Energy Consumption Quotient

Please do read my previous article to have a contextual background.

If carbon and ecological footprint are not the complete answers to our energy problem, then what is the answer?

I would like to start with some management concepts. I recently read a book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by  Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling (https://www.franklincovey.com/4dx-book/). The book focuses on providing 4 simple steps towards achieving success in life, team, business, organization. The rules simply put are

  1. Set a WIG (Wildly important goal): This is the goal that you want to achieve apart from your everyday job.
  2. Act towards lead measure: Take steps that need to be taken place to achieve the WIG. A lead measure is always looking forward to what needs to be done and not what has been done.
  3. Create a scoreboard: Have a scoreboard which everyone can see and understand quickly to know where they are and what else needs to be done (lead measure steps).
  4. Create cadence of accountability: It is essential to give the right amount of responsibility and have regular meetings to track those responsibilities.
Fig 1: 4 Discipline of Execution
(Source: https://www.franklincovey.com/the-4-disciplines/)

The guidelines put forth are quite powerful and have several examples of success all over the globe. The organizations that used this process include some of the very successful companies such as Apple, JW Marriott, Eli Lilly, McDonalds, Kroger etc.

It is very interesting to note that this process can be applied towards even this goal of achieving a cleaner earth. We have everyday work of living our lives which we of course cannot stop but our every step needs to move towards achieving the WIG. 

Let us first try to define our WIG (Wildly Important Goal): A WIG Is something which is so important to achieve that it needs everyday focus from us. It is a goal that needs attention along with the daily work that we do continuously.There can be several goals that can be set such as

  • Improve combustion engine efficiency for internal and external combustion engines by 
  • Have cleaner fuel source
  • Improve efficiency of the generators to have better energy conversion
  • Have better infrastructure to support unconventional sources of energy
  • Have an alternative to polymers, wax and oil we receive from crude oil

All these goals are important and lead to a solution which promises a better future but they all play parts in a bigger piece of the puzzle. A WIG that is common to everyone, and applies to the whole globe, is the one set at the Paris agreement. The goal is to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels by mid century”. The goal presented in the UNFCCC website does not include the time limit of the mid century but can be inferred based on the long term goal it aims at. Various other organizations and governments present the same goal and further explanations of the Paris Agreement. IPCC presents this chart showing the path we are on and the temperature we are aiming for. The y-axis clearly tells that the temperature scale is being set relative to the 1850-1900 era, which was around the time when global use of steam power, thermal power plants, coal, oil and electricity started.

Fig 2: At the present rate, global temperatures would reach 1.5°C around 2040. Stylized 1.5°C pathway shown here involves emission reductions beginning immediately, and CO2 emissions reaching zero by 2055. (Source: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/faq/faq-chapter-1/)

Not diving deeper into the details of the Paris Agreement, the goal set here is defined as the perfect WIG, which we all need to work towards.

A total of 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement pledging towards the role they all play in sustaining life on Earth.

It is essential to remember that this is a wildly important goal. Our every step should be towards achieving this but there are everyday tasks that we have to do as well and we cannot ignore those. These everyday tasks are called whirlwinds by the 4DX principle. We are all caught up in our daily whirlwind but we have to take time out of our daily lives everyday to take a step closer to the WIG. This is the first principle of 4DX.

The “Whirlwind” of Energy

Energy is required for our daily use and we simply cannot ignore it. Electricity has become the single most important energy source that we need today for our survival. This electricity (electrical energy) can come from many sources, viz. wind, hydel, solar, thermal, nuclear, geo-thermal, battery etc. We need to figure out that in the daily whirlwind of us consuming this electrical energy, what is it that we can do to achieve the overall WIG (the goals of Paris Agreement).

Just like electricity, another important source of energy is crude oil. It may not seem obvious to everyone but we have made ourselves slaves to oil, so much so that it not only serves as a source of energy but is also present in every single commodity we use from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep. Everything we see around us has oil in it directly or indirectly (toothbrush, toothpaste, clothes, food, plate, car, gasoline, diesel, table, chair, office supply, television, computer, bed, mattress, everything has oil or natural gas in it).

So what is it that we need to do, from the energy point of view?

I will refer to a diagram in the article Evolution of Energy -3.

Fig. 3: Energy Cycle Chart (Source: https://amenergy.solutions/2021/08/31/evolution-of-energy-3/)

We need energy and material to get energy in a usable form. If we keep everything consistent (our requirements for energy and the resources) what is it that we need to do in order to lower the temperature of the Earth? An obvious answer is to reduce energy consumption. But this does not mean to simply stop using electricity. Remember, in order to achieve WIG, extra effort is required apart from the regular whirlwind. So yes, on an everyday basis we should be looking into reducing energy consumption. But what effort can we put towards the WIG?

Energy Consumption Quotient

If we look at the previous article, we observed that a farmer will have a lesser ecological footprint as compared to a city dweller because of the fact that he/she is self-sustainable for the food and does not rely on the, carbon emitting, supply chain process. Extrapolating it further, a person who can survive with lesser food will also have a lesser ecological footprint. 

If we apply a similar analogy, a person will have a lesser ecological footprint if he/she is self-sustainable for energy or consumes less energy.

This can be quantified as Energy Consumption quotient

Energy Consumption Quotient (ECQ) = (Energy Produced + Energy Conserved)Total Energy Consumed

Energy Produced: The amount of energy produced for a process without consuming from a supply chain and produced from a renewable source

Energy Conserved: The amount of energy saved by avoiding certain activity in a bigger process

Total Energy Consumed: The total amount of energy consumed in a process

In order to have a process to be energy-ecologically efficient, or have a lesser ecological footprint, ECQ requires to be to 1.0.

For instance, in a factory setting.

The factory works entirely based off the state grid: ECQ = 0

The factory produces ⅓ of electricity from solar panels installed on roof: ECQ = 0.33

The factory optimizes the operation and avoids certain tasks. This accounts for ⅙ of the total energy consumption: ECQ = (⅓)+(⅙) = 0.5

The factory has enough solar panels to take care of the remaining total energy consumption: ECQ = 1.0

For an individual family home:

The home is run by state grid: ECQ = 0

The home installs solar panels on roof to cover ⅛ of total energy consumption: ECQ = 0.125

The home has smart sensors which optimize the energy consumption. This accounts for ⅓ of the total original energy consumption. ECQ = (⅛)+(⅓) = 0.4583

I will reiterate what I had said in my last article. Just because a solar panel reduces the ECQ of a house does not mean that the overall ecological footprint of the earth has gone down. Since each process has several long iterative processes associated, it is hard to truly determine the ripple effect of the carbon/ ecological footprint.

This energy quotient can have a similar problem, but having a larger ECQ will have a more honest impact. Also, it will be easier to measure the ECQ even in a chain reaction process.

Let us take an example of travelling from home to office and back. This is a very common activity that almost every person does.

  1. Person A goes from home to office and back in personal gasoline vehicle: ECQA = 0
  2. Person B Goes from home to office and back in personal electric vehicle: ECQB = 0
  3. Person A car pools with person B: ECQA = 0, ECQB = 1.0, ECQA&B = 0.5
  4. Person B car pools with person A: ECQA = 1.0, ECQB = 0, ECQA&B = 0.5
  5. Person A and B take public transport: ECQA = 1, ECQB = 1, ECQA&B = 1.0
  6. Person A and B work from home: ECQA = 1, ECQB = 1, ECQA&B = 1

The first 2 scenarios are typical everyday situations where a user goes to the office with his/ her own car (gasoline or electric). The user is consuming energy to complete the process, electric or gasoline, and hence the ECQ is 0.

Since there is a whirlwind of travelling which cannot be avoided, in order to achieve the WIG it will be best if everyone starts looking at other options.

Car Pooling: Car pooling (Scenario 3 and 4) allows users to increase their ECQ to 1, but only for the person who pools with the other one. Interestingly, the overall ECQA&B is 0.5 since one is conserving energy at the expense of the other person’s energy. If the energy required to take Person A and Person B is equal to ‘x’, then during Scenario 3

Energy Conserved by A: x

Energy Conserved by B: 0

Total Energy Conserved: x + 0 = x

Total Energy Consumed without pooling: x + x

ECQA&B = (x+0)/(x+x) = x/2x = ½ = 0.5

If there were 4 people the ECQNet would rise to ¾ or 0.75 since 3 people are conserving energy at the expense of the 4th. If 5 people pooled a car, it would be ⅘ or 0.80. You can see that it will keep on getting closer to 1 as the number increases.

Public Transport: Using public transport would automatically push the ECQ to 1.0 for every person and the net ECQ as well. This is because every individual is able to achieve success in the process without anyone actually consuming energy at their expense. This is an extremely powerful solution.

Energy Conserved by A: x

Energy Conserved by B: x

Total Energy Conserved: x + x = 2x

Total Energy Consumed without pooling: x + x

ECQA&B = (x+x)/(x+x) = 2x/2x = 1

Work From Home: In Scenario 6, avoiding going to work obviously increases the ECQ to 1 for everyone, as the users have completely avoided the activity. This is the same as using public transport. However since this is not always possible, Scenario 5 becomes the next best option where both the people were able to achieve an ECQ of 1.

So the options can be ranked as

  1. Use Public Transport/ Work from home
  2. Car Pooling (more the better)
  3. Drive individually

Using an electric car has the advantage that if a person is able to charge the electric car using a renewable source (such as solar panels on the roof), the process immediately brings his/ her  ECQ=1.0 for this process. The ECQA&B in this situation will also become 1.0 as the user with the electric car is also conserving the energy by using renewable sources (or is self dependent).

I will continue to explore this approach that I have proposed and will try to implement it in various situations. I may evolve the concept or may devolve it, please stay tuned. It is a journey I have started myself.

Please let me know your thoughts.Please do share your thoughts with me.

References:

  1. https://www.franklincovey.com/4dx-book/
  2. https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
  3. https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/poster/top-5-steps-reduce-your-energy-consumption

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