecosystems. However, achieving energy efficiency isn’t always as simple as switching to LED bulbs. It may involve complex analysis and investment to optimize systems to provide the same or improved levels of service, whilst using less energy.

Apart from answering how does energy efficiency affect the environment positively, energy efficiency is also good for your budget. It can lower your operational costs, meaning less is spent on energy bills while increasing your business’s profitability.

Energy Efficiency and the Environment

Power plant overlaid with trivia about energy efficiency

This section aims to give a more in-depth answer to “how does energy efficiency affect the environment?” 

Electricity generation affects our air, water, and land in different forms. According to the data from United Nations Act Now, the energy supply sector is still the most significant global source of greenhouse gas emissions.  

We burn fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and diesel fuel to produce electricity. The exhaust gases from fossil fuel combustion contain greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide. The more fossil energy we consume, the more we contribute to the production of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.  

Coal-fired power plants also produce other air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides.. These power plants also discharge water waste filled with toxic pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and many others that can affect marine ecosystems.  

Many energy efficiency efforts have resulted in significant environmental benefits. According to the data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US greenhouse emissions have declined in recent years, with energy efficiency contributing to this decline. Several other countries have also seen declines in their greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. 

US Greenhouse Gas Emissions201820192020
Electricity generation1,799.8271,650.9611,482.183

Energy Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness

Not only are energy efficiency measures good for our planet, but they’re also good for your budget. 

According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), an average American spends $200 to $400 annually on wasted energy caused by drafts, old appliances, poor heating and cooling systems, etc.

When you make cost-effective energy efficiency measures in your home or business, you can realize substantial savings. In some cases, savings could be as high as 75%. For your household, this could mean more money available to meet other family needs.

For your business, energy efficiency means lower operational costs, which gives you to have a competitive advantage over less efficient companies. Energy intense businesses which improve their energy efficiency can increase their profits at current product pricing, lower their prices to gain market share or could do both.

Here’s how much energy you could save when you use energy-efficient appliances or fixtures, according to the DOE:

  • Using energy-efficient heating and cooling systems could cut your energy use by 20% to 50%.
  • Using ENERGY STAR-certified light bulbs and lighting fixtures could reduce your energy use by 50% to 75%.
  • Programmable thermostats could save you up to 10% a year on your energy bills.
  • Installing an energy-efficient water heater may also help. It accounts for 12% of your power bill and is the third greatest energy expense in your home.
  • Reducing drafts or air leaks is also another way to save energy and money. It could lead to a possible energy savings of up to 30% per year. 

Highlighting the Benefits of Energy Efficiency in Three Key Sectors

Infographic of the different sectors that should implement energy effciency

1. Manufacturing 

According to the 2020 data from the US Energy Information and Administration (EIA), the industrial sector accounts for 33% of the total US energy consumption.

The manufacturing sector accounts for a 77% share of total industrial energy consumption. Industrial and manufacturing operations are expected to increase their energy demand by around 11% in the next 25 years, energy efficiency could eliminate or even reverse this trend..

When we make manufacturing more energy-efficient, we conserve energy and natural resources.

2. Mining

The mining sector accounts for 12% of total industrial energy consumption. Mining is one of the world’s most energy-intensive businesses and relies heavily on fossil fuels. 

Energy efficiency can take the edge off fuel price increases and reduce equipment wear and tear. This can contribute to extended equipment life.

3. Construction

The construction sector accounts for 7% of industrial energy consumption. After material and labour costs, energy is one of the largest expenses for commercial and residential builders. 

During construction a focus on energy efficiency and the embodied carbon in building materials can reduce material wastage (and landfill), reduce construction time, and may improve safety.

Saving the Environment Through Energy Efficiency

The answers above to the question “how does energy efficiency affect the environment” aims to encourage everyone to adopt energy efficient practices and make purchases of energy efficient products. Why? Energy efficiency is one of the world’s most potent weapons for combating climate change and reducing air pollution.

By taking simple steps such as choosing energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, we can reduce he environmental impact of our energy consumption. With most of the world’s electricity currently coming from coal-fired power plants, energy efficiency can play an important role in reducing air and water pollution.

Limiting energy use in commercial, industrial, and residential properties cuts our carbon footprint, conserves our natural resources, and promotes environmental sustainability. 

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, highlights the urgent need for energy efficiency. “The benefits of investing in sustainable and efficient energy are too numerous to be ignored. To take advantage of all benefits, we need to act urgently, ambitiously, and together. In so doing, we can bring real and positive change for our planet while improving the lives of billions of people.

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