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Ever hear the term energy literacy, and wonder what it meant? How about the terms energy conservation and energy efficiency – are they synonymous? Let’s discuss these three terms, with attention to behavior, technology and society.

Conservation is generally defined as the prevention of waste, through restoration and preservation. Therefore, energy conservation can be defined as saving energy. Accomplished through the actions of individuals or through the use of smart technologies. As technology advances have increased, the focus has shifted from behavior to devices.

With this in mind, let’s look at this great explanation around the behavior to technology shift from NEF’s Energy Efficiency in Action poster:

“You have heard of the three Rs of conservation; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – we have added a few Ts, one is for Technology. Energy efficiency is managing the consumption of energy through the use of efficient technologies. The use of technologies to maintain our standard of living while using less energy and resources separates energy efficiency from conservation.”

Conservation & Efficiency = Saving Energy

Efficiency is generally defined as the ratio of the useful energy delivered by a system to the energy supplied to it, in other words the closer the input amount to the output amount, the more efficient the system. Energy efficiency is then defined as systematically minimizing energy waste or saving energy.

Isn’t that the same definition we discovered for energy conservation? Yes, both energy conservation and energy efficiency focus on saving energy. Energy efficiency is a subset of energy conservation. Conservation is general energy aware choices. Efficiency is specific systemic or technology focused energy aware choices. Why the shift from generally saving energy to specifically saving energy? Energy efficiency (systemically saving) is easily measurable, and more readily innovated upon or improved.

How do we get people to make energy aware choices? Easy, energy literacy. Literacy is generally defined as having knowledge with the capacity to respond. With this intention energy literacy is defined as having enough knowledge of energy resources, production, and distribution to participate in persuasive conversation and make energy aware choices.

3 Ts of Energy Literacy

This brings us to the other Ts referenced above. In our Think! Energy program (an energy education program focused on saving energy) the foundational components are Think! about energy choices, Talk! to others about energy efficiency and Take Action! in saving energy.

In this program each student receives a kit with energy-efficient Technology to install in their homes. Students learn all about energy, leaving the program ready to engage in energy charged conversation and make energy aware choices.

As the level of energy literacy rises in an individual so does the desire to participate in energy conservation and use devices designed for energy efficiency.

At NEF it’s our mission to cultivate and promote an energy literate society.

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