Why doesn’t the global energy efficiency rate increase?
Energy efficiency is the name given to the level of energy use in a specific task. It is considered as a resource that is transformed and is used to meet the needs of people.
In most cases, energy production is expensive due to its production and transportation. Therefore, it has become of general interest to minimize their losses. To avoid waste, it has become necessary to study the relationships and interactions between unit or amount of energy produced and services in which it is used seeking to minimize losses and maximize productivity.
Many times the term is confused with the simple fact of saving energy. Actually, it goes much further.
Factors that influence energy efficiency
Energy efficiency depends on multiple factors. Among those that can be found: production costs, distribution, structural and utilization problems. Also, unnecessary consumption.
Next, some of them will be described.
Energy production cost
In the analysis of production costs in energy efficiency, it is necessary to include a comprehensive study that covers all the resources (natural, technological, economic and human) used in its transformation. As well as, the carbon footprint associated with each energy source that is being produced must be contemplated.
Energy supply has diversified over time. For example, in 1971 the total primary energy supply by fuel was: nuclear 1%, hydroelectric 2%, biofuels 11% natural gas 16%, coal 26% and oil 44%. Adding more than 55,000 Mtoe (megatons of oil equivalent). While for 2017 the overall production figure was almost 15,000 Mtoe. For that year, the following distribution is presented: oil 32%, coal 27%, natural gas 22%, biofuels 9%, nuclear 5%, hydroelectric 3% and other sources of alternative energy with only 2%. (IEA, 2019).
Given the above, you can see energy diversification over the years. In addition to its contribution to the increase in the rate of global efficiency in energy supply, it is also evident the continued dependence on fossil fuels that require greater resources for their exploitation and use.
In this way, the use of this type of fuel negatively affects energy efficiency in primary production. Examples of this are CO2 emissions. Only in 2017 the production of electricity and heat emitted 13.60 GtCO2 (giga tons of carbon dioxide) (EIA, 2017). This is why the importance of large-scale development of renewable energy.
Energy distribution in energy efficiency
Distribution is one of the key factors in a global assessment of energy efficiency. Several aspects must be considered in the distribution. For example, the point of extraction of the fuel or energy source, the transformation point and the end-of-use point. The more distanced these points are, the less efficient the global system will be.
Punctually, the distribution of electrical energy is an extremely inefficient activity. Due to the resistance of the materials used, due to their nature and structure, there is one of the greatest leaks in terms of amount of energy and in the form of heat.
In general terms, it is estimated that between 10% and 15% of energy is not used. The International Energy Agency indicates that by 2017 there were 375 Mtoe that were wasted in distribution processes (10.4% of the total generated worldwide) (IEA, 2019). In South America, according to World Bank data, the percentages of loss of the total generated are, in some cases, a little more worrying: Argentina 15%, Bolivia 9%, Brazil 16%, Chile 7%, Colombia 11%, Ecuador 13% , Peru 11%, Uruguay 10% and Venezuela with 36%. (World Bank, 2014).
It is also important to mention that there are areas not interconnected to the main or central electrical system of the countries, which further complicates the situation of generation and distribution. They are isolated energy productions, which meet the needs of the population and industry. They usually do not have the latest technology and transmission networks are scarce and of poor quality.
Energy efficiency: structures and use
Electricity consumption has been growing over the years. In 1993, 76.7% of the world’s population had access to electricity. For 2017, it became 88.9%, with transportation being the economic sector with the highest energy consumption worldwide with 1,251 Mtoe. Followed by real estate and industry, whose consumption was 1,170 and 815 Mtoe respectively (IEA, 2019). The British Petroleum Company BP estimates that by 2040 these consumptions will be 7,443 Mtoe in the industry, 5,638 in real estate, 3521 for transport and 1,263 Mtoe in losses (BP, 2019).
With this growth it is important to ensure that the structures built (buildings, plants, transmission lines, etc.) are in good condition and with optimal materials that guarantee the highest rate of energy efficiency available.
In addition, as is the trend today, incorporate sustainability and energy efficiency in the designs of new buildings; thus reducing the consumption of lighting and cooling through natural light and the prevailing wind currents in the sector. Also with energy self-generation through renewable energy sources and better insulation systems. Having thus, a better environmental performance.
Many of the energy losses are caused by heat leaks, mostly caused by inefficiencies. In other cases, they are also due to non-existence in insulation systems of spaces and buildings. Reason why the industry constantly innovates in insulation systems.
On an industrial level, work should be done on aspects such as plant design, periodic readjustments to its distribution and equipment; preventive and corrective maintenance; and technological changes, which could have a broad and positive impact on consumption. Likewise, applying the principles of energy efficiency will, together, allow us to work on the development of corporate efficiency.
Energy efficiency is a concept that is increasingly present in industry and homes. Due to the limitation of resources, today’s society seeks to generate new energy alternatives. Even the industry develops technological research to fulfill this purpose.
In this sense, energy efficiency, being a concept that implies dynamism, tends to optimize its applications, that is, seeks to be at the forefront of materials, methods and equipment. Its objective is to improve the use of energy and work on the development of new technologies applied to it.
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International Energy Agency (IEA). (2017). CO2 Emissions Statistics. Recovered from: https://www.iea.org/statistics/co2emissions/
International Energy Agency (IEA). (2019). World Energy Balances. Recovered from: www.iea.org/statistics/balances
World Bank. (2018). Electric power transmission and distribution losses (% of output). Recovered from: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/eg.elc.loss.zs
British Petroleum Company (2019). Energy demand by sector. Recovered from: www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/energy-outlook/demand-by-sector.html