Caitriona Cooke took some time out of her schedule to extol the benefits of better building design during an era riddled with more extreme weather patterns and to inform us of a great conference, Building Energy 2014, happening right around the corner in Boston.
Will you allow me a brief rant, if I share uplifting tales below? Here’s our problem: Mistakes are inevitable . . . but we have no excuses for repeated muck-ups.
As complex systems within an even more complex system—the environment—building designs are prone to lots of mistakes. I find it hard to understand why so many professionals make the same mistakes repeatedly. Why this resistance to change? We have the information to avoid many of the mistakes that have proven so costly to our fellow citizens and the environment.
Resiliency “doesn’t just happen.”
A case in point: all the talk about reconstruction after superstorm Sandy. Rebuilding, in spite of evidence that both the frequency and intensity of storms is increasing— should at least make us consider whether it might be better to keep certain areas undeveloped. If we must rebuild, can’t we at least learn from our mistakes?
Posted in Guest Contributors, Uncategorized
Tagged best practices, Building Energy Codes, conference, Energy Efficiency, High Performance Buildings, NESEA, Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, rebuilding, resilience, resiliency, sea level rise, The New York Times
NEEP’s Regional Energy Efficiency Database now includes program year 2012 data from nine jurisdictions in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions!
300,000? That’s a lot of homes…
The 2012 data reveals the continued strong performance of energy efficiency programs, with two REED states, Massachusetts and Vermont, achieving net annual electric energy savings exceeding 2% of retail electric sales. While 2% may not seem that impressive at first blush, this level of savings has a significant impact on energy demand, helping to offset load growth. Surpassing the 2% mark also represents a significant achievement for energy efficiency programs compared to the level of savings in years past. In total, the nine REED jurisdictions saved over 3,240 GWh through their 2012 energy efficiency programs, equivalent to powering nearly 300,000 homes for one year.
Thanks to Jim Merriam, and his team at Efficiency Vermont, for contributing this great piece comparing ROIs of some common investments with energy efficiency investments.
Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont
When the Efficiency Vermont team works with our customers in businesses and homes, we acknowledge that the choice to use energy more wisely is often an investment. Sometimes it is as small as installing a 99 cent CFL bulb. Other projects are more expensive and complex, such as installing a variable frequency drive on a large motor, or working with a contractor to air seal and insulate an entire home. Understandably, the decision to move forward on those types of projects is not always an easy one.
Lately we’ve been thinking about other types of investments that people typically make, and how energy efficiency stacks up in comparison. Below, we consider the classic stock market investment – and, as it turns out, efficiency is the winner. Stay tuned for future posts where we see how efficiency investments play out for other home efficiency projects, and for businesses – with numbers that are even more impressive.
As NEEP bids farewell to the incandescent light bulb, and congratulates ten cities in the United States for their embrace of efficient lighting, Congress has, unfortunately, yielded to obstinate consumers. Congress’ recent budget deal denies the U.S. Department of Energy funding to enforce new efficient lighting standards for lamps, which have disqualified the traditional incandescent light bulb. Thankfully, the new efficiency standard for light bulbs established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) will go into effect, even though DOE is restricted in its enforcement of that standard. This is disappointing given that energy and cost savings are lost due to stubborn consumers and their outdated preferences for incandescent bulbs.
I share my colleague’s belief in the winning recipe of ‘Innovation and Regulation’ to reduce energy consumption, fuel cost, and environmental degradation. By ignoring the advances made nationally and regionally, this attempted halt of EISA would only harm the United States economy. American manufacturers have moved on, and have already innovated and adapted to the new standards. However, with DOE unable to enforce this standard, Congress’ actions would leave less-stringent foreign manufacturers to flaunt the law. In fact, since California adopted EISA’s standards a year before it went into effect nationally, manufacturers have been prepared ever since. In a recent study by ASAP, efficiency standards are found to have no drawback on performance, features, or price (including electricity bill savings). Congress’ misguided efforts can only hinder that innovation and development, especially when the Northeast is a leader in energy efficiency.
Dave McMahon, Co-Executive Director of Dismas House
Energy costs can be an enormous burden to social service providers who typically operate on a shoe-string, and often in older, in-efficient facilities. Finding ways to save energy is crucial to stretching our budgets and increasing comfort for residents— while also reducing environmental impact of our buildings.
The Worcester Green Low Income Housing Coalition (WGLIHC ) has been creating substantial reductions in energy costs for participating agencies in Central Massachusetts through energy audits and partnerships with state energy efficiency programs to insulate, install new heating equipment, utilize capital funds, and take advantage of state solar credits. These savings, tracked by Wegowise software, are creating opportunities to reinvest into the housing infrastructure and strengthen the standing of agencies after four years of poor revenue growth in the state.
Unless Massachusetts communities push to update the state’s Stretch Code before July 1, 2014, the 20% boost in building energy efficiency it provides will evaporate, creating market confusion and violate the very concept behind its inception.
What is the Massachusetts Stretch Code?
If the title and picture seem completely bizarre to you, I’d highly recommend watching Dr. Strangelove after you finish reading this post. It’s a classic.
Written in 2009, the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code (Appendix AA) is a voluntary supplement to the energy code designed to help cities and towns claim incentives offered by the Green Communities Act. The Stretch Code is approximately 20 percent more energy efficient than the state’s current base code, the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (2009 IECC), yielding annual energy savings of over $500 per home. [MORE]
A big priority to emerge from NEEP’s Business and Consumer Electronics Strategy is capturing the significant energy efficiency gains from “smarter” energy use in the home. New all-in-one home energy management software is becoming increasingly available to those willing to change their energy consuming behaviors.
So how do we change deeply entrenched behavioral patterns to align with more energy efficient usage? One way that’s been working for energy efficiency thus far is to offer enticing incentives.
When you think back to your days spent in school what do you remember?
Was it a favorite teacher? The countless trips to the vending machine between classes? A visceral rush of excitement after your crush unexpectedly sat next to you in biology? I recently asked a colleague to recount her high school experience and received a surprising answer in return.
“My school was like a prison!”
Not because it was strict but because the architect who designed it also happened to design prisons.
Schools and prisons, go figure…
The school was dark with little natural light, had the ventilation of a prehistoric cave, the ceiling tiles were covered with stains and often had overlooked, unusual growths – the list went on. If a student compares school to prison, that comparison should reflect the student’s displeasure for getting out of a cozy bed rather than the design of the school itself.
It’s always interesting to witness a convergence of events that serve to highlight and illustrate an issue raised in the course of public debate.
Such a convergence has occurred in recent weeks, in this case involving energy efficiency standards set by the states and the federal government, which date to the days when Ronald Reagan was governor of California and public consciousness began turning to the idea that energy was a vital commodity that needed to be regulated via public policy.
On December 31, with most of us ensconced in a holiday glow against the biting cold, the Associated Press ran a story nationally that cited the energy use consumption analysis compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that the average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has fallen to their lowest levels in more than a decade – this despite the fact that the proliferation of consumer electronics grew exponentially over that same time span. In fact, electricity consumption fell in 2012 for the second year in a row, as the graphic below depicts:
Source: U.S. EIA, December 20, 2013
The Solid-State Lighting (SSL) industry is poised to take a leap forward in energy efficiency and performance as Northeast Energy Efficiency (NEEP) updated the DesignLights Consortium®’s (DLC) SSL Qualified Products List (QPL) at the turn of the year.
Thanks to the 2013 specification revision to the DLC QPL, lighting manufacturers, energy efficiency program administrators, and others in the SSL industry can continue to promote energy efficient lighting technology with the latest most innovative and high-performing products. The newest version of the list had been phased in over the last few months, having allowed products that met the previous requirements to remain on the list until January 1, 2014. At that time, products which did not meet the new requirements were removed from the active QPL and placed on the “Products No Longer Qualified” list.