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Energy Management Principle Number 14: Alternative Energy Sources

By: , Posted on: April 11, 2017

Fossil Fuel Generating Stations Produce Green House Gases

Using alternative energy sources is another effective tool of the energy manager. This principle originated during the last several decades when organizations were faced with shortages or curtailment of various energy forms, causing them to seek alternative sources. Today there is a much broader interest imperative to seek alternative energy sources. Global climate change is causing concerned individuals, corporations, and governments to rethink their options for meeting energy needs.

Knowledgeable scientists agree that human activities are influencing global temperatures. Greenhouse gas emission (GHG), principally from fossil fuel combustion, has risen dramatically since the time of the industrial revolution. As we note in Energy Management Principles 2nd ed. (EMP-2), a gasoline powered vehicle rated at 25 miles per gallon and driven 12,000 miles per year emits over four metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Multiply that by 1 billion automobiles in the world today, and you have a significant source of greenhouse gases. Add in bus and truck emissions (diesel engines emit 14% more CO2 than gasoline engines) and the number is even larger. In addition to the transportation sector, industry and electric utilities are major sources of greenhouse gases—every ton of coal burned produces almost 2 tons of carbon dioxide. Next in line are the residential and commercial sectors. For example, the average U.S. home releases 11 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (from all energy forms).

Given these facts and the global concern about GHG emissions, many organizations are setting goals to reduce their carbon footprint. This is in keeping with another recommendation found in Chapter 14 of EMP-2, namely to set goals and establish means to measure and verify performance.

There are many ways to use alternative energy sources to reduce GHG emissions. One way is to purchase electricity generated with alternative energy sources such as wind and solar to replace fossil fuel-fired power generation. Solar electric installations may also be used directly to power buildings, reducing the amount of purchased electricity. Switching to all-electric or hybrid vehicles for personal transportation or company fleets reduces GHG emissions from transportation. Plasma melting, induction heating, and other electro-technologies reduce overall GHG emissions compared to gas-fired alternatives even with the current fossil fuel-intensity of the power generation. Heat pumps are much more efficient for heating buildings when compared to oil- or gas-fired furnaces and also reduce overall GHG emissions. Details and additional examples can be found in Chapters 8 and 11 of EMP-2.

As noted in EMP-2 Chapter 2, California has an aggressive, state-wide program to reduce emission levels to 1990 values by the year 2020, and is on track to meet or exceed that goal. In 2015, California’s Gov. Jerry Brown announced an even more aggressive plan to reduce GHG emissions to 40% of 1990 values by 2030.

Major corporations are also making considerable commitments to reduce GHG emissions by switching to alternative energy forms. For example, Google recently announced that it will reach its goal of 100% renewable energy for its global operations in 2017.[1] They are doing this by purchasing enough wind and solar energy from renewable energy producers to account for the energy used in their operations. A recent survey of the 2016 annual reports of a few other major global corporations shows how they feel about the seriousness of this problem.

  • Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical company, has established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas by 20% and improve energy efficiency by 20%.
  • UPS, a global transportation conglomerate that operates one of the largest airlines in the world and has a delivery fleet of 114,000 vehicles, has a fuel bill of over $2 billion per year. UPS is committed to reduce carbon intensity by 20% by 2020, using 2007 as a baseline. As of 2015, it has achieved a reduction of 14.5%, well on its way to reaching its goal.
  • Bank of America, a global bank with $80 billion in annual revenues, plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 and also to reduce companywide energy use by 40% and to purchase 100% renewable energy.
  • Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, has a goal of reducing the carbon footprint of “the drink in your hand” by 25 percent by 2020. This is being accomplished by reducing GHG emissions from manufacturing, packaging, delivery, and refrigeration.
  • Olin Corporation, a global chemical company. Already over three fourths of Olin’s electricity is generated from natural gas or hydroelectric sources.
  • Corning, a global glass manufacturer, reports that it has taken steps to control the amount of greenhouse gases created by its manufacturing operations.
  • Verizon, a global communications company with revenues of $125 billion, plans to double its current green energy capacity by 2025. In 2009, Verizon pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 50 percent by 2020. It met this goal in 2016.
  • Eaton, a global manufacturing company with revenues of $20 billion, reduced its GHG emissions by 51,000 metric tons in 2016.
  • Duke Energy, a $23 billion gas and electric utility, reduced GHG emissions by 29 percent since 2005 by retiring more than 40 older coal units, while meanwhile adding 550 megawatts of renewable solar and wind generating capacity.

These and many other global corporations “get it.” They are committing billions of dollars to efficiency improvements and alternative energy forms. They recognize that much of the climate change we are experiencing is due to human activity. They are committed to doing their part in meeting the goal of limiting the global temperature increase this century to no more than 2.0° Celsius (preferably 1.5° C or less) as established by the Paris Treaty that entered into force November, 2016 and has been ratified by 194 nations, including the United States.

It is significant to note that eight of the 194 signatories to the treaty are Pacific Island nations (The Federated States of Micronesia, the Cook, Marshall, and Solomon Islands, and Nauru, Niue, Tuvlalu and Vanuatu). In signing the treaty, they each attached a declaration that read as follows: The Government of the Solomon Islands (Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, etc.) further declares that, in light of the best available scientific information and assessments on climate change and its impacts, it considers the emission reduction obligations in the Paris Agreement to be inadequate to prevent a global temperature increase above 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, and as a consequence, such emissions will have severe implications for the national interests of the Government of the Solomon Islands (Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, etc.). What are the “severe implications” that threaten their national interests? These nations are already experiencing flooding and loss of territory due to rising sea levels.

Sea Rise, Marshall Islands AP Photo.

[1] Google, Achieving Our 100% Renewable Energy Purchasing Goal and Going Beyond, White Paper, Dec. 2016. https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//green/pdf/achieving-100-renewable-energy-purchasing-goal.pdf.


Read more about energy storage and the other fifteen general principles in Energy Management Principles

energy management principles

Energy Management Principles, 2nd Edition: Applications, Benefits, Savings

– Provides extensive coverage of all major fundamental energy management principles
– Applies general principles to all major components of energy use, such as HVAC, electrical end use and lighting, and transportation
– Describes how to initiate an energy management program for a building, a process, a farm or an industrial facility

Need it now? Access the book on ScienceDirect, want your own copy? Visit Elsevier.com, and enter STC317 at checkout to save up to 30%

You can also read the author blog on Energy Management Principle Number 16: Energy Storage

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