At long last, our net zero energy home is moving from conception to reality.
Deciding to go for net zero energy was the easy part of building a home. My work at Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) and my husband Tom’s strong interest in sustainable building made it a natural choice. We knew the additional upfront costs of building with more insulation, better windows and high efficiency equipment was a smart investment that we’d recover in lower monthly energy bills, increased comfort, and someday higher resale value.
But making it through all the “usual” hurdles: securing financing, buying land, working with the architect and builder, getting permits and navigating local politics has been more intense than Tom and I could have imagined. That, and the added twist that our house is being featured as the Boston Magazine Design Home of 2014.
Energy Efficiency has an impediment when it comes to being recognized as a climate solution – it lacks oomph appeal. It doesn’t have Solar energy’s dazzling solar arrays glinting in the brilliant radiance of the sun. Nor does it have Wind energy’s elegantly arching wind mills, so sophisticated and alluring so as to capture the mind of Don Quixote. It doesn’t even have Hydropower’s ferocious tumble and roar of water. Nope, it has none of that. What does it have? It has regulations, excel spreadsheets and technological advances. Energy efficiency is full of abstraction – at best it has cold data.
“Energy efficiency needs to go from a ‘hidden fuel’ to a ‘first fuel’ as it exceeds the output from ANY OTHER fuel source.”
But guess what? Climate change is knocking at our door. Deniers troll the internet, Congress has been reduced to a sideshow of an all-nighter, and the international treaties are a stalled frustration. Meanwhile, in the face of all that nonsense, energy efficiency is getting the job done. The United Nation’s Environmental Program launched a new initiative, ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ (SE4ALL), and will be relying heavily on Energy Efficiency as one of their main pillars for success. Voluntary efficiency programs, such as ENERGY STAR under the Environmental Protection Agency, have saved 1.9 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the past two decades. So, those excel spreadsheets end up looking pretty impressive.
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.
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.
We all know what the outdoors can do to revitalize our health. We feel more connected, nourished, and energized after we venture out of our homes and take a deep, endless breath of fresh air, soak up vitamins from sunlight, or drop in on the crest of an interminable wave. What if I told you that the same raw nourishment from the outdoors can reduce your heating and cooling bill?
Energy efficient technology helps lay the groundwork for a more symbiotic relationship between the natural world and us.
I get it. No really, I do. You’re an environmentalist – well, so am I. You wanted to lessen your carbon footprint just like the rest of us – and I applaud that. So in a desperate attempt to decrease the environmental burden of doing laundry, you decided to hang your clothes out to dry. But this isn’t Little House on the Prairie! This is an urban area and countless people just got a free look at your unmentionables. That guy down the street? Yeah, he saw them. The old lady on your block almost tumbled over when she saw those, “new-fangled undergarments” of yours. Even now, small children are buckling over in peals of laughter at your expense.
There is no need to continue this public shaming. You can keep your laundry and privacy clean without damage to the environment. Let me show you how NEEP and our partners can help. This year, NEEP joined forces with the Super Efficient Dryers Initiative (SEDI), who plans to introduce advanced clothes dryers into the North American market. NEEP and SEDI are especially interested in the prospect of heat pump clothes dryers, which are currently picking up speed in European markets.
Courtney Lane, Senior Analyst, National Grid Rhode Island
At a time when states are still struggling to recover from the recession, investment in energy efficiency is providing a much needed boost. Investment in energy efficiency saves residents and businesses money on their energy bills, spurs investment in the local economy, and creates and maintains jobs.
Rhode Island is experiencing these benefits firsthand. A recent study by the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) Institute shows that National Grid’s 2012 Rhode Island energy efficiency programs led to the creation of 528 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs with an annual economic impact of $27 million in the state.
Hey Rudolf, is that an LED?
It’s official: the holiday season is here. With snow on the ground in much of the Northeast and days still getting darker earlier, NEEP has some tips to help you brighten up your homes while still leaving plenty of room in your budget for the newest gadgets and gifts.
Holiday lighting is a big business! Think about it: around the holidays, millions of Americans plug in new light sources, both inside and out, and leave them on for hours each day. Think of your own home—do you use fewer of your normal lights when your holiday lights are on? Or do you enjoy the holiday ambience alongside of your traditional lighting arrays? Utility customers in this region are accustomed to bills going up in the winter months; while this is mostly thought to be attributed to an increase in heating and maybe holiday cooking, holiday lighting can heat up and burn a hole in your electricity bill.
As 2013 nears its end, important work on energy efficiency policy and programs is still on going. Below are the important proceedings that NEEP is keeping an eye on. And keep an eye out in January for the release of our 2013 Regional Roundup, which will contain our summation of the biggest state policy developments and trends from this past year.
Additionally, we encourage you to attend the Evaluation Measurement and Verification (EM&V) Forum’s Annual Public Meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire next Thursday, December 12. A great opportunity to mingle with decision-makers from our region and participate in discussion about key energy efficiency evaluation topics like cost-effectiveness testing, energy efficiency and air regulations, and net savings! Check out the agenda and register here.