The Cheapest Energy
Posted: December 8, 2004
Undoubtedly everyone has read or heard the predictions for dramatic price increases in natural gas, propane, fuel oil, and coal for this winter. Predicted price increases range from 10 to 30% above the prices during the 2003-04 winter. To make matters worse, the prices for the past season were higher by double digits over the previous year. The only good news is that the price of electricity is not anticipated to increase because of the deregulation provisions that capped the price of electricity throughout the transition period.
So what is the cheapest energy? Is it electricity? No! The cheapest form of energy is that energy that is not used because of an effective energy management program.
The above statement about the cheapest form of energy is really a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that there are many effective energy management measures that make economic sense. In other words, the expenses for implementing an effective energy management measure are “paid off” in three years or less based on the energy savings over that same time period. Then, the savings after the payback period go directly to the bottom line as profit.
The bad news is that there are many energy management measures that are being promoted in the popular press that are utterly ridiculous and have payback periods in excess of 30 years in some cases.
What are some of the effective energy management measures?
Let me identify just a few:
- Using CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) in those lighting fixtures that operate at least three hours per day.
- Purchasing high or premium efficiency motors when replacing electric motors, especially those running at least 8 hours per day.
- Looking for the Energy Star label whenever purchasing appliances for the home and farm.
- Following a rigid maintenance schedule for all equipment, not just when the performance of the equipment begins to sag.
- Installing programmable thermostats (under lock and key) so that temperature changes are always made when appropriate, not just if someone remembers to readjust the thermostat.
The above list represents just the starting point for using energy in a more effective manner in the home and around the farm. Remember that your cheapest energy is the energy that you do not buy because you have an effective, on-going energy management program in place. Such an energy management program needs to be flexible enough so that it is re-evaluated as new technologies and new pricing schedules become available.
Dennis Buffington, Agricultural and Biological Engineering