New Study Calls for World-Wide Reduction in Energy Consumption

From Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger’s introductory editorial-

The concept of sustainable energy supply is to be translated into practice on the basis of the vision of a 2000-watt society – a goal towards which the Federal Council will be working over the next couple of decades. The idea here is that the level of energy consumption per person is not to exceed 2000 watts, which is equivalent to half to one-third of the level in Switzerland today. This vision is by no means unrealistic: the most efficient new appliances, motor ve-hicles and buildings only require a fraction of the energy consumed by other technologies. And renewable forms of energy also have the potential to contribute enormously towards meeting our future energy needs.

e linesA Swiss Academic Study, “The 2000 Watt Society,” is gaining a lot of traction in the environmental movement.  First developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the latest treatise ("Smarter Living") was coordinated by Novatlantis, and is an urgent call to action.  In short, it proposes an overall reduction in energy consumption to the world-wide average of 2,000 watts per capita by the year 2050.  Naturally, the US bears the brunt of the scorn.  Taking into account developing and first-world countries, the world-wide average of 2,000 watts per individual is dwarfed by America’s seemingly astronomical 12,000 watts figure.  Western Europe hovers around 6,000 watts, while Switzerland itself consumes more than double the proposed figure of 2,000.     

spIn Novatlantis’ long-winded, but exhaustive analysis, the primary means to accomplish this figure is to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of the global infrastructure.  Currently, only about one-third of the total converted energy is viable.  The rest is waste.  Even environmentally-friendly technologies like photovoltaic solar panels suffer from high inefficiency.  How Novatlantis plans to reverse this global trend is unclear, and to quote the authors, “A rigorous modification of infrastructure will be essential.”  What is clear is the tremendous financial burden involved in implementing these broad goals.  Novatlantis hints at this when they say, “High costs are inevitably going to arise, either in response to climate change or in the form of investments to secure a sustainable future.”  The true cost is likely to be in the billions, possibly trillions.  This makes “The 2000 Watt Society” more unpalatable to the average American than the Kyoto Protocols.    

windOne problem with Novatlantis’ figure is their inclusion of countries like Bangladesh, where the watts per capita is a paltry 400.  Clearly, politics, culture, and economics are an order of magnitude different there compared with the United States or Switzerland.  Averages never tell the whole story.  When you take this into account, Novatlantis’ number seems very arbitrary.  In "Switzerland and the 2,000-Watt Society," John and Julie Ann Morrow matter-of-factly declare, “such an ambitious reduction does not yet stand any chance of serious consideration on this side of the Atlantic.”  While it may be possible for the Swiss to halve their energy consumption, and thus reach Novatlantis’ arbitrary figure, such a reduction in the US is unrealistic at best.

What do you think?