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Is Our Increase In Power Usage Good or Bad?
Blog...Is Our Increase In Power Usage Good or Bad?

Is Our Increase In Power Usage Good or Bad?

Ecology News
person pretending to be holding the sun at sunset
In this article, we’ll explain what power usage is, why it has increased in recent years, how it could impact our climate goals, and potential solutions.
Ecology News
person pretending to be holding the sun at sunset

From iPhones, laptops, tablets, to apple watches – technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, to the point where many of us can no longer envision a world without it.

While technology has helped to simplify parts of our lives, such as by paying an electricity bill online or navigating our way through a tiny village on a road trip with a GPS – but it has also resulted in a surge of power usage like never before.

Is it possible for our newfound increase in power usage to compromise our climate goals?

In this article, we’ll explain what power usage is, why it has increased in recent years, how it could impact our climate goals, and potential solutions.

What is power usage?

Power usage, otherwise known as power consumption, refers to the amount of energy consumed by a process, system, or even an entire company or society. 

Think of all of the appliances in your house – together, they all use a certain amount of energy over a set amount of time, often expressed using kilowatt hours (kWh).

💡 Power usage is something that we all contribute to everyday whether we realize it or not, such as via the need to charge our laptops to work remotely or when we turn on the lights in the kitchen.

1000 watts kilo wat cartoon

In today’s world, power usage is more imperative than ever before seeing as we have incorporated the use of digital devices and systems into our everyday lives – such as by signing an iPad for your receipt at a restaurant or touch-screen machines to purchase tickets at the metro.

Some additional examples of power usage include:

  • Household Appliances – Anything from a refrigerator, air conditioner, heater, dishwasher, oven, microwave, or washing machine consume copious amounts of energy to heat or cool the surrounding spaces. 
  • Everyday Electronics – Laptops, cell phones, TVs, gaming systems, and more all require to be plugged in or charged – which contributes to our increase in power usage.
  • Office Spaces – Printers, copiers, desktops, and the data centers used for your company all contribute to power usage.
  • Transportation – Cars, subway systems, trucks, buses, and even bikes take up energy.
  • Industrial PurposesThe equipment used to power heavy machinery, such as pumps and compressors, contribute to excess power usage.

👉 Remember, there are miscellaneous items that could also contribute to an increase in power usage – such as medical equipment, electric tools for construction, and specialized kitchen appliances. This goes to show how an increase in power usage can occur anywhere from our everyday household appliances to industrial machinery.

3d map of power usage and buildings black

Why has our power usage increased?

There are several reasons as to why our power usage has increased in recent years, but the two main culprits to our sudden skyrocketing power consumption include extreme changes in the weather and our newfound values in consumerism.

Over the last 20 years, technology has secured a prominent place in society –  to the extent that it will be difficult to ever return to the point where people could function in their daily lives without the use of technology.

Think about it: back in the 90s, if you had spare time as a kid – the only options to spend your free time involving power consumption included watching TV, calling a friend, or playing a video game. It wasn’t as easy to scroll on your phone endlessly or have hundreds of streaming options to choose from. We used to spend more time with people in person, and it wasn’t as easy to get trapped into the pigeon hole many social apps are successfully able to accomplish in the present day.

💡 In fact, the United States alone generated 1,200% more electricity in 2021 compared to 1950, as the demand for electricity has surged in the past two decades – which depicts the drastic increase in supply and demand necessary to accommodate our growing power usage.

I can’t recall the last time I was so alarmed about the country’s energy trajectory…” – Tyler H. Norris, who has previously worked for solar development and an expertise in power systems.

Besides our newfound dependency on digital devices, climate change itself is one of the reasons for our increase in power usage – as drastic cold fronts and heat waves have resulted in an increase in the use of central heating and cooling systems. 

Here are some other reasons why our power usage has increased in recent years:

  • Inefficient Appliances – The good thing about our newfound, “clingy” relationship with technology is that we’ve spent more time towards developing improvements, such as by designing more energy efficient appliances. Households that have yet to upgrade their household appliances may be using more power than intended. 
  • Home or Office RenovationsMany houses and offices spaces are undergoing renovations to be more energy efficient long-term, but the downside is that this type of construction consumes a lot of energy.
  • Post-Pandemic – At the pique of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all spent a lot of time from home – relying on laptops, TVs, and smartphones to communicate with one another from a distance. Nowadays, many things have been made remotely accessible or offered via the internet that weren’t before – such as more online classes or telehealth appointments. This can contribute to an increase in demand for power usage.

👉 Ultimately, our power usage has increased as a result of the rise of technology, changing cultural circumstances, and dramatic shifts in weather patterns. 

laptop glowing in dark pink/blue

In what ways is an increase in power usage and technology good?

In a sense, our increase in power usage is good as it motivates us to seek the use of new renewable energy sources or spur innovation to develop new pieces of technology to reduce energy consumption.

In the same way that someone with a heart disease may be less inclined to start exercising or eating less cholesterol in their diet until they realize what’s at stake – the same goes for mankind now being incentivized to search for new solutions to ensure our power usage doesn’t contribute to our downfall.

Here are some of the other ways in which our increase in power usage has proven beneficial to society:

  • AI, a passive form of power consumption, has been used to help monitor and manage supply chains
  • Technology has been used to set up passive practices to reduce the environmental impact created by industrial machinery
  • Power usage has proven useful to help renewable energy systems such as wind turbines and solar panels convert sunlight, water, or geothermal energy into usable electricity. Yes, while these systems also take up power – they can help us to reduce our carbon footprint long-term.

👉 However, even though the search for new ways to utilize clean-energy can be help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint – but could deter countries such as the U.S. from achieving their goals to combat climate change.  

people with laptops, phones, snacks from bird's eye view

How could an increase in our power usage be bad for the environment?

The increase in power usage is bad for the environment because countries such as the U.S. do not have the time or resources to set-up renewable energy systems quickly enough to feed the incessantly increasing demand of energy. 

As a result, many states in the U.S. are seeking to burn power plants – and the Biden administration continues to approve of new gas-fired plants in attempts to meet the raging demand for power.

It’s completely at odds with what we need to do to to fight climate change.” – Greg Buppert, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

For instance, southern states such as Tennessee, Virgina, Georgia, and North and South Carolina are planning to build new power plants which make use of natural gas, for the next 15 years to feed the current power usage demand. This alone is concerning, considering how nuclear energy and the clean-energy of power plants alone remains debatable. 

In addition to this, it can take five years to link renewable energy projects up to the current grid – and a full 10 years to build the power lines these various renewable energy sources may require to effectively help reduce the amount of fossil fuels currently used. As the demand for electricity in the United States is expected to grow by 38,000 megawatts over the next five years, that would mean that the projects necessary to connect these power lines would need to be started today. 

👉 Ultimately, the panic to feed the rising demand for power will continue to send several states and possibly even the presidential administration into a frenzy – as desperate measures and plans will be implemented and executed to satisfy the growing demand for power usage, even if it deters us from reaching previously set environmental goals.

people in starry/tech exhibition

What are some of the ways we could reduce our power usage?

While our increase in power usage has helped us to recognize the importance of renewable energy, it’s next to impossible for the world to shift to the use of these systems in the midst of the rising demand for power, making our increase in power consumption ultimately bad for the environment.

We can and should continue to develop long-term solutions with renewable energy, but there are other actions we can take in the meantime to reduce our power consumption today and mitigate the negative impact it will continue to make if we don’t change our habits now.

Some of the ways we can reduce our power consumption both at home and in the workplace include:

  • Upgrading to Energy Efficient Appliances – Older A/C or heating systems, refrigerators, and even printers could be consuming more energy than necessary.
  • Less Screen Time – It’s easy to curl up on the couch and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix for hours on end, but trying to make time to spend time outside with your family in friends is also important.
  • Turn Off Lights & Unplug Appliances – Did you know that all appliances still consume electricity while they’re plugged in, even when they're turned off? Therefore, one of the easiest ways to reduce your power consumption is to remember to turn lights off when you leave the living room or your office – and also to unplug appliances before leaving for a trip. 

💡 Did you know that even sustainable solutions for transportation such as Electric Vehicles (EVs) could account for 10% of power usage by 2035.

Overall, even though our increase in power usage has motivated us to find new ways to feed the growing demand for electricity – it is important to remember that much of our newfound dependence on power has spurred as a direct result of innovation. Our increase in power usage has the potential to prevent us from achieving our current climate goals, but it could also be the very thing that motivates us to do better in the fight against climate change.

What About Greenly?

If reading this article on our increase in power usage and its effect on the environment has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. We offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalized assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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