Can a new definition of energy consumption help unlock efficiency?
If we want to understand how to wring more efficiency out of our energy usage, we need to redefine energy use in the first place, argues a new study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Instead of thinking about energy overall, it is better to think about high-quality energy, or exergy, according to Skip Laitner, a visiting fellow at ACEEE.
“What most people call energy, for example, is what physicists and engineers are more likely to call exergy, or high-quality energy that is available to do work,” he explains in a blog post. “Energy that is either wasted or useless -- in effect, energy that has no capacity to perform work such as the heat in the atmosphere -- is referred to as anergy.” Add up anergy and exergy and you get total energy. Capture that waste heat, however, and it becomes something useful.
Laitner found that just tracking energy commodities, for instance, accounted for only 80 percent of the exergy necessary to power the U.S. economy in 2010. By measuring and cutting the waste that it takes to complete a task, he argues, there will be greater opportunity for more useful work which can then in turn increase economic activity