Thursday, September 14, 2006

2,000 Watt Society

EcoIron, a good blog on green computing, took a look at my previous 100 Energy Slaves per American post, and pointed out that the 2200 calories we consume a day is the same as 2.55kwh, which is about the same as a PC uses. This works out to about 100w, so each human is like a 100w light bulb running all the time. (Side note, the brain uses about 20% of the body's energy or 20w.)

On a worldwide basis, the average human being in the world uses 2000 watts of energy, or keeping with the energy slave metaphor, about 20 energy slaves per person. As this graph shows the amount of energy used varies much from country to country. The US has 120 energy slaves per person (a slightly higher estimate than my 100), Europe 60, Africa around 6 and Bangladesh 3.

What would it take to move western society to the global average? WorldChanging reports the Swiss Council of the Federal Institute of Technology has determined what it would take to make Switzerland a 2,000 watt society.

In the envisioned 2000-watt society, the quality of life will not suffer at all. On the contrary, aspects such as safety and health, comfort and the development of the individual will in fact improve, and income is expected to rise by around 60 percent over the next fifty years. However, ambitious goals call for decisive action in a variety of areas, e.g. improving materials and increasing the level of energy efficiency; substituting fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy and reducing the CO2 intensity of other utilised fossil fuels; adopting a smarter way of life and rethinking current business practices, including increasing the level of professionalism in the areas of planning and investment and the operation of buildings and installations.
I like the idea of trying to maintain our current standard of living, but doing it an a much more energy efficient manner. This would allow everyone in the world to live at western levels and still consume the same amount of energy. It would make it easier to transition off of fossil fuels. The goal will be a bit easier for the Swiss as they only use 5,000 watts on average vs. 12,000 for the US.

The graph on the left, breaks down how energy is currently being used and what changes are needed to make it to the 2000 watt society. Mobility energy goes from 850w to 420w (or from 17% of total energy to 21%). Major reductions occur in living and working, consumer goods and foodstuffs, and infrastructure. I like the goals they set except for one thing. I have no idea what the "living and working" category means. Isn't everything we do either living or working? I don't see heating anywhere, maybe that goes there. But, besides that I have no idea what else it would include.

Taking a look at my personal energy usage, I figure I use about 750w in electricity, natural gas and gasoline. If I go off of the estimate that 1/3 of energy is used by households and 2/3 is for business and industry, then I need to multiply by usage by 3 to account for the other 2/3 of indirect energy I am using to manufacture the goods, transport the goods, and light and heat the stores that I purchase them in. That puts me at 2250, but I am going to consider myself a 2000 watt club member anyway. :)

I think this is a good idea to see what it would take to run a society at 2,000 watts. But, I am not convinced that this will be necessary. By the time this is implemented (50 years from now), solar power should be much cheaper and allow for all humans to have more than 2,000 watts of renewable energy at their disposal.

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