Category Archives: Uncategorized

Only Natural? A Rush to Gas before Right-Sizing, Efficiency Would Cost Region

You can practically hear the hand-wringing. New England is increasingly dependent on natural gas for electricity generation, and in a long cold winter such as we’ve just experienced, heating need puts a squeeze on this energy feedstock, causing wholesale prices to skyrocket.

Figure 1: Electric Pricing Rising with Natural Gas Prices. Source: ISO-New England

Figure 1: Electric Pricing Rising with Natural Gas Prices. Source: ISO-New England

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Energy Efficiency Policy Tracker: May 2014

Spring has brought forth a rush of activity on energy efficiency and energy policy in states in the NEEP region. Below is an overview of a major proceeding in New York, a roundup of state legislative and regulatory activity, and a new report on the cost of energy efficiency programs.

New York Energy the Future of Utilities, Distributed Resources

New York State has opened a major proceeding on the future of energy regulation and the electricity grid, entitled Reforming the Energy Vision, or “REV.” The sweeping April 2014 order and proposal issued by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) will have major implications for the future of energy efficiency, distributed generation, and electric ratemaking in the Empire State and perhaps beyond. PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman said in a statement that New York seeks to “maximize the utilization of resources, and reduce the need for new infrastructure through expanded demand management, energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation, and energy storage programs.”  At its core is an attempt to promote more customer-sided resources, including energy efficiency and distributed generation in order to reduce the costs of meeting New York’s peak electricity demand and the state’s carbon emissions.

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Critical Energy Decisions Ahead and the Role of Efficiency

Birud Jhaveri, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Policy & Assurance, Mass. Department of Energy

Birud Jhaveri, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Policy & Assurance, Mass. Department of Energy

This past winter, in my position at DOER, I watched wholesale gas and electricity prices spike to alarming levels. Demand was immense, and we at DOER worked closely with generators to ensure they had enough fuel to keep the lights on. New England faces a real challenge in meeting the continuing growth in peak electricity demand, reducing financial impacts, solving reliability problems and meeting environmental mandates.  The situation is exacerbated as more and more of the Commonwealth’s electric generation comes from natural gas, even while we face increasingly constrained gas supplies in winter.

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A High Octane Event for a Low-Carbon Future

It happens to the best of us..

It happens to the best of us..

We’ve all attended events that brandish flashy titles and pithy tag-lines that turn out to be a few experts taking turns projecting their esoteric insights and aptitudes onto an audience that, in large part, are not in the right frame of mind to effectively accept and/or digest that information.

It’s not that what’s being said isn’t important or intelligent; it’s just that there seems to be an element missing from the delivery of the information which is absolutely crucial when connecting to the audience more often than every tenth word.

Certain amounts of novelty, variability, and excitement are necessary ingredients in order to translate inspired words into inspired listening.

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LED Lighting.. for Zoos!

Thanks to E Source for contributing some of their insights on commercial LED applications. Take it away Beth!

As LED lighting becomes more popular, a wide range of larger commercial industries can benefit from the significant energy savings potential from this promising technology. Energy research firm E Source works with utilities to help them evaluate a variety of programs including how best to serve these large commercial customers with LED lighting programs. Recently, we received this question from a member:

Q: Could you recommend types of pathway lights and ground lighting that would be best for a zoo in terms of energy efficiency and lighting?

"Do Not Disturb.."

“Do Not Disturb..”

In terms of energy efficiency and light quality for pathway lights and other ground lighting at a zoo, there are several important issues to consider like time-sensitive controls and color temperature related to animal sleep patterns. Overall, LEDs seem to be a popular option for energy-efficient lighting retrofits in zoos because of their long life, effectiveness in cutting costs over that life-time,  and vastly improved quality of light for visitors and the animals.

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What is the Return on Investment of Energy Efficiency?

Efficiency Vermont has added another piece to their ‘Energy Efficiency as an Investment’ repertoire. This infographic clarifies one of the most apparent benefits of energy efficiency, the ROI tends to be high!

As we’ve noted before, energy efficiency is a solid investment. New lighting, equipment, and processes all have upfront costs that are paid off over time through reduced energy bills. So, what kind of return do large businesses in Vermont see for their investment in energy efficiency? The graphic below shows a healthy return of 167% - even after taking their contributions to the energy efficiency charge into account. 

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Energy Efficiency Has Never Looked Smarter!

It’s 4:15 A.M. It’s dark and well below freezing in Boston as I sleepily make my way to Logan for a 7am flight.  I board the plane, lift-off, and in a few short hours I land in the overcast, gem of a city that is Austin, Texas.  As I exit the terminal, a smile takes over my face as the warm Texas air is such a welcome relief from the bitter cold of the Northeast.  I board the bus from the airport ($1.50 to drop me off 2 blocks from my hotel—what a steal!), and I can’t help but get excited about the days to come at the Smart Energy Summit.

Look at all those savings!

Look at all those savings!

You know what we need?  An app to help manage the weather!  Does that exist? No? Well, even if I can’t dial up the heat-waves emitted from the sun, I can manage the temperature of my home, along with all other electricity-consuming devices, remotely. This burgeoning technology referred to as Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) has enormous savings potential that lays wait in a barnacle-covered, sunken chest, just waiting to be pulled to the surface!

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Building Energy for Resiliency

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.

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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.”

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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?

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Infographic: Energy Efficiency as an Investment

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

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.

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NE-CHPS Paves the Way Forward for Schools

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.

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