Negawatts versus ?

Negawatts… a term attributed to Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute… as a measure of conserved electricity.  Each MW conserved is a MW which doesn’t need to be generated is a MW of capacity that doesn’t need to be built is equal to a Negawatt. 

So, what do we call Megawatts of capacity found at a power plant due to improved efficiency of generation equipment? 

These are also Megawatts of available capacity which did not require any new plant to be built.   Some of them can be found by changing O&M procedures – so they don’t even need any funding to implement.  And, they are often accompanied by improvements in heat rate, so not only are they equivalent Negawatts, they also provide Fuel and CO2 savings for all other Megawatts produced at the power plant.

It seems to me, we should promote both the Negawatts conserved by the consumer and the Negawatts found by the generator – use less, and produce what is still used more efficiently. 

This may seem like a good way to put yourself out of business – if you’re in the power production & sales business – but, considering population is still increasing and more gadgets are being produced and purchased everyday which need energy to run, I really don’t see conservation and efficiency as leading to the downfall of the power markets. 

If anything, I can see this backfiring on the whole conservation issue.  When renewables are more prevalent, generation is ultra-efficient, and CO2 is all safely sequestered away from the atmosphere, people will no longer feel guilty about leaving their computers and TV’s on overnight.  As long as we feel we’re doing our part to conserve at the office, we can ‘reward’ ourselves with extra consumption at home – turning down the temp on the AC or sitting an extra 10 minutes in the electric massage chair.

Negawatts are starting up a new market in “White Tags” – another means of trading carbon, in the form of conserved power.  Europe already has a White Tag market, and Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Nevada have also started programs.  It will be interesting to see how this all works out.

Reference:  Getting More for Less: The Growing Role of Negawatts by Glenn Croston 

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