Energy Savings in Buildings

There is a huge untapped opportunity to save energy on lighting and heating in buildings, and this can largely be financed through market based activities. One electrical installations company in southern Sweden purchased a small office building, that cost 84.000 Kronor (12,000 USD) per year for lighting and heating. By changing lighting installations and installing a heat pump it reduced electricity cost to 42,000 Kronor (6,000 USD) per year. The company had to invest 100,000 Kronor to achieve this, which means a pay-back time of 2.5 years.

The investment in a small scale wind power turbine pays back in 20 years at current energy prices, which in Sweden is half the normal price in Europe. As Swedish price levels for electricity approaches the European levels, pay back approaches ten years. With further increases in electricity prices, pay back times are reduced even more. The big problem is to get a permit to build a wind power turbine in the garden.

Despite the apparent financial benefits, the investments in energy optimization of buildings are slow. The efforts made by installation companies to inform customers of the opportunities and the short pay-back times pay off slowly. Regardless of the fact that we need to reduce energy consumption, and that we need to reduce electricity consumption in order to be able to run cars and trucks on electricity in the near future, very little is happening.

In all probability we are approaching Peak Oil, and we need to speed up activities to reduce our dependence on oil. One important aspect of this will be to reduce electricity demand for existing uses. In order to do this rapidly, we seem to need a managed program for this as well, despite the otherwise favorable circumstances. Such a program may consist of information to companies and households about beneficial opportunities. It may also consist of favorable loans to improve the financial calculation even more. It may also include legislation that forces landlords to replace certain outdated technologies by new ones.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 by Mats Larsson