Five Energy Efficiency Tips Anyone Can Use

EDF Climate Corps fellow | June 5, 2009

By Cindy Chen (MBA candidate, Berkeley), 2009 Climate Corps Fellow at eBay

This summer, I will be working on energy efficiency projects at eBay as part of the 2009 class of EDF Climate Corps fellows. While I've had exposure to energy efficiency through talks at UC Berkeley / LBL, various conferences, and even co-writing a business plan for an energy efficiency start-up, the three day EDF training was a comprehensive crash course in all things energy efficient. Rather than delve into the details about improved lighting, HVAC, energy management systems or green data centers (more information is available in the Climate Corps Handbook (PDF)), I thought I'd share my top five takeaways from the training.

  1. Increasing the energy saved by the end user will result in a huge multiplier effect. Most energy that is produced is lost in distribution, so for every 12 units of energy produced upstream at the power plant, only one unit of energy arrives downstream to be consumed by our host company. The inefficiency of power generation and distribution will result in cumulative energy savings impact that is many magnitudes greater than the energy savings at the end user.
  2. Think systems, not disparate parts. When retrofitting an existing facility, the total impact is often greater than the sum of the individual parts. So while it's great to swap out T-12 fluorescent lamps for T-8 or replace old windows with ones with low e-coating, it's important to recognize that changing multiple things simultaneously can result in larger energy savings that individual one-off initiatives.
  3. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to delay climate change is through energy efficiency programs. Advanced biofuels, as well as solar, wind, and wave energy are all sexy energy technologies making the news, but good old-fashioned energy efficiency can be implemented immediately and often has shorter payback periods. Even President Obama has called energy efficiency the "cheapest, cleanest, fastest energy source."
  4. At the end of the day, energy efficiency is about common sense. Am I heating or cooling the building on the weekends, when there are no tenants there? Have I remembered to shut off the lights at the end of the day, or installed sensors to automatically turn them on and off? Am I running all the servers in my data center at an appropriate capacity, or should I turn off some that are unnecessarily drawing power and using additional resources?
  5. Even the small stuff counts, like bundling cords in the data center to improve air circulation or installing blinds to minimize sun glare and reduce cooling needs. It may be difficult to quantify all of these small improvements but they do add up.

Though my internship may only cover a small portion of the many topics taught, I am confident that the lessons learned will help shape and refine the specific projects I'll be analyzing this summer. I'm looking forward to getting started at eBay next Monday - stay tuned for more lessons from the field!