If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
I turn the TV off, changed the incandescent bulbs for fluorescent lights (which I hate) and set the screen saver of my computer to turn off the monitor after being idle for two minutes. Other bloggers are doing similar efforts and I am sure you are at least thinking on one way to reduce your electrical consumption.
Then I though if this would have an impact on the greenhouse gases emissions and started a little research to find out. The TV does not emit greenhouse gas (the cat does sometime, but I won’t do anything about it), so the idea on reducing our electricity consumption to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions is based on the electricity being generated by coal, natural gas, or petroleum. Generating electricity by solar power, hydro plants, wind farms, or nuclear reactors does not emit greenhouse gases.
Another factor: Electricity production on a plant is constant, it does not adjust quickly to consumption patterns, the electricity is generated, it goes to the grid and whatever is not used is returned to the plant and resent again, this is a circuit. Out burns occur only when the consumption surpass the supply, so the grid burn out, but we don’t really stop generating energy because we turn down the TV, we just stop converting that electric energy in radiation (I know am oversimplifying the process).
I am writing all this because it is important to know how we are impacting the greenhouse gases emissions and knowing that turning a bulb off is not an ultimate solution. The convenience of reducing the house’s electricity consumption, besides having a lighter bill, is to delay the construction of more power plants that produce greenhouse gases. There is not immediate gain but there is a long term benefit.
There is another thing, in Canada, we call electricity ‘hydro’ because we generate the most of it using hydroelectric plants, which do not produce greenhouse gases. Less than a third of our electricity come from fossil burnings.
This changes in the United States, where coal and petroleum is used to generate 62% of their electricity.
Look at the commercial transportation, look at the industrial consumption. The residential consumption is only a third of the total electrical consumption and a fifth of greenhouse gases emissions. We may try and save all the energy we want, but every time I look at Toronto’s Downtown I see the same:
All those skyscrapers are office buildings, they are empty, they are fully lit. The dark buildings are condominiums, people live there, but they are darker because people tend to turn the lights off when not in use.
So, in order to my effort of having those fluorescent lights instead of my nice lamps having any affect, we also need:
1. Generate more electricity with non-fossil plants
2. Have a conservation program for commercial buildings, I am sure they look nice all lit up, but I am also sure they are a big waste of money
3. Support alternate commercial transportation, like trains instead of trucks
4. Support companies that move towards energy efficient factories. Prefer hydro over coal when we can chose (usually we can’t)
5. Understand the impact of what we do. If the effort is not offset by the result then is better to do something else that will have a better result (like writing letters to the congress people urging them to turn off public buildings after-hours, even if we do so with a 100 KW bulb powered by hydroelectricity)
For the references and photo credits, click on the respective image.