Energy is a very critical part and parcel of our daily lives. We use it for lighting our homes, cooking food, playing music, powering a wide range of appliances and for many other personal and household purposes.
However, excessive consumption of energy is both expensive and harmful to the environment. When we use excessive energy, a lot of waste is released to the environment. Coal and fossil fuels are often burnt to produce energy and in the process, different kinds of gases and residual particles are emitted to the environment. If these emissions are not controlled, these toxins can pollute the environment and affect our health as well.
Further, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is the energy industry. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and some artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
The absorbed energy warms the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. This process maintains the Earth’s temperature at around 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it would otherwise be, allowing life on Earth to exist.
The problem we now face is that human activities – particularly burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), agriculture and land clearing – are increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases. This is the enhanced greenhouse effect, which is contributing to warming of the Earth.
At the personal and household level, consumers are facing increasing utility bills. According to the World Energy and Ember Review 2021 Report, average per capita consumption of the average Malaysian consumer increased from 1000 kilowatt-hour in 1985 to more than 5,000 kilowatt hour in 2019. Further in Malaysia, it is estimated that 82% of electricity users are domestic users. Most of the energy in Malaysia is sourced from oil, coal and gas.
During the pandemic, many consumers as they spent more time at home, complained of increasing electricity charges. Thus measures to reduce energy usage can help to reduce household expenses as well as national energy consumption.
Understanding energy conservation to become more energy efficient can help both the consumer and the environment. By using energy saving and energy management techniques, it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as lower household energy bills.
There are two components to energy saving, energy conservation and energy efficiency. Energy conservation involves altering our behaviour, for example turning of the lights or air-condition when we leave the room or unplugging or turning off plugs at the wall when the appliance is not in use. Energy efficiency is making conscious choice to choose lights or appliance which use less electricity. For example choosing light emitting diode (LED) over incandescent light or choosing energy efficient washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters.
Consumers certainly can play a significant role in reducing energy consumption so as to reduce greenhouse emissions and thus creating a better environment as well as reducing household expenditure on energy.
However, to empower consumers energy literacy is crucial. Unfortunately, consumer empowerment through energy literacy has not been given priority by the government. Much more needs to be done for consumer empowerment in the energy sector.