Tamara J Gordy

Facilitating sustainable environmental and social impact

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Where does all that energy go?

Where does all our energy go? Well, more than half of it is wasted. Does that grab your attention the same way it gets mine?

The U.S. is the second largest energy user in the world, and is #7 in per capita use (Yes, Canada, you have us beat on a per capita basis). For the past 50 years, energy consumption has exceeded energy production, with the differences being made up with imported energy.

Understanding what is going on requires a deep dive into the data.

The US Dept of Energy and the Energy Information Agency track all sorts of statistics, and make data and projections available for analysis. Here is an easy to follow, colorful interactive view of U.S. energy generation by source, and how it is used, broken down by sector based on 2009 data analyzed by Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. From this I learned that of the 94.5 Q BTU generated and used by all sources, 54.5 Q BTU, or more than half of the energy generated, is “wasted.” It is lost due to inefficiencies in distribution, transmission or use. The worst area for waste (by far) is the transportation sector, where waste exceeds use by more than 3x. I’d like to learn more about what that really means, and what it will take to make a big dent in that number.

Meanwhile, commercial and residential energy consume 18% and 22% of our energy budget respectively. The following chart shows where that energy is going. Space heating and cooling and lighting are the biggest users, and therefore, the most fruitful areas to focus on improving efficiency.

Image from: http://www.jetsongreen.com/images/old/6a00d8341c67ce53ef0120a5717664970c-500wi.jpg

Now that we have this background in place to provide some overall context, I can share more about commercial and residential energy efficiency issues, opportunities, techniques, and news in future blog posts.