Measuring Sustainability in Gallons of Gasoline
Corporations and individuals face a challenge when they have to decide on the best solutions to improve their sustainability: how to measure with precision their impact on the environment.
In order to help solve this problem, Zik Energy Points has developed a qualification system based on the amount of energy consumed over the ful lifespan of a process or object.
The unit of measurement is the amount of energy embodied in one gallon of gasoline, which the company calls Energy Point. It works like diet points applied to the concept of sustainability. Power generation, buildings, manufacturing processes, water, waste or anything that consumes energy can be measured using Energy Points. The company says the method is easy to understand because “people understand the cost and characteristics of gasoline intuitively.”
Water is quantified as energy by incorporating all of the energy needed to extract the water, including the infrastructure, while factoring in the embodied energy of the infrastructure and the geographical scarcity of water. For instance, water production, distribution and treatment use less energy in Minnesota than New Mexico, even though water costs less in New Mexico. Similarly, a solar energy panel is more efficient in Arizona than Seattle because it receives larger amounts of sunlight. Electricity generated in California is more efficient because of the heavier mix of renewable resources compared to Kentucky where coal is used.
The method also enables comparisons between different alternatives from a sustainability standpoint. It allows users to compare solar and wind, hybrid versus plug-in vehicles, different locations, depending on the needs of the project.
The system was developed by Ory Zik, founder of the Energy Points Project. Zik holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He was one of the founders of the Israeli chapter of Greenpeace. He is also the founder of several companies including QuantomiX Inc. based on his inventions in the field of microscopy. In 2007 founded HelioFocus, which develops solar thermal augmentation solutions for conventional power plants, serving as its CEO until 2010, when he left the company to start Zik Energy Points.
The system uses patent pending algorithms and geospatial and geotemporal databases to convert different domains (such as electricity and water) and diverse units of measure (such as kWh, therms and cubic meters of water) into a quantitative report analogous to a balance sheet.
The company says its EP Balance Sheet provides a “more intuitive depiction of how resources with various conventional units of measure contribute to the overall sustainability of a building/region/enterprise as a whole.”
Image credit: Energy Points