The energy sector is arguably one of the fastest changing industries in the UK. It comprises radically different sub-sectors, with coal mining in decline at one end of the spectrum, and renewable technologies experiencing rapid growth at the other end.
Emerging technologies and a growing awareness of fuel constraints are transforming not just the energy that is used, but the way in which we use it. The industry is increasingly being moulded by Government commitment to a shift to a low carbon economy, with policy and market drivers pushing for greater energy efficiency and cleaner fuels.
Energy is at the heart of virtually everything we do, and within businesses, the cost and availability of energy directly or indirectly influences a wide range of factors such as procurement, risk management, investment decisions and resourcing.
Unsurprisingly therefore, reducing energy consumption and becoming more energy efficient are two high priorities for many businesses, regardless of organisation size or sector.
Yet the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that energy savings associated with more energy efficient technologies are actually likely to result in significant increases in energy consumption – which may be as much as over 50 percent globally. Development of energy saving technologies may therefore drastically backfire, if lower energy costs due to greater efficiency actually results in higher energy consumption than would have been the case without those technologies.
Furthermore the digital economy demands a large share of the energy footprint – the Digital Power Group estimates around 10% of the global electricity output is being used to power our increasing numbers of gadgets – smartphone, tablet, gaming devices etc. This is equivalent to the amount of electricity that kept all the lights switched on globally in 1985.
Urgent attention needs to be given to the amount of energy that is being literally devoured. The drive for energy efficiency should not detract from the growing problem of increasingly high levels of energy consumption.