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A new era of energy conservation

07.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [survey] [energy consumption] [energy conservation] [wasteful] [resourceful] [reduction] [consumers] [efficiency]

A new era of energy frugality is taking hold in the US, even as the economy slowly recovers, according to a survey from the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.

Businesses are forging the way by targeting average reductions in energy consumption of nearly 25% over a three- to four-year period. Consumers are also doubling down on efficiency; 83% report that they took extra steps to reduce their electric bill over the past year and 93% say they will use the same amount of electricity or less in the future.

“The recession is profoundly changing energy habits for both businesses and consumers,” said Greg Aliff, one of the survey’s authors and a vice chairman in the energy and resources sector at Deloitte. “Using less may be the new normal, from boardroom tables to the kitchen tables.”

The annual survey, “reSources 2012,” found that nine out of 10 companies have set goals regarding electricity usage and energy management practices, with 66% identifying cost-cutting as their primary motivation.

Moreover, the survey indicates that 85% of businesses view reducing electricity costs as essential to staying financially competitive, a 9% jump from 2011. In addition, 81% view reducing electricity costs as essential to their image, 11 percentage points over last year.

Marlene Motyka, a US alternative energy leader at Deloitte, says new energy goals are not just corporate window dressing; they are linked to the bottom line. “Companies are making significant energy-efficiency progress, reporting that they have achieved about 60% of their targets for energy savings when it comes to electricity, natural gas, carbon footprint and transport fleets,” she said.

It is going to get tougher, though, noted Ms. Motyka. “Well over half [62%] of companies report that their energy management goals were somewhat difficult to achieve. Moreover, 21% say their energy management goals were very or extremely difficult to achieve compared to 13% in the 2011 survey. The low-hanging fruit may have already been picked when it comes to energy efficiency.”

Seeking energy reduction

Nearly 61% of consumers believe that going through the recession has ultimately been good because it makes them more efficient and reminds them what is important. In contrast, last year, only 49% of respondents felt that way.

Here are some additional interesting findings from the survey:

  • Consumers see turning off the lights (cited by 56% of respondents), shutting down electronics when they are not in use (48%), and adjusting thermostats by a few degrees (41%) as among the top five most important actions they could do to save electricity in the future
  • 35% of respondents saw replacing old appliances with new, more energy efficient ones as among the top five actions they could take
  • 20% cited using a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” energy use.

New technologies are helping businesses and individuals make smarter choices, according to Dr. Joseph Stanislaw, an independent senior advisor to Deloitte LLP. “Now they can proactively manage their energy consumption and carbon footprints with smart meters, smart appliances and demand management programs,” Stanislaw said. HP

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