Monday 21 December 2015

The end of the year always brings the pressure of whether or not to write something seasonal.  This year I thought I would do something different by formulating my Laws of Energy Efficiency.  Sir Isaac Newton and the Arthur C. Clarke stopped at three Laws so I apologize for coming up with 12.  They echo some of the themes I have covered in the blog over the last three years.

  1. Energy efficiency is boring and seriously uncool to most people most of the time.
  1. Never talk about energy efficiency without mentioning the non-energy benefits which can be seriously cool.
  1. Talk about energy productivity and not energy efficiency.
  1. If you are supposed to be an energy journalist never headline a story about renewables with something about “energy efficiency”.
  1. If you put ten people from ten ESCOs in a room there will be 15 different definitions of what an ESCO is.
  1. If you have five energy auditors survey any building you will end up with reports in five different formats with savings calculated five different ways, even if they are all recommending the same measures.
  1. Energy Performance Contracts and ESCOs are not the magic bullet some enthusiasts and failed investment bankers looking for the next big thing think they are.
  1. Never call energy efficiency a “no brainer” or “low hanging fruit”.
  1. An exciting energy or energy efficiency discovery in a lab somewhere is not the same as a viable technology, which is not the same as a commercial product, which is not the same as a successful product that has meaningful impact in the world.
  1. Any politician who finishes an energy speech by saying “and don’t forget energy efficiency” will promptly forget it the next time he or she meets an energy supply lobbyist.
  1. Energy forecasting is easy, getting it right is difficult. The corollary to this law is that prices can go down as well as up – never forget that in 1986 oil went below $10/barrel oil only months after oil industry bosses said “oil will never sell for less than $20/barrel again” and “our doomsday forecast is $20-25 a barrel”.
  1. When a distinguished but elderly economist says “what about the Jevons Paradox”, ask him or her if they think improving productivity is a bad idea.

Thanks for reading


Have a Happy Christmas and a healthy, prosperous and energy productive 2016.


There are 4 comments on “Fawkes’s Laws Of Energy Efficiency”:

  • Paul Jennings on December 26th, 2015 at 12:57 pm said:

    Thanks Steve,

    I’m sure we could come up with many more, depending on how cynical we were feeling after decades of trying to do energy efficiency.

    But two in particular: 1) Just when the UK needs excellence in energy efficient refurbishment, petty politics mean Stoke-on-Trent Councillors shut down CoRE (Centre of Refurbishment Excellence), thereby sabotaging the UK’s leading focus for quality in refurbishment.

    2) Immediately after signing up to the 1.5 degree C target and everything else in Paris, how does the UK government follow through – oh, by extending the scope of fracking and thereby ensuing even more fossil fuels are exploited.

    Joined up thinking, not.

    Regards and seasons greetings


  • Anees on December 28th, 2015 at 8:03 pm said:

    I like your laws but a comment Re your 4th Law: Energy Efficiency often called the “fifth fuel” but most people fail to recognise that it is not just a 5th fuel but it is another “renewable” fuel.

  • Liam McLaughlin on December 30th, 2015 at 12:48 pm said:

    Very good article Steve. I would add something about energy conservation applying most of your laws to it also.

    I think we need to move beyond energy efficiency, in terms of energy intensity, and start to actually reduce absolute energy consumption. Improving efficiency while increasing consumption of fossil fuels will not solve climate change.

  • My talk at the Berlin Energy Transition 2016 | Only Eleven Percent on March 30th, 2016 at 11:14 pm said:

    […] more eloquence. The event made me think of an additional law of energy efficiency (see my others here) – “while Amory Lovins shows that energy efficiency has produced 30x as much energy services as […]

Dr Steven Fawkes

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