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Europe's winter miracle is a testament to the power of EE

image credit: Photo 24650084 / Energy © Huating |
Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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  • Dec 23, 2022

People don’t want to miss the next big thing. They rush to get hop on the trend, or they assure themselves it's a fad even when everything signals otherwise. 

Since the mid-2000’s, or even earlier, the next big thing has been renewable energy. Journalists, especially, have given the topic disproportionate attention. Solar and wind are simply sexier than energy efficient windows and new transmission lines. The fact that renewables are the next big thing (I do agree that they are) has unfortunately led to underinvestment in the mature technologies that still have a role to play in mitigating climate change. 

“Solar prices are dropping faster than Galileo’s spheres and batteries will soon solve the intermittency problem.” We’ve heard some version of that for over a decade now. And, like many technological predictions, it’s probably true but still will arrive later than most tech clairvoyants would have us believe. 

While we wait for the promises of renewable energy to be fulfilled, our planet continues to warm. The global community makes pledge after pledge to cut emissions, but most fail to hit their targets by a longshot. 

The United Nations Environment Program claims that new GHG would reduce projected 2030 emissions by less than 1 percent. That’s a lot less than the 45% nations promised at COP26. 

The good news is that energy efficiency can help us cut emissions while we wait for renewables to become the silver bullet many think they will be. 

The U.S. can cut more than 50% of green house gas emissions through energy efficiency, according to this report by ACEEE. Around the world, EE could cover 40% of the savings need to hit Paris Agreement targets. 

These numbers are all based on existing technologies that are much easier to deploy than robust renewables systems and the transmission upgrades they often require. 

The problem is a lack of urgency. Climate change, for all the crazy wildfires and hurricanes, is still more of a future problem than a current one. We are like the 20-something chain smoker who promises to quit before middle age. 

The big exception to the urgency problem is Europe, where an energy crisis has made efficiency a top priority this winter for governments and individuals alike. Heat pump installations, for example, have skyrocketed around the region, and countries like France, with no previous energy efficiency to speak of, have burst into action. 

The block’s triumph this winter, even if there are still plenty of problems to overcome, would have been hard to fathom last year:

“While Europe has seen prices fall from summertime peaks and winter storage was filled far ahead of schedule, it’s still in an energy crisis after the war in Ukraine led to a massive cutback in natural gas from Russia, where the EU had been receiving about 40% of its supply. Now, it’s competing for more expensive LNG that comes by ship from places like the U.S. and Qatar.”

Most of the rest of the world is not going to lose 60% of its energy source anytime soon. Yet Europe's example does go to show how much energy efficiency can do in the real world. Let’s hope we all take notice.


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 23, 2022

There's plenty of winter left before Europe is out of the woods, but you're right that the early results are encouraging!

Henry Craver's picture
Thank Henry for the Post!
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