Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Energy management has always been one of society's main concerns. For centuries, the balance between supply and demand of energy resources has been one of the major issues to be resolved in terms of sustainability. The international geopolitical landscape and the rise in prices in the sector mean that concepts such as 'efficiency' are taking another step up the scale of importance, in order to meet the needs not only of the future, but also of our present, leaving aside its cyclical nature and consolidating itself as a structural strategy.
According to specialists, energy efficiency refers to all the processes and capabilities for carrying out an activity as normal while using the least amount of resources possible. In other words, it does not imply a change in consumption habits, but the incorporation of certain measures to optimize them.
As a matter of fact, using less energy resources translates directly into energy savings, an impact that results in a triple benefit: a cheaper energy bill; a positive impact on the environment by reducing the carbon footprint; and improvements in supply from encouraging users to consume responsibly.
According to Red Eléctrica de España, more than 257,100 GWh of electricity was required in Spain in 2021(almost 40% of electricity production was renewable), 2.8% more than in 2020. Given that the world's population will reach 10 billion by 2050, according to United Nations estimates, adjusting energy use makes more sense than ever to ensure the supply of a growing population and protect the sustainability of the planet.
EU push for energy savings
Energy efficiency is not a new term. In recent years it has been included as a priority in every government’s agenda, although this strategy has greatly accelerated in recent times. At the end of July 2022, the European Commission (EC) in Brussels approved an energy emergency plan that urged European Union countries to reduce "15% of gas consumption" between August of that year and March 2023, as well as to limit the use of air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. The aim is to reduce final energy consumption by 36% and primary energy consumption by 39% by 2030.
What measures has Spain adopted?
On the national scene, on August 25, the Government approved the August 1 Royal Decree-Law 14/2022, on economic sustainability measures in the field of transport, scholarships, and study aids, as well as energy saving and efficiency measures and measures to reduce energy dependence on natural gas.
This includes an energy saving plan that aims to reduce energy consumption in administrative buildings, public buildings, and businesses. These measures are intended to facilitate the fulfillment of European commitments arising from the conflict in Ukraine. These include limiting heating temperatures to 19ºC and cooling to 27ºC; turning off lights in store windows and public buildings after 10:00 pm; promoting public transport with free train tickets or reductions in fares until the end of the year; 50% discounts on rail services; or aid for land transport of goods, to try to ensure that the price of transport is higher than the carrier's individual costs and expenses.
In addition to the rules included in the new plan, at the beginning of September the approval of a reduction in VAT on gas was added, which will go from 21% to 5% and will provide "savings of up to 190 million euros" for families and companies during the last quarter of the year, according to information from the Ministry of Finance and Civil Service.
Joint commitment of society
However, addressing energy efficiency requires a multi-sectoral approach involving institutions, industry, transportation, and citizens themselves.
At the industrial level, solutions include incorporating optimal technologies in equipment and processes together with the implementation of energy management systems. Among other key factors, a commitment to the circular economy to maximize the useful life of resources, promoting efficient technological innovation and clean renewable energies, efficient energy management, and biofuel use would all limit the sector's energy impact.
In this sense, Lucia Dólera, project manager at the Association of Renewable Energy Companies (APPA), knows that in this international crisis situation, "green energies are the solution". Spain is in a scenario where it must take advantage of solar resources, together with technology and knowledge, to be a pioneer in "energy independence from third countries". According to internal data, renewable energy production in 2021 reached 46.6% of the electricity generated, with special emphasis on photovoltaics, which set its "all-time high" at 8.1%, its "all-time record".
Together with industry, the country's most populated cities demand the most energy in Spain, which is why they must readapt their resources towards a more sustainable model. The energy rehabilitation of buildings, improving outdoor public lighting by using energy-efficient lights, promoting local energy communities, the 30 kilometers per hour speed limit for transport on all urban roads, and the separate collection of household waste to extend its useful life are some of the proposals suggested in a study by the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP).
Tips to save energy in your day-to-day life
Even so, none of these measures would be enough without civic awareness. Citizens can increase energy efficiency in their homes by following a series of basic recommendations: making the most of sunlight, having thermal resistant windows and doors that improve air conditioning, insulating the home, using more efficient appliances, and using them during non-peak hours, are just a few. The challenge is enormous, because, according to the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE), eight out of ten buildings in Spain are inefficient due to a lack of thermal insulation, with an energy rating of E, F, or G. In addition to these tips, there are other lesser-known actions that can help us to optimize the use of energy in our daily routine.
When it comes to using a washing machine - the second most energy-consuming appliance - the Catalan Energy Institute advises making the most of its capacity and trying to wash using cold water, bearing in mind that a 90°C program uses four times more energy than a 40°C program.
Also, avoid drying clothes on radiators. Experts point out that for every degree we increase the heating temperature, energy consumption rises by 7%. Try not to use radiator covers or any other element that hinders your home’s heating appliance from releasing heat.
And when it comes to the stove, the Italian Giorgi Parisi, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics, says that cooking pasta with the burner off after two minutes of boiling water saves "up to eight minutes" of energy consumption.
Finally, an original way to brighten up your home without flipping the switch is to place a mirror near a window. In this way, sunlight is reflected, increasing the illuminated space in the house.
With this sum of commitments by all actors in society, the International Energy Agency (IEA) assures that doubling efforts to improve annual energy intensity, from 2% to 4%, would reduce emissions by 5,000 tons of CO2 by 2030 and would have a direct impact on employment, with the creation of ten million additional jobs.
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