Throughout the fossil fuel age the relative cheapness of the fuels has led to a relative disregard for waste. Energy efficiency has mainly been concentrated in the operating efficiency of engines and boilers, with perhaps some attention to immediate heat or power losses within the system, but little regard for the efficiency of the building or vehicle served by the system
Traditional building construction has been concerned with structural and functional performance rather than energy efficient performance. Heating and power systems were designed to make good heat and power losses, rather than the energy demand being considered paramount.
That is changed once the cost or availability of fuel to provide the energy becomes critical, as it is today when an increasing number of households are falling into fuel poverty, and they have to chose between heating and eating. Also with vehicles the fuel cost is now a major consideration, impacting not only on the cost of travel, but the cost of transported goods.
In this respect the UK has some of the most energy inefficient buildings in the world and fuel poverty may affect more than half of all households within the next few years.
Similarly with energy efficient transport, where weight has a significant impact on power requirement, vehicles are made of cheap heavy steel to keep the manufacturing cost down, and whilst good aerodynamics may help at high speed, the weight still has to be moved.
The conservation of energy can therefore make a major impact on energy demand, which was recognized in Europe by the PassivHaus concept, with buildings designed to limit energy demand through conservation and recycling
The NASA Space Station on Earth achieves almost total autonomy of imported energy for heat light and power and water, bringing the technologies of space travel to earth.
As with Space Stations the essential requisites of super conservation are high thermal insulation, air tight sealing against ventilation heat losses and draughts, permanent ventilation with heat recovery, which when coupled with ambient heat and power production and storage systems free a building of the need to import any energy at all.
Clothing also has its part to play in energy conservation, and used to be essential in days of yore, when living in draughty cottages or castles with only an open fire for comfort, padded clothing was the order of the day – and people used to be sewn into woollen undergarments for the duration of every winter.
The modern technologies for heat recovery and heat pumps – developed initially for refrigeration and air conditioning – are now both well proven and being made ever more economical through advances in design and production, and can themselves almost eliminate the need for imported energy.