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Need for awareness about energy conservation.

In order to make a more effective use of available energy resources, Energy Conservation looks at ways and means of reducing waste: in the conversion process, in the distribution system, and on the user's premises. The conversion process is essentially handled at power stations where coal, oil or gas is converted into electricity, or at refineries where crude oil is converted to its useable products like gasoline, diesel and lubricating oil. The distribution system consists of power transmission lines that connect the power station to the electricity consumer, as well as the transportation network that conveys gasoline to petrol pumps. The energy lost or wasted in these systems is essentially beyond the control of the energy user.

It is in the third area, that is, the energy consumed on the user's premises, where personal action on the part of the consumer can yield significant benefits. What can the domestic user of energy do to reduce wasteful consumption and save on energy bills? The answer is a surprisingly large number of things that otherwise seem insignificant and require little effort, but can, in fact, make the household much more energy-efficient. A little thought devoted to our daily habits, from an energy conservation standpoint, can reveal a number of oversights that lead to wasted energy. For instance, how often have we seen a garden tap left on? Instead of watering the garden, the water may be flowing straight into drain. It is not only water but, somewhere along the line, energy that is also being wasted. Energy is used by the filtration plant, the water treatment plant, and the various pumping stations that convey the water to the garden. We find it convenient to remain oblivious of such wastages, but should we continue to incur such losses, especially since the effort involved in stemming them is so minimal? It is ultimately the end-user that has to bear the costs of shortages and the increased charges resulting from them.

In our kitchens, we often use electric hot plates, ovens and heaters, when we can use gas. Here also is an enormous potential for saving. If we use an electric cooker, less than 25 per cent of the heat energy of the fuel burned in an electric power plant gets into the cooking pot. Most of the energy is wasted at the power station itself and in the transmission system. But if we were to use gas as the fuel for the kitchen, no less than 75 per cent of the heat value of the fuel could be used productively. Switching from electricity to gas therefore improves the heat utilization efficiency by 200 per cent in the kitchen. The exception to this rule is microwave ovens, which can be quite efficient.

When we do use gas for cooking, do we use it economically? In most households that have servants, at least one gas ring is kept on all the time, whether needed or not; the servant does not pay the bill and is not bothered to turn it off. Also when meals are being cooked, the rings are often in the fully open position. The flame reaches round the pot and up to one-half of the heat goes to warm the kitchen! We don't realize that with the flame turned down to the three-quarter position, the heat transfer to the pot will not be reduced much but the heat wasted will be cut substantially.

For space heating as well, the use of electric heaters should be avoided and gas heaters used instead where possible. The reasons are very simple: besides being much more expensive to use for the consumer, electricity usage is also less efficient compared to gas for the reasons described in the previous paragraph, and therefore represents a bigger drain on the country's resources. Electricity use is best confined to those applications for which it is particularly suited or where an alternative is not readily available. One doesn't have to look far for more ideas to save energy. Why not switch off that extra light when it is not needed? Why not walk occasionally when you need to go as short distance instead of taking the car? If your office is only a couple of miles away, why not use a bicycle? Why not keep the air-conditioner thermostat at the maximum comfortable temperature. There are many ways we can conserve energy through personal action. We have to start to think and act accordingly.

In our public affairs, we often find examples of waste mainly because of the structure of the rules which neither penalize waste nor encourage conservation. In fact, rules encouraging wasteful use of energy are practices by both public and private organizations. WAPDA, for example, introduced flat rates to its agricultural consumers for electricity supply to tubewells. The effect of this flat rate has been dramatic. In certain cases, energy consumption has gone up by 400 per cent according to WAPDA's own figures. Not all of this extra consumption has been productively utilized: Consumers often surreptitious (or in connivance with relevant officials) connect other loads to their tubewell supply. They also often pump water much in excess of their actual needs.

The Netherlands was a country facing shortage of clean water during the 1960s. The government there decided that the domestic water supply should be metered. When meters were installed it was found that domestic water consumption was reduced by as much as 65 per cent. The Dutch lifestyle was not materially affected, but waste was eliminated.

The water charges in Pakistan are determined by the size of the connection, the locality, the size of the plot, and so on, but not by the amount of water consumed. Perhaps if we emulated the Dutch we could not only conserve energy but we might also be able to solve, for instance, Karachi's chronic water shortage problem. The moral here is that waste results when the charges do not relate to the energy supplied. Wherever there exist fixed charges for a process or service the opportunity or energy wastage can easily occur. Modern hotel rooms, for instance, have air-conditioning, heating, and lighting systems that can be controlled by the guest. Since room charges are not based on the amount of electricity actually used by the occupant, these facilities are generally abused by excessive cooling or heating of the room and by leaving appliances on even when the room is to remain unoccupied for the long periods. Some hotels are conscious of this waste and are reducing their overheads, as well as energy use, by installing automatic switch-off devices in the rooms. The need to be more considerate in using energy, especially where there are no direct charges for it, is nevertheless, clearly called for.

Typically, there is a house where one plate on an electric cooker is left on all the time. The "hot-plate" avoids having to wait a few minutes when you might want to heat something up in a hurry. Why is the housewife not bothered about wasted energy? "Oh ... the company pays the bill for the utilities!" There are a significant number of people whose employers' pay their utility bills. This encourages the "hot hot-plate" as well as the "cool unoccupied room" phenomena where the air-conditioner is left on all day long.

How can this situation be corrected? The answer is not very difficult. Employees could be paid a utility charge allowance, but asked to meet their own bills. Of course, some people will have bills smaller than their allowance, and they will pocket the difference. Others may have to chip in from their own pockets to pay their bills. This does not matter. What really matters is that there would be a saving in energy consumption.

Courtesy: Energy Conservation News
COPYRIGHT 1990 Economic and Industrial Publications
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Economic Review
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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