Peak Energy

photo of runners on a multi lane road running in the same direction - prompt for a flash fiction story on peak energy
Photo by Martins Zemlickis

In the handful of years leading up to the milestone scientists had long warned of, the government introduced restrictions, with office buildings and monuments that once shone brightly through the night being the first to face the cut; a quick win with a drop in power consumption and anecdotal evidence suggesting an increase in wishful thinking, with more stars visible in the night sky than most people had witnessed in their lifetimes.

There was no turning back once the planet reached peak energy; the next level of restrictions were imposed, banning non-essentials such as electric coffee grinders, microwaves, televisions, tumble dryers, dishwashers, and mechanised gym equipment.

In mobile solidarity, gym junkies took over streets that cars once ruled, the nostalgic among them still plugged in, arms adorned with gadgets they no longer needed to tell them their hearts were beating.


Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales Week Twenty One. This became a light take on a very real issue we are facing (peak oil/gas/energy). Depending on what you read, it is either not real; we’re already there; or, we’ll arrive in under 5 years.

Further reading, if you are interested in the topic is the Circulate article The Implications of Peak Energy that explains the issues in accessible terms, with inclusion of graphs that convey the message in a powerful way.

51 thoughts on “Peak Energy

    1. Well, yes and no. A lack in one form. The article I linked to talks about the energy returned on energy invested ratio- basically how much energy you get from the source : amount of energy you need to expend to get that energy source. The stuff we are running out of gives you more bang for your buck relative to more sustainable forms, i.e. more energy or calorific value compared to the energy intensity of the process to provide it….so whichever way you look at it, we need to use less.

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  1. Scientists have warned us that the world’s oil reserves will run out in 30 years, only they did that 35 years ago. 😀
    The point is that it is absolutely essential to save energy in all forms because most forms of energy are limited, but let’s not sound the energy peak death knell just yet; global warming will be our ruin much before that! 😀

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    1. Why didn’t we listen Dr H? 2 sides of the one coin- peak oil is related to behaviour, climate change is largely a consequence of that behaviour. With climate change shifting the interconnected challenges of water, food and energy, attempts to counter the challenges will continue to impact each sector, more energy for food production and water treatment, more energy to provide alternatives to oil etc- climate change is definitely in cahoots with peak oil in sounding the death knell. Of course, we could all change our behaviours and consumer choices…

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  2. What a surprising take on the image! The list of non-essentials made me think about the “rustic” ways people grind coffee beans and air-dry laundry, etc. I like how I was left with the idea of gadgets such as “fit bits” becoming relics.

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    1. Thanks Leslie. There is an appeal to those rustic ways aren’t there? Connects you more mindfully to the task at hand. We don’t have a tumble drier but our coffee grinding is a noisy daily ritual.

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    1. Thanks Kerfe. I used to cycle a lot and observed a lot more comraderrie among cyclists compared to runners- maybe we are allies in our joint battle with traffic. Ahhhh I miss riding my bike! Do you run?

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  3. I like this one Mek. I think mainly because the end is something I haven’t figured out yet. Why does one need a FitBit? I ask everyone who has one and they swear it helps them maintain physical fitness. For some reason, I call balderdash lol and wish we could return to a semi-simpler time.

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    1. Thanks Kathy. I have to admit I had those tendencies- probably still would now if I rode my bike. I used to ride with a garmin and a sensor strapped on to measure heart rate when I changed training from rpm focus to working within a particular heart rate range. I found I got results but I must admit- I was a little obsessive about it, uploading data onto a site called strava and monitoring the stats hahaha. I’m with you on simpler though. Simple is good- but why not measure just how good simple is on our heart rate? 🙂 I need the emoji that cries laughing but I am not on my phone at the moment *imagine it*

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  4. Part of the problem of wasted domestic heating fuel is windows in buildings that are larger than needed for light, anyone know why they do this

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    1. I think the reason it is done is the human behaviour of recognising a need (to have light in a building) and then getting carried away with desire/want (aesthetics, a view) without balancing the trade off (poor insulation) because of conflicting desire for profits/saving money (hence cheap building materials, poor quality).

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      1. Yes, I certainly agree with your thoughts and I guess it is important to persuade them to have moderate sized windows. One influence on this is US gov’s RESNIT, Home Energy Rating System (HERS)and index that does not seem to do this. Not sure how they consider windows, I have tried their website and library but no real detail. Can anyone send me a link to a definition please?

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  5. Thank you, yes I understand that aspect covering the purchase considerations of a window in isolation. Where I am short on information is how the US gov’s RESNIT, Home Energy Rating System (HERS)and index deals with window. What parameters does it cover in the winter? I have tried their website and library but no real detail.

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      1. Thank you very much, that would help my research considerably. Bearing in mind the good pragmatic approach taken by US NFRC about windows, I am guessing that the US HERS will also be good. Looking forward to your reply.

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      2. I see what you mean about difficulty getting to the bottom of it! My understanding is that the HERS index is the energy consumption of the home being assessed divided by a reference energy efficient home which is given a rating of 100. The lower the HERS index, the better. I haven’t seen anything stating how windows are factored in, but they would be directly influencing the index with the energy consumption of a home. The best source of info I have found is:

        If you follow that link, within the 2nd paragraph is a link to the standards. Chapters 1 and 3 are particularly helpful in giving insight into what an assessor does. I have also read that you can get the rating for houses that have been assessed – they are available to the public with a search on address.

        The resnet site states “Some of the variables included in an energy rating are:
        All exterior walls (both above and below grade)
        Floors over unconditioned spaces (like garages or cellars)
        Ceilings and roofs
        Attics, foundations and crawlspaces
        Windows and doors, vents and ductwork
        HVAC systems, water heating system, and your thermostat”

        I’m assuming they measure surface area of windows and perhaps thickness of glass etc. Perhaps a closer look at the standard might shed light on factors applied for different building materials. I hope that helps, to at least give you material to look into as I realise I haven’t fully answered your question. When I have time, I’ll look into it further out of personal interest for my home.

        Are you looking to assess your home?

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  6. It certainly is complex but your links have got me a lot closer to where I want to be.

    I do not want to assess a specific home I am actually doing research into the differences between the US and UK approach to home energy rating and in particular how they deal with the windows topic.

    The thermal and air leakage losses are easy and they both deal with them in much the same way. However the question of the amount of winter solar energy absorption that is accountable to the home rating is much more difficult as it is complex thermodynamics with many variables such as thermal mass absorption rate, thermal mass return rate, external shading, internal shading, internal temperature, external temperature and time. US account for internal shading, UK do not. US assume the window area is always 18% of floor area and equally sited on the four compass orientations. UK use actual window sizes, but allow an east or west compass orientations assumption for them all. The big issue is that I have found no evidence that anyone has carried out any thermodynamic modelling to support their assumptions. I really would appreciate it you could share any visibility of links to any evidence please. Not easy to track down.

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