You Are Entitled to 2,000 Watts, Use Them Wisely (Updated)

The Swiss use half as much energy as the average US resident, but that's still three times more than could be equally distributed today... Basel, Switzerland photo: Fred Hersch via flickr

So how much of all the power used in the world would each person be entitled to if it were equally divided? 2000 watts according to the (appropriately named) 2000 Watt Society. That probably means little to you in real world terms, right? Well, Good Magazine is currently running a piece which examines that question. This is what a 2000 watt society civilization might look like:N. Americans Use Double the Power of Europeans, Eight Times the Chinese
Let's just start with the stats about how much power people in different parts of the world use. You immediately begin to see the inequities: Bangladeshis use on average about 380 watts per person; Africans slightly more; Chinese, 1500 watts; Western Europeans, 6000; North Americans (sit down for this, and turn off the lights)... 12,000 watts per person.

Now, before anyone jumps all over me (um...too late for that), and the 2000 Watt Society, for playing loose with terminology, the amount of energy use being advocated here is a reduction from current levels to 17,520 kWh per year (of all energy use, not just electricity) per person. A goal which the Society hopes we can reach by 2050, without lowering people's standard of living.

So why does this matter? Well, a little thing called carbon emissions + global warming. If we cap energy usage at current levels, but manage to distribute it more equitably and use it as efficiently as possible, we may be able to get a handle on the situation.

Lower Energy Use Does Not Mean Hardship
Based in Switzerland, the article goes into the work being done there,

According to the numbers, the people of Basel use less than half the amount of energy I—and other over-air-conditioned Americans—do. So it follows that they should be about half as comfortable. But walking around Basel, riding their trams, visiting their warm homes, drinking mocha lattes in their cafes, it was hard to imagine these people were suffering. For Stultz, this is the point: "No one is suggesting we go back to the Stone Age," he says. "It's about responsibility and fairness." Stultz, who was trained as an architect, has spent most of career tracking sustainability in developing countries. "Climate change is only hurting the people who did not contribute to the problem—the floods, rising sea levels, droughts," he says.

Stultz's job, then, has been to create practical applications for the philosophies of the Society. "For instance, putting shutters on your windows can prevent 50 percent of the energy from leaking out," he says. "I had a friend who opened a shutter company in America but no one would buy them because Americans like blinds and curtains." The differences between Americans and Europeans don't stop there. As Stultz sees it, Europeans prefer natural light and fresh air; Americans favor artificial light and air conditioning. Europeans like their trains, trams, and buses; Americans want their cars. "Europe is closer," he says, "but it is not the model yet."

By the way, the last time Switzerland was a 2000 watt society was in the 1960s.

Check out the original article, Inside the 2,000 Watt Society, for more on how the energy gluttons of the world can reduce their consumption and the energy starved can then use a bit more.

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Tags: Bangladesh | Carbon Emissions | China | Electricity | Energy | Energy Efficiency | United States