Energy Supply vs. Demand: Why it Pays to be Unglamorous

June 8, 2012

When we talk about the energy equation, there are really two sides: supply and demand. Supply is the glamorous side with solar, wind, and geothermal as its mainstay. It’s the side of the equation politicians like to point to as they seek re-election. Unfortunately, the supply side remains very expensive, with high up-front expenses and unknown life cycle costs.

Demand, on the other hand, is very unglamorous. Often you never see the things that lower demand, especially in housing. But the demand side is by far the MOST IMPORTANT and LEAST EXPENSIVE way to manage our energy equation. In housing, for instance, lowering demand is often relatively inexpensive, with no life cycle costs. Smart choices in building envelopes can greatly reduce energy demand. In fact, it’s much smarter to focus on demand first and supply second. Why?? Well, once you have your demand at the lowest level, the supply side becomes much more economical to manage. Think half the solar panels, or a third of the wind power needed for a home. Think about a wind farm powering 1,000 homes instead of 100. With lower overall energy demand, these scenarios become possible.