Seeding Socioeconomic Avalanches! [Hacked by WordPress; filtered by Google!]


Optimum-Energy Communities: Moving Towards Zero Dirty Energy!

Dirty Energy

All human activities require energy, most (88%) of which is supplied by converting stored energy in fossil fuels, dirty energy (DE), to mechanical power, electricity, heat and greenhouse gases [as well as food.] More than two-thirds of of the total energy supplied is lost as waste (see Chart W.3). The rate of pollution is exponentially proportional to the consumption of DE. Throughout 2007 burning of fossil fuels released 31,775.04 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. [Total emissions for 2007 including cement production and tropical deforestation were 38,058.66 MMT of CO2.] – See also: New York Cognitive Dissonance.

Chart W.1. World Energy Consumption 2006 by Fuel Type [Sources: BP, EIA]

Intense human activities, which demand excessive consumption of energy, are responsible for global heating, rapid degradation and the imminent collapse of ecosystems [followed by mass extinction of species.]

The world consumed an estimated 531 exajoules of energy in 2007 [one exajoule, EJ, is 10 exponential 18 joules] equivalent to the energy released by detonating about 9.73 million A-bombs. [Global energy consumption for 2006 was 507EJ. [Sources of energy data: EIA, BP.]

At current rates of energy consumption, the runaway positive feedback loops and mechanisms that are destroying Earth’s ecosystems including climate change and extreme climatic events, global heating, toxic pollution, atmospheric ozone holes, depletion of natural resources, unethical conduct, war and disease pandemics would overwhelm Earth’s life support systems rendering most of our population centers unsustainable in a very short time, possibly by as early as 2015 [or earlier.]

To prevent the complete collapse of ecosystems, we believe, based on our dynamic energy models, the global energy consumption must be reduced rapidly to about 60EJ, with the fossil fuels consumption approaching zero. This level of consumption is about 11.9 percent of global energy consumption in 2006.

What’s Needed

a)  A New Mindset
To make do with 60EJ, you need a new, smart mindset. One that

  • Understands the limitations
  • Accepts that without a sea change the world would collapse soon
  • Employs intelligent planning
  • Ensures limits are NOT exceeded

b)  Goal Setting
Try answering these questions:

  • Where are you coming from?
  • What are you doing here/ what do you plan to achieve?
  • How long are you staying on?
  • Where are you going to?

You need to set goals in order to give truthful answers to the above and clarify many outstanding issues the arise from. Your goals must be intelligent, purposeful and significant. Four broad categories of goal-setting are required:

  1. Generational [lifelong ]
  2. Inter-generational [living memory, usually 3 - 4 generations]
  3. Long term [for example, millennial]
  4. Very long term [all time, cosmic scale, or 'eternal']

The 286-Watt Community

To prevent the total collapse of the ecosystems, and to save and preserve as many lives as possible, the authors vehemently believe the following steps must be taken:

1. Establish intelligent communities to provide food, basic amenities, education, jobs and security. The communities would serve as contemporaneous blueprints to help redesign, rearrange and retrofit existing population centers to conform to a global energy policy that rapidly reduces the consumption of fossil fuels to zero.

2. Change the system of economy from an exponential growth economy to the “Great Economy for Community of Life,” a zero-growth, low carbon, waste-free okonomia for managing the environment, welfare of humans and other living species, and a system of ‘housekeeping’ for the planet’s natural resources to ensure sustainability of life on Earth.

3. Stabilize the world population, especially populations in the countries with large ecological footprints, at current levels of about 6.65billion (estimated world population, Late 2007 – Early 2008). [http://math.berkeley.edu/~galen/popclk.html] and [http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html]

4. Reduce global energy consumption rapidly to about 60EJ/year. The optimum per capita energy consumption should be capped at 286W. [See above!]

5. Redirect all available resources to provide clean air, freshwater, food, shelter, health and education for the world population.

Note: To arrive at the optimum energy use per capita, the ‘safe’ consumption level of 60EJ is divided equally by the world population. ²

(I) 60EJ [safe level of global energy consumption] / 6.65 billion people [world population stabilized at early 2008 levels] = 9.03GJ [world per capita safe energy consumption in gigajopules]

(II) 9.03GJ [world per capita safe energy consumption in gigajopules] / 31,556,926 [number of seconds in a year] = 286 Watts [world per capita safe energy consumption in Watts, or joules per second]

[Note: 286W per person doesn't sound like much energy, however, in a co-housing arrangement where, say, 4 families of average 3.5 members each pool their received energy together, a total power of about 4 x 3.5 x 286 = 4,004W, or 4kW of energy would be available. That is the equivalent of about 3.2 tons of oil, or 22boe. The above total is supplemented by generous amounts of sunlight, as available.]

Creating 286W Intelligent Communities
The energy consumption is normally represented by 4 broad sectors:

  • Residential
  • Transportation
  • Commercial
  • Industrial

The following chart shows the consumption by sector for World, OECD European countries and the United States.

Chart W.2. Energy Consumption by Sector (2006) – World and Selected Regions [Source: EIA Reports]

Significant savings can be made in all sectors through optimum planning, innovative design, application of appropriate technology as well as lifestyle and behavioral changes.

1. Buildings. Energy used for heating living and working space can be significantly reduced by using

  • Innovative designs such as zero energy buildings, ultra-low energy buildings, Passive house and Plus energy houses for new buildings (retrofit older structures)
  • New insulation materials
  • Ultra efficient power/heat distribution pumps and ventilation systems
  • Ultra efficient lighting systems/designs/concepts
  • Ultra-low energy appliances
  • Flexible floor space designs
  • Multiple family buildings
  • Sharing/polling appliances

In 2001, lighting consumed 756 Billion kWh – America’s 104 nuclear generating units produced 769 billion kWh, while operating at a capacity factor of 89 percent. It took our entire nuclear fleet to illuminate America.

[In Britain, according to a recent report, "drafty companies" waste $5billion in energy. That translates to about 7.5 percent of the primary energy consumed by the country. The residential buildings energy waste probably amounts to about 10-12 percent of the energy received. See also hungry buildings.]

2. Industrial. Significant energy savings can be made in the industrial sector by

  • Phasing out energy intensive manufacturing equipment
  • Reducing the total industrial output by producing only what is absolutely needed (WIAN) by the communities, which requires policy changes on an international scale, and behavioral changes (transforming the atomistic individuals to persons in community)
  • A 30-year hiatus in the production of new cars, airplanes, heavy construction equipment, trucks, boats (except for production of parts and components, that may be needed for “essential” activities)
  • A total ban on the production of arms including all conventional, nuclear, chemical, biological and exotic weapons

3. Transportation. This sector offers the largest areas for potential energy savings. Savings could be achieved by

  • Eliminating or substantially reducing the total number of kilometers (miles) traveled through innovative community designs including maximum localization of the community needs and requirements
  • Using information technology and Internet (assuming a variation of those technologies is sustainable) to enhance human interactions and eliminate the need for commuting, traveling and physical attendances
  • Using public transport systems were traveling cannot legitimately be avoided
  • Phasing out automobiles, or at least the combustion engines (only about 12.6% of the fuel put in the gasoline tank is used to move the car), and a 30 year hiatus in the productions of all new vehicles

[See The Economy for additional information.]

4. Commercial. Large energy savings can be achieved through

  • Intelligent community planning and design
  • Policy and behavioral changes
  • Recycling
  • Greater reuse of products
  • Much Less energy intensive materials
  • Ultra-efficient use of materials
  • Innovative designs and ultra-efficient techniques (e.g., bioneering)
  • Longer-lasting [essential] products
  • Localizing
  • Phasing out commercial [predatory] advertising, mass production, unnecessary packaging and transport of goods

Note: Living in small to medium-sized intentional communities (creating new communities, retrofitting existing population centers as intentional communities) where the following conditions are met, would advance you about 70-80 percent of the way toward achieving the 286W target:

Treating Earth as a Family Planet, NOT a Factory Planet

  • Redesign human-centered communities to substantially reduce/eliminate the need for vehicles [as well as roads and parking lots,] allowing access only to emergency vehicles when necessary.
  • Promote community spirit, discourage atomistic lifestyles.
  • Ensure access to all amenities within walking/cycling distance.
  • Work from home, or walk/cycle 5-10 minutes to your place of work.
  • Create education centers [smart centers would be a combination of physical and virtual facilities—using only sustainable, appropriate technologies,] which include schools for the kids, a library and play area within walking distance.
  • Provide adequate facilities for Internet access [where a sustainable variation of internet-mass communication-technologies could be employed] within the libraries to eliminate the need for individual ownership.
  • Arrange for a health clinic, fitness and recreation center, social gathering hall, entertainment and food centers to be within walking distance.
  • Produce your food locally, to the maximum extent possible.
  • Promote co-housing and sharing of ["essential"] appliances.
  • Transform every community into a mini ‘paradise.’

REM: For every one unit of “useful energy” received more than two units of energy are wasted as heat!

US Energy Flow Trends
Chart W.4. US Energy Flow Trends – 2002 [note: One Quad is 1015 BTU ~ 1.055EJ]

Chart W.3. World Energy (2006) – Consumption and Efficiency by Sector (simplified diagram).

1. Definition (will be posted soon!)
2. Per Capita energy Consumption – Selected Countries

Chart W.5. Per Capita energy Consumption – Selected Countries

Per Capita Energy Consumption [useful energy of 258W or less]

The Key to a Future

The following excerpts are from The Fate Energy dinosaurs

The key to preventing the next mass species extinction and preserving human cultures is one of creating the opportunity for humans to evolve at very low rates of energy (and material) consumption.

Why Human Intelligence Has Stalled

There are a number of forced factors why instead of evolving, human intelligence has regressed causing humans to degenerate into grotesque energy monsters. The main reason for the regression is the monetary gains made by the world’s overlords, whose perceived interests are served when more (NOT LESS) energy and materials are consumed. Their interests clearly fly in the face of human survival.

Partial Survival or Full Extinction

There is a whole cosmos of exhilarating possibilities at the low energy end of the consumption spectrum. Humanity has everything to gain and nothing to lose by fully exploring ways and means of how to evolve, and survive rather than become extinct!

Tomorrow Is Too Late

Failure to take heed of the warning signs would be to the detriment of everyone, their families and their nations—a major threat to survival of human race. Yesterday was the best time to act; today our last option expires; tomorrow is too late!

The First Step

Regaining the will to live!

The will to live is the ultimate human phenomenon maintained by a fine balance between the four interrelated elements:

  • Physical and mental well being
  • Societal vigor
  • Nature’s supplies and services
  • Health of the environment


1. Useful energy comprises 32.4 percent of received energy [i.e., the difference of 67.6 percent is dissipated as heat.]

2. Large numbers of poor people who live in richer countries that receive higher energy quotas, and therefore are not listed in the above table, actually consume less than 258W per capita because most of the energy is consumed by their wealthy class. In real terms the number of people who receive per capita useful energy of 258W or lower are probably closer to 65 percent of the world population.

Sources: FEWW, CASF, MSRB, EIA. [Tables, calculation and projections by TERRES.]

Related Links:

Words: 1,959 words; 5 images, 1 table; 7 sets of bullets, notes 1 & 2; 12 links

Last updated Oct 2009

35 Responses to “286W”

  1. Rochelle Owen said

    286 watts per person per day? It reads like 286 per watts per person year? One high efficiency, bulb at 7 watts x 4 hours = 28 watts per day. 286 watts would be one light bulb for a about a week and half.

    Does this include home and work?

  2. edro said

    Hi Rochelle

    The watt (symbol: W) is a unit of power (measured in joules per second). It tells you how much energy a system consumes every second. The 7-watt compact fluorescent bulb you mentioned consumes 7 joules of energy (electricity) each second when ‘on.’ Over a four-hour period it consumes a total of 100,800 joules. [BTW, for every three units of energy used to generate and transmit electricity only one unit reaches the end-user, the other 2 units are wasted as heat and dissipated into the environment.]

    How much energy is one joule? Not a lot! If you pick up a small apple (weight of 102 grams) placed atop a table in front of you, while sitting, and raise it above your head (height of 1 meter), you will have used about one joule of energy.

    [More accurately, the energy used by your body to keep you alive and help lift your arm is not included; the energy used to lift the apple = 1 joule.]

    Here’s another example: A 30 year old woman weighing 60 kg (130 lb) and 175 cm (5 feet 9 inches) tall would need a minimum of 68W to keep her vital organs functioning while at rest [That's her basal metabolic rate, BMR, measured in a neutrally temperate environment in the post-absorptive state!]

    She would consume about 25W sitting on a chair, 43W standing in a line and 268W walking on an even path at a speed of 4.5 km/h (2.8 mph).

    In the 286W Communities, each person uses up to 286joules per second, or a total of 9.025 gigajoules [2.51MWh] per year [one gigajoule is 10^9 joules] without compromising her standards of comfort or destroying the rest of the planets failing ecosystems. The moderators will post a broad definition including the energy breakdown for various applications at the 268W communities soon.

    Meantime, please visit the following links on the links page for an idea of how buildings can provide shelter as well as comfort, even food, and look after the occupants’ energy requirements: S-House ; Passive house Institute ; Energy-plus buildings

    The next step would require a rethink and a change of perspective (as well as a little bit of planning). Why not work from the comfort of your home?

    BMR calculator

    This reply, which had been hacked, was corrected by Moderator CS on September 3, 2011.

  3. Robert Sczech said

    [1]Consuming energy at the rate of 286 Watts contin[u]ously and still maintaining a comfortable life is an impossible goal. [2]286 Watts for 24 hours is roughly 6KWH of energy per day. [3]At present prices of electricity (the most expensive form of energy) at $0.15 per KWH, this means a monthly energy cost of roughly $30. That is not enough to cover the cost of heating a small apartment in the winter located in northern climates. [4]It would require scraping all of our buildings and rebuild them according to the most recent “passive house” insulation levels. [5]The cost of that reconstruction in terms of energy would be astronomical. [6]Renewable energy systems (solar panels) require 10 to 20 years of operation in order to recover the energy spent producing these panels. The solution is to either abandon heating or at least lowering the temperature to the uncomfortable level of less than 60 degrees in the winter. This is definitely possible and we would survive such temperatures (as our grandparents did). However, it would be dishonest to claim that such a temperature level would still represent comfort.

    [7]I understand why we need to drastically lower our energy consumption – there is no argument about that. However, we should be realistic about the cost of accomplishing such a goal and also about the quality of life which would be implied about such a low level of energy consumption.

    [Note: Robert Sczech is a Mathematics professor at Rutgers State University of New Jersey]
    [For clarity, comment was enumerated by moderator: 286W]

  4. Greyzone said

    [Edited by Moderator: EDRO]

  5. edro said

    Greyzone – IMO, your data is misleading.

  6. Cynthia said

    Please send me the same data for Zambia, a country in Southern Africa.

  7. terres said

    Here’s info you requested:
    Primary Energy Consumption (2005) ~ 0.122 Quads [Quadrillion (10^15) Btu] http://www.eia.doe.gov/
    [1Btu = 1,055J]
    Population: 11,922,000 (UN estimate)
    Global useful energy conversion factor: 37% (UNIDO estimate)
    Per capita useful energy received: 126W

    [Note: According to our own calculations, the global useful energy factor is 32.4 percent, reducing the per capita useful energy received in Zambia to just under 111W.]

    Data and links provided by Carol, CASF Member.

  8. Alan said

    [Unsuitable content. Edited by Moderator: FEWW]

  9. Greg Colbourn said

    How do you arrive at your figure of 60EJ? Where are the details of your model – are they published anywhere?

  10. msrb said

    Greg – the figure of 60EJ is based on simulations created by two different models. Details of the models haven’t been published.

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