Saving our Future by Changing the Way We Think About Energy

Drew Sloan

Drew Sloan is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.

It is a true and humbling honor to be named a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy & Climate Security Champion of Change, because the way the world engages with its energy sources in the years to come will define the life of each and every one of this planet’s inhabitants.

My experiences as an Army officer offered a clear view of the interconnections between energy – be it possession, pursuit, or production – and conflict. That view was not shaped by my time in Iraq, where some have argued American involvement was based largely on attempting to secure and safeguard energy resources. Instead, my views were shaped by the physical darkness in Afghanistan – the kind of pitch-black darkness found only in a night sky with no TVs or blinking alarm clocks to distract. In Afghanistan I lived in a region with no lights to let students study at night and no reliable power to keep shops open past sunset. It was a land locked in conflict, without energy, but filled with people deeply desiring a better life.

There is no doubt that energy access makes our lives better. It allows businesses to stay open past dark and children to study after dinner. Energy powers the modern world and modern life. People aspire to the opportunities energy provides, and rightly so – it is perhaps the greatest of all enablers and everyone deserves access.

As such, our challenge is not to restrict access to energy, but to enable it in a responsible manner. In the developing world this means focusing on sourcing energy in the cleanest ways possible, because the pursuit and production of energy is not without costs. CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have already caused extensive damage to the world’s ecosystems. This damage is the direct result of 75 percent of the world’s population obtaining energy from fossil fuels. These negative effects on our climate will only escalate if the remaining 25 percent currently living without seek access to energy in the same way. This challenge to empower the developing world to source its burgeoning energy needs through clean sources is crucially important.

Although the developing world is important, developed nations must lead the way. It is no secret that those of us in the developed world use a lot of energy – and we also waste much of that energy. This lifestyle must change. To enable that change, my software company Opower works with utilities to give customers better insight into their energy usage – insight that leads to smarter, more productive energy decisions without sacrificing quality of life. Currently communicated to more than eighteen million homes worldwide, Opower’s efforts encouraging people to make better, more efficient energy choices has saved over three terawatt hours (TWh) of energy – roughly the equivalent of the combined power needs of both Salt Lake City and St. Louis for a year – all through the empowerment of the collective to make wiser energy choices.

The parts we all play in managing our energy use in the years to come will determine the future we will share together. It is a simple truth, but a powerful challenge.

Drew Sloan is a former U.S. Army officer and currently works as a Sales Executive for the energy efficiency software company Opower and is also a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project.

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