A (Somewhat) Relative Theory of Energy Efficiency

Question: What’s a Higgs boson?

A) Something you’d never, ever say in front of your mother.

B) The haircut style popularized by Justin Bieber.

C) An elementary particle long predicted by theoretical physicists that gives mass to other elementary particles and, thus, creates matter…or something like that.

D) The heart of energy efficiency.

E) It’s probably not the right answer, but I wish B) was true.

It is, of course, a trick answer with both C) and D) being correct. You see, the Higgs boson creates “matter” and energy efficiency “matters”, so logic would lead one to believe that the Higgs boson and energy efficiency are the same thing…or something like that. Okay, okay…granted, a good chunk of the physics I did in my higher education days was theoretical…

Physics 101 Classmate: Shouldn’t we be going to our lecture now?

Future Manager of Energy & Environment: Yes…in theory.

…but bear with me for a bit more theory on…

Why Energy Efficiency Matters, Especially in These (literally) Stinkin’ Hot Days of Summer

You see, There’s this group called the IESO who is responsible for monitoring how much electricity Ontario needs (“demand” in technical speak), and making sure there is enough supply. When it looks like demand may start being greater than supply, the IESO calls up generators who can quickly start making electricity.

IESO #1: Man, sure is stinkin’ hot.

IESO #2: Sure is. Oh look, UHN is turning on its air conditioners…we’re going to need some more electricity.

IESO #1: Time to call up a generator who can quickly make electricity!

Now there’s a couple of things about generators who are able to switch on and off quickly.

First, the way Ontario’s electricity market works is that the last generator to start supplying electricity to the market gets to set the price for everyone…and usually generators who are able to turn on and off quickly are more expensive. So you could have good ol’ Niagara Falls happily generating away at, say, three cents per kilowatt hour (whatever a kilowatt hour may be), but as soon as you call Bob’s Diesel and Leaf Pile Is Us Generating Co., and Bob decides that he’s going to charge, say, 10 cents per kilowatt hour…well then the price for all electricity generated in Ontario will be 10 cents per kilowatt hour. It’s kinda like standing in line with your $10 bottle of plonk only to be charged $649 because someone in line behind you has picked-out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin La Grande Dame Brut Champagne (1995).

Second, usually, the generators that can turn on the fastest are burning something to make electricity. And burning something usually emits something we don’t want into the air. And air…well, we’re kinda addicted to that.

So there you have it…a theoretical approach to the Higgs boson…and why energy efficiency matters.

Stay cool,