If only the world were super rational.
Even the common bloke on the road knows that using energy efficiency equipment in our homes and factories could cut down energy costs by as much as 50%.
But yet, we see that most homes and factories, even in the developed world, use old and inefficient equipment.
Why is this so?
Part of the reason has to do with awareness. While most of us have heard about energy efficiency equipment, apart from some of the prominent Energy Star rated ones, many are still not aware of how to purchase energy efficient variants for a number of other household items. While the average engineer knows more about energy efficient equipment than a common man, you will be surprised how little even many good engineers know when it comes to the latest in energy efficient equipment available in the market.
Outside of awareness, the other reason for the slow adoption of energy efficient machinery and equipment is, you guessed right, the higher price.
Most energy efficiency equipment come at a cost higher than that for inefficient equipment – compare the cost of a CFL to that of an LED for equivalent brightness, or the cost of an Energy Star rated air conditioner to that without an Energy Star. While energy efficient equipment will lead to a lower cost over the lifetime, we are tuned to placing a higher value on short term expenses than on long term savings!
In the context of industry, where machinery lifetimes are in decades, the higher cost of energy efficient equipment implies that their adoption rates will be even slower. It is not easy for a company to replace an existing machine with a high cost machine when there is still enough life left in the current machinery. In addition to the high capital cost involved, there is also the fact that any such significant replacement will mean significant amount of extra work and operational disruptions – burden that most companies simply postpone to a later date!
Besides, what I have seen is that, in many manufacturing firms, cost savings or energy efficiency is not what an engineer is expected to achieve – he is expected to maintain operational efficiency. In these firms, engineers thus have little incentive to work hard on replacing older equipment with new equipment. At the same time, engineer/shop floor commitment is critical when it comes to installing energy efficient equipment.
I recall meeting in New York one of the pioneers in solar energy sector, who also founded a prominent solar energy firm. After selling his solar firm, he had started working on projects related to energy efficiency. He had a similar perspective to what I have mentioned above – he felt that, in the US as well, energy efficiency equipment replacements were taking too long, and one of the key reasons was the lack of motivation from the engineer community in this context.