SOUE News Issue 10

A Short History of the Low-Carbon Future

A synopsis of a 2010 Jenkin Day talk given by Vilnis Vesma

Vilnis runs a consultancy specialising in energy management. He started by entertaining us with fantastic cases of energy being wasted by ignorant or careless maintenance. For example, a flight of steps leading to a building entrance, observed to be totally dry, all except the bottom one, shortly after a shower of rain. The steps had been provided with electric heaters to melt any ice in winter. But somehow they had come to be left switched on all the time, summer and winter, all except the bottom one, which had failed, and hence gave the clue to what was happening. In other cases valves had either been damaged or locked permanently open by maintenance people who had no idea what they were meant to do, or very possibly couldn't care less. One valve left permanently open was estimated to be wasting £9000 per annum in energy costs. He had found wasteful design errors too, including a set of three boilers, any one of which was over-rated for the load, all running continuously and wasting 360 kW.

His recommended approach for reducing energy consumption was to estimate how much ought to be used for various processes etc., possibly just by considering past consumption, and then to list actual present consumptions in descending order of over-spend. Then start at the top of the list. He described an instrument that would record external temperature in terms of "degree-days" over a period, as a guide to how much energy ought to have been used for space heating over that period.

Turning to the more general need to reduce fossil fuel consumption in order to minimise climate change, Vilnis thought there was no point in waiting for global agreements about what to do - we should just get on with it ourselves. He believes that, ultimately, energy will have to be rationed.

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