Friday, August 22, 2008

2,000 Watt Society

We are getting towards the end of our summer sojourn in London and I was hoping I would have an electricity bill to compare with our life in Houston. But they bill only quarterly here – which itself may be a commentary on how much less they use! – and so the only bill I have to hand is for the period from early March until early June when my tenant was in the flat. Total usage was 724 kWh, less than I have ever used in a single month in Houston. Bear in mind that the Houston house has gas for cooking and heating, whereas the London flat has only electricity, and the contrast is even more remarkable. The price by the way was about 12 pence per kWh, about 50% more than in Houston.

All this remind me of the 2,000 Watt Society, so-called because that is what the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology believes is sustainable. If each of us consumed 2000 watts continuously, this would amount to 17,520 (2000 times 265 times 24 divided by 1000) kilowatt hours per year. The typical American or Canadian uses about 6 that.

Of course this is meant to cover ALL our energy usage; not just electricity but natural gas, gasoline, and all the energy content in the things we buy. Nevertheless, our electricity consumption is a major element and it is interesting to find that in London my wife and I are running on the equivalent of about 330 watts, whereas in Houston it’s over 2200 watts. (This is based on the calendar year 2007 when we used about 19,400 kWh. With new double glazing and insulation we are looking forward to a lower number for 2008.)

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