Embedded energy and the future of product design


This matrix divides products and services up depending on energy required to make and run them. What will happen as energy prices rise or fossil fuel becomes scarce? Products that require a lot of energy to make and run will less affordable. These “make once, run expensively” types of products will migrate to the quadrants on the right. The “make once, run cheaply” or “make cheaply, use cheaply” will take over.

The same thing with products that are inexpensive to buy, but have a high running cost. Already oil lamps are being replaced in Bangladesh by solar panels, which cost more in the beginning, but pay off over a longer period. This is possible thanks to some clever financing from Grameen Bank, where users pay the solar panels in instalments equivalent to what they would pay for the oil. Instead of an empty lamp, they get a working solar panel.

But don’t wait too long. The diagram below shows the carbon available if we are to keep within the 2 degree target warming. We have the orange areas to use to create that societal infrastructure that will sustain us.

We should use oil to, for example, create renewable energy capture devices, to drive earth-moving machinery to shape landscapes so the natural hydrology is augmented to enable  food to be grown. (Instead of requiring irrigation from energy-craving pumps.)



Carbon budget

Aim to migrate your purchase or product offering. Think about it today.


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