Why differentiate between energy and energy use?

Summary: Distinguishing between the word energy and the term energy use allows the mind to appreciate that something which is a resource and something which is an action are better referred to using different terms rather than using the same term for both.

When becoming newly acquainted with Energy-use Strategy Advisors, people commonly ask two questions. They ask why we use the term ‘energy use’ rather than the single word ‘energy’. And they ask what we mean by strategy. Allow me to address only the first of those questions here. You will find my explanation of the strategy idea elsewhere on this website.

The Word Energy
Energy in the business world is a resource. And a commodity resource at that. It can be stored, bought, and sold. Energy is a resource that allows work to be done. This attribute of providing the potential to do work is also how physicists define energy. Confusingly they also tell us that everything – you, me, an atom, and a far distant star – are all made up entirely of energy. That’s not the definition we are talking about here. The word energy has other meanings, too. People are described as being full of energy, or of not having any energy after a long day at work. Those with a certain view about things spiritual, not physical, also use the term energy to describe some particular phenomenon as they understand them. They refer to healing energy and to energy work, a phrase which physicists must find as confusing as many of us find theirs.

The Term Energy Use
Energy use is a much less complex term. This is one of the reasons we like it so much. It does not mean many vastly different things to different people. It means the action of getting the work done that a business buys all that energy to do. It covers all those activities that occur between energy being a resource, and the work it does leading to some outcome. There is a simple way of looking at this – your business might burn natural gas to release heat that makes your office building habitable in the winter. That is energy use. But there are concentric circles of complexity that can be added to that view, developing into full energy-use ecosystem.

What Is the Value In Differentiating Them
Choosing to use the term ‘energy use’ makes our life a lot simpler. It avoids confusion. We hope it will make your life simpler, too. And in that simplicity, it will be easier to get on with the job at hand, which is to ensure that your organization’s use of energy creates the most possible value for its entire panoply of stakeholders.

Examples of Parallel Cases of Differentiating a Resource and an Action
Business world use of the term ‘energy use’ as a clear and distinct differentiator of an action and a resource is not all that common. In economics and statistics, however, the term is found frequently. And the distinction is not questioned. The term ‘land use’ is even more common in economics and statistics, although again not by the business community with the exception of the agriculture sector. Water and water use are also well understood to be different things.

A Google search will show you ‘land use’ is five times more common a term than ‘energy use’. Perhaps that will change.