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The Key Differences Between Energy Efficacy and Sustainability

by Marketgit Team

A lack of clarity surrounding the distinction between sustainability and energy efficiency is impeding environmentalists from accomplishing their aims.

Around ten years ago, large companies began to comprehend the importance of energy. Energy has long been a key driver of economic growth (a notion that endures today in Congress). Using more petrol to drive a truck faster was definitely worth whatever petrol costs were incurred.

The sustainability movement showed businesses how to save money. In this situation, the use of a slower delivery vehicle saves enough gasoline to make up for the time it loses. Sustainability practitioners have a long list of similar low-hanging fruit that are currently saving businesses millions of dollars each year but have had an unintended consequence on our business.

Sustainability as presently defined consists of 99 percent cost savings and 1 percent environmental benefits. The 1% difference is really only marketing value or employee buy-in. It’s the carrot that encourages sustainability specialists to work tirelessly. Our industry has lost its focus on the primary objective — reducing pollution — in favor of a focus on energy efficiency.

Efficiency has no beneficial effect on the environment. In fact, it may be worse for the environment than doing nothing at all. Efficiency equals enhanced profitability. Increased profits result in more energy use.

Energy efficiency = profits = growth = higher energy use

Don’t misunderstand me, growth is fantastic. But if it isn’t long-term development, then what have we really accomplished?

The problem is due, in large part, to our misplaced blame. Consider the following two well-known statistics::

  1. CO2 emissions from industrial facilities account for over 2% of overall CO2 activity in the world.
  2.  Buildings are responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

You’ve undoubtedly heard them before. In fact, you’re probably doing everything you can to reduce your energy usage by utilizing every possible energy-saving technology available.

This is a waste of our time.

You aren’t addressing the source of the problem. You’re merely shaving the Hydra’s beard. Buildings and IT equipment are responsible for virtually no CO2e emissions in the world. The emissions are produced by a coal-fired power plant, which is what they rely on to provide electricity. A more efficient truck, for example, still consumes diesel fuel

The ugly truth is that energy efficiency is propping up CO2 emissions. Every time you propose to save on energy efficiency, the electricity companies don’t have to invest in CO2e scrubbing technology.

To restate the previous formula:

Energy efficiency = profits = unsustainable growth = higher CO2e emissions

So, if sustainability isn’t about energy efficiency, what is it? A truly sustainable business would produce outputs and inputs that may be interchanged. A really sustainable company would have no waste and require nothing extra for growth. Simply put, it’s a design concept known as the Cradle to Cradle. Take the example of IT equipment above.

Air-conditioned IT rooms allow heat to escape outside, especially in the winter. This is a more energy-efficient option. Heating employees with waste heat from the ductwork would be an energy-efficient win, but we now have a long-term solution. We have no garbage to dispose of.

Sustainability = profits = sustainable growth = zero emissions

By not going one step farther from efficiency to sustainability, we as sustainability experts are actually betraying the cause and the planet. And we’re squandering our time. If your business is looking to examine its energy or sustainability practises, why not contact SRE?

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