An engineering perspective on resource consumption and energy and water use in the Channel Islands

June 14th, 2011 by Peter Cadiou

Whether you are converted to the persuasion that Climate Change is upon us or not, the profligate consumption of finite natural resources is unacceptable on any level and should not be considered normal in any well educated society.

From an engineering, and from a practical, point-of-view it is rational to conserve natural resources and our consequential impact on the environment at both a local and a global level.

“Tackling climate change is the most important challenge facing mankind in the 21st Century and can not be ignored. This appraisal clearly highlights the urgency with which we need to act.”

Senator Freddie Cohen – Jersey Minister for Planning & Environment April 2009 – Turning Point.

Often, the only time we question our use of energy or water, is when there is a tariff increase, or a water shortage.

By understanding how and where we use energy, we are better placed to act on its reduction and lessen our dependence on it. Knowledge in this case is truly powerful to determine how we can move from a false Utopia to a practical and sustainable reality. All too often, if the energy and water bills are the same as last year it is accepted without question.

The principles of actions are the same for the most complex types of business to the simplest of domestic dwellings – never just accept, always question and strive to improve.

The British Irish Council (BIC) research into the impacts of climate change at a local level provides an insight into how the effects of Global Warming and a Changing Climate could impact Islands, such as ours.

(click table to expand)

The potential impacts, which are predicted to occur this century, will be quite significant in an Island context.

We are all empowered at some level to make changes and knowledge is available to us whether at a domestic or commercial level to help assist us in the process. In many cases straight forward logic applies.

Jersey and Guernsey Governments exhibit a degree of willingness to change. Both have prepared an energy policy to help address issues in connection with our heavy dependence on imported fuel and electrical energy.

Government in both Islands have recognised the need to change but all too often is impeded from making the necessary steps to effect change through both encouragement (the carrot) and regulation (the stick).

These are never vote winning propositions, but if we are committed to change we need to recognise that some tough discussions are needed and regulation together with improved awareness is required.

Visionary and confident leadership is needed to lead us towards a level of reduction in our demands on both local and imported resources.

A good example (one of a number) is the lack of bringing forward a real Energy Policy, which has a mandate for change in both Jurisdictions.

Jersey for example has had a ‘draft’ Energy Policy since 2007.  We are told this will be issued for further consultation this year.

Guernsey by contrast, have an Energy Policy which has been ‘noted’ by the Government, but appears to carry very little weight in terms of strategic planning and or policy development.

Without such forward thinking and objective setting, built around an Island context, producing any strategic policy, is hopelessly devoid of direction, “at sea without a compass”.

A lot of work has been done by the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust, in the UK to help develop both a practical change, but also a behavioural change in what we do both at a Business and Domestic level, much of this is common sense and is transferable between home and work.

Energy Use

Energy benchmarks (click graph to expand)

Local initiatives in Jersey such as the Eco Active awareness programme is starting to become a useful resource for the community in raising awareness and action plans for change.

Providing information through real time energy displays is a very useful tool when trying to control and manage energy and water use.

Water Consumption

One area of particular concern is our use of treated water, which is a key finite resource in an Island context. Jersey Water is in the process of rolling out an Island wide meter installation programme. This will particularly impact domestic consumers in terms of making them more aware of their water use than previously.

In a family of three the average person uses approximately 150 litres of treated water per day.

Only 3 percent of the treated water used per day is consumed (click image to expand)

At all levels across businesses we need to take stock of our position and develop a strategy to move forward. It makes clear and common sense from both a practical and fiscal perspective to change our behaviour and energy use.

Conserving energy saves money and reduces emissions at whatever level.


Author Peter Cadiou M.Sc, IENG, MIIE, MASHRAE is the Managing Consultant of Jersey Energy, a Pan Channel Island Energy and Environmental Consultancy Practice.

He is also a member of the Jersey Environmental Forum, Sustainable Business Forum and Building & Development Sub-Committee with the Jersey Chamber of Commerce.


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