November 29, 2012

David MacKay Explains How You Can Halve Your Energy Usage

Professor David MacKay used to work in the Physics department of Cambridge University. Now he's the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change.  Here's a video in which he explains how he halved his own personal energy consumption, and how you can too:

As David puts it:

If everyone halves their energy consumption, that really makes a big difference!

For a rather more comprehensive tutorial on saving energy, which incidentally means saving money as well, you can also download the Rough Guide to Saving Energy totally free of charge.

Note that Prof. MacKay doesn't only appear in YouTube videos.  He also wrote a book entitled "Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air". It's also available online free of charge, and here are a few choice extracts from the initial "Motivations" section:

If all the ineffective ideas for solving the energy crisis were laid end to end, they would reach to the moon and back.

We are inundated with a flood of crazy innumerate codswallop. The BBC doles out advice on how we can do our bit to save the planet – for example “switch off your mobile phone charger when it’s not in use;” if anyone objects that mobile phone chargers are not actually our number one form of energy consumption, the mantra “every little helps” is wheeled out. Every little helps? A more realistic mantra is "if everyone does a little, we’ll achieve only a little."

Companies also contribute to the daily codswallop as they tell us how wonderful they are, or how they can help us “do our bit.” BP’s website, for example, celebrates the reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution they hope to achieve by changing the paint used for painting BP’s ships. Does anyone fall for this? Surely everyone will guess that it’s not the exterior paint job, it’s the stuff inside the tanker that deserves attention, if society’s CO2 emissions are to be significantly cut?

Even more reprehensible are companies that exploit the current concern for the environment by offering “water-powered batteries,” “biodegradable mobile phones,” “portable arm-mounted wind-turbines,” and other pointless tat.

Campaigners also mislead. People who want to promote renewables over nuclear, for example, say “offshore wind power could power all UK homes;” then they say “new nuclear power stations will do little to tackle climate change” because 10 new nuclear stations would “reduce emissions only by about 4%.” This argument is misleading because the playing field is switched half-way through, from the “number of homes powered” to “reduction of emissions.”

Perhaps the worst offenders in the kingdom of codswallop are the people who really should know better – the media publishers who promote the codswallop – for example, New Scientist with their article about the “water-powered car.”

In a climate where people don’t understand the numbers, newspapers, campaigners, companies, and politicians can get away with murder. We need simple numbers, and we need the numbers to be comprehensible, comparable, and memorable.

If you don't want to let newspapers, campaigners, companies, and politicians get away with murder please read David's book. Several times if necessary. At the very least read the introductory section, where many more gems like those I've quoted are to be found.

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Comments on David MacKay Explains How You Can Halve Your Energy Usage »

[...] the entire heating system can be regulated centrally? This plays into sustainable energy expert Prof David Mackay's argument about the myth of the 'every little helps' theory. In short, if everyone does a little, the result still remains a little. By passing [...]

September 28, 2013

Jim @ 9:40 am

N.B. The Rough Guide to Community Energy is now also available for free download.

October 3, 2013
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How to reduce a buildings energy consumption | marketspace @ 5:22 pm

[...] the entire heating system can be regulated centrally? This plays into sustainable energy expert Prof David Mackay's argument about the myth of the 'every little helps' theory. In short, if everyone does a little, the result still remains a little. By passing [...]

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