World Energy Day

by the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron

Oct. 22 has been declared World Energy Day, which demonstrates the importance of society’s choices regarding energy policies, energy production, energy use and the environment. Leaders from more than 120 countries will meet in Barcelona, Spain, this year to participate in the World Energy Forum, which is a gathering of nations with natural energy resources, energy technology and financial capital, as well as major energy consuming nations, with the common purpose of providing energy for all.

The World Energy Forum 2014 website states that “energy is so fundamental to our civilization and human flourishing because of its impact on economic and social advancement as well as its impact on the natural environment. Universal energy access and human well-being indeed sum up the aspirations of all nations and peoples and call for action of the highest political authority across the globe. Therefore, World Energy Forum 2014 will inaugurate the World Energy Consortium to lead ‘The Decade of Energy for All.’”

But what is energy?

Energy causes things to happen. During the day, the sun provides light and heat energy. At night, street lamps use electrical energy to light streets. When a car drives down the road, it uses gasoline – a type of “stored energy.” Simply put, energy is the ability to do work.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be harnessed, transformed and stored. It comes in different forms: heat, light, mechanical, electrical, chemical and nuclear energy. It can be used, moved and stored by our electrical networks.

These energy sources are divided into two groups: renewable and nonrenewable energy. Renewable energy is an energy source that we can use over and over again. Sources include solar energy, wind, geothermal energy from inside the earth, biomass from plants and hydropower.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “renewable energy technologies produce sustainable, clean energy from sources such as the sun, the wind, plants and water. According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2007, renewable sources of energy accounted for about 7 percent of total energy consumption and 9.4 percent of total electricity generation in the United States. Renewable energy technologies have the potential to strengthen our nation’s energy security, improve environmental quality and contribute to a strong energy economy.”

Conversely, nonrenewable energy cannot be recreated in a short period of time. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Currently, we get most of our energy from nonrenewable energy sources called fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal. Fossil fuels were formed over millions and millions of years by heat and pressure from the remains of dead plants and animals.

All of these sources provide us the energy we need to live our busy lives. We use all these energy sources to generate the electricity we need for our homes, businesses, schools and factories. Electricity “energizes” our computers, lights, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and far more. Our society depends on electricity and on energy.

That’s why 89 countries signed the World Energy Day 2012 Proclamation, declaring energy as a universal human right, and plan to set up an Energy Consortium to lead the “Decade of Energy for All” with the common purpose of providing energy to everyone, especially those who are energy deprived around the world.

It’s easy to take energy for granted. Conserving our energy is as simple as turning off lights, televisions and appliances when they aren’t being used or carpooling to work. Our leaders are doing their part; we need to do ours.