By Dr. Kandis Y. Wyatt, PMP
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics
October is Energy Awareness Month. Energy Awareness Month, first implemented by President Bush in 1991, encourages citizens, companies, and government agencies to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability and to properly manage our nation’s energy resources.
Energy Awareness Month is also a time for citizens, companies, and local, state, and federal government organizations to put energy-efficient habits into practice. Energy awareness means developing ideas on how to save energy and water resources through better management, building optimization, energy resilience and the use of advanced energy technologies. Energy awareness also includes developing innovative ideas, products and programs for saving energy.
Creating More Energy Efficiency Nationwide
Energy efficiency is about using energy wisely. We should encourage both businesses and households to improve their energy efficiency, which will reduce their energy costs and improve the environment.
Historically, most energy has been oil- or coal-based. However, shipping oil and coal can be expensive, depending on your geographic location. As a result, companies started developing renewable energy programs in the 1990s.
While renewable energy programs have been in existence for nearly 30 years, only a small portion of our country actually participates in these programs. Even smaller, simpler changes in energy usage can have big results.
In the United States, there are over 144 million light fixtures at 455 million facilities across the country, which is a huge amount of energy expended on an annual basis. Developing cost- effective measures, such as using natural light whenever possible and installing energy-efficient LED lighting in these facilities, helps to conserves electrical energy.
Terms such as clean energy, green energy and renewable energy are often used interchangeably. However, these terms all have the same goal: to ensure that businesses and households use less energy and to encourage a greener, more energy-efficient future for other generations.
We should develop legislation and implement new programs and projects to encourage both companies and households to become more energy-efficient. For example, asking people to use solar power in their offices or homes is one potential initiative.
The highest use of energy typically occurs in summer and winter and is related to cooling and heating. It’s important to investigate energy usage year-round and determine where the excess use of energy could be avoided.
Energy efficiency is also needed in water treatment plants. As the U.S. population continues to increase, there is a need to develop more energy-efficient initiatives to make potable water available to everyone.
Harnessing Geothermal Energy
Another type of energy that could be potentially harnessed for human use is geothermal energy. According to National Geographic, geothermal energy is “heat that is generated within the Earth. It is a renewable resource that can be harvested for human use.” The use of geothermal energy is a growing industry in the Western states and Hawaii.
Preventing Energy Supply Failures
The best-maintained energy systems can still fall victim to failures due to weather, acts of God, environmental damage and cybersecurity attacks. In just the past year, the Texas power grid experienced a severe cold snap that raised demand at the same time as it caused the failure of many energy-generating sources. The cold snap resulted in frozen equipment, mechanical failures and fuel supply problems.
Similarly, the Colonial Pipeline hack disrupted fuel supply operations and resulted in massive shortages along the East Coast. For preventable damage such as cyberattacks, we need to become more proactive in ensuring the cybersecurity of U.S. infrastructure.
Tips for Energy Efficiency in Homes and Businesses
There are various ways to transform how businesses and households use energy. A Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group (CSMNG) article recommends these tips to improve your energy efficiency:
- Install automatic light sensors, LED lighting or other energy-efficient lighting to reduce waste. Use natural daylight and reduce your use of artificial lighting whenever possible.
- Take showers instead of baths to reduce the amount of hot water you use. In addition, run the dishwasher only when you have a full load. Program the dishwasher to use less water and to air-dry dishes.
- Close your blinds and drapes at night in the winter to keep out cold air. Keep blinds and drapes closed during the day to prevent the sun’s rays from entering your home and contributing to the heat level.
- In the summer, avoid setting your thermostat to a colder setting than normal to cool your home faster. This practice doesn’t work and just uses more energy. In the winter, lowering the thermostat by two or three degrees can save you money on heating bills as well as save you 10% on your energy usage.
- When you leave a room, turn off appliances, lights and other electrical devices. Install timers on electrical products such as lamps to limit energy usage. In addition, paint walls a pale color to increase light reflection in a room.
- Address heating and ventilation leaks as soon as possible. In the summer, opt to use fans in addition to or instead of a central air conditioner. Fix drafty windows and doors to reduce energy waste. Install dual or double-paned windows to keep heat in during the winter and heat out during the summer.
- Don’t speed when you’re driving. For every mile over the 55 mph speed limit, the average vehicle loses almost 2% in gas mileage. Also, consider switching to electric or hybrid vehicles for personal and professional use.
- Conduct a simple do-it-yourself energy audit of your home or office to pinpoint where energy is being lost.
- Keep roofs a light color so they will absorb less heat.
- Research alternative energy options, such as solar energy or wind energy for your office or home.
There are also local, state and federal programs geared toward increasing energy awareness, so be sure to stay informed. Energy improvement will help current and future generations benefit from a better, more resilient energy infrastructure and a healthier environment.
Every contribution to saving energy, no matter how small, will have a meaningful impact. During Energy Awareness Month – and all year round – do your part to increase your energy awareness and make changes to improve your energy efficiency.