Saturday, October 15, 2005


Negawatts is a term first coined by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute describing how the saving of small, almost trivial, amounts of power can have large knock-on effects.

A power company in the USA found that it was cheaper to distribute free low energy light bulbs to all their customers, than go to the expense of of renewing an ageing and inefficient power plant.

The plant was closed, the land sold and as a result the area was turned from a run down industrial wasteland into a new community - all for the sake of a few light bulbs.

A friend asked me this week about my solar water heating panel, and how much gas it was saving me in the summer months. I said that about 9kWh a day was saved in not keeping the boiler turned on having to heat the water. A good saving I thought.

He then asked me what my winter gas consumption had been from October through to March and I looked at my records and said about 95kWh per day average.

Well, he said, is it not easier and more acceptable for the average family to save just as much gas as you, by turning down thermostats and lagging tanks, rather that going to the extent of solar water heating? If they made just a 10% saving made during the winter months it would have the same offset effect as installing solar heating for use during the summer.

For once I had to agree, which just goes to show how if we all seek out those negawatts, a little change in the way we use our heating can go a long way to reducing the countries greenhouse emissions.

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