Classically, energy efficiency refers to the use of less energy to produce the same result or product as would result from traditional manufacturing methods. Energy efficiency is heavily advertised in situations such as electrical systems in homes and businesses, heating and cooling in both residential and commercial settings, and energy-efficient appliances and machinery. In fact, most appliances you buy from the store will include informative signage displaying the numbers of efficiency so as to encourage more sales. One of the main goals of energy conservation is to produce equipment that reduces energy costs and produces sustainable energy. With more of a manufacturing focus, facilities have been modified to use clean energy rather than machines that produce excessive emissions to assemble goods.
A similar term to “energy efficiency” is “energy conservation.” Energy efficiency involves the physical part of using energy, whereas energy conservation refers to the act of reducing energy use. One example to explain the differences between these concepts is lighting: you can display energy efficiency by using energy-efficient products like LED lights throughout your home and the average cost to keep the lights on 24/7 in your home for one year will be roughly the same cost as keeping the light on in your refrigerator for about a month. However, you can display energy conservation by keeping your lights turned off when you’re not using them. The same concept can also be illustrated using other mechanical devices, like your heating and air conditioning.
Going hand in hand with the concepts of energy efficiency and energy conservation is the principle of renewable energy. Renewable energy refers to the energy that is collected from natural resources which renew in a relatively short span of time. There are several sources of renewable energy, including solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy, and bioenergy (www.un.org). The goal of more manufacturing and material handling facilities is to be able to use these renewable sources of energy to power their production in the future so as to lessen production and handling costs as well as preserve the environment. Renewable energy sources do not produce the greenhouse gas emissions that fossil fuel-powered facilities have pumped into the atmosphere for decades, so adapting our manufacturing and material handling procedures to fit a more energy-efficient model will ensure a more sustainable industry overall.