Energy efficiency policy work doesn’t always make for great conversation at dinner parties. Energy efficiency represents energy and money not wasted, so it’s less tangible than new solar panels or a natural gas well. And much of NEEP’s work is behind the scenes, spread across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in regulatory proceedings that can be hard to follow, on topics that may not, on the surface, sound very interesting. The energy efficiency policies we follow certainly haven’t captured media attention the way that the future of the Keystone XL pipeline has. But an article in last week’s New York Times by Coral Davenport helps show just how important these proceedings on energy efficiency (and other aspects of energy and environmental policy) are to the future of our energy landscape and the Earth’s climate.
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.
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..”
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.
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.
The State of our Schools
April 8, 2014 is National Healthy Schools Day. Coordinated by the Healthy Schools Network, National Healthy Schools Day is meant to raise awareness of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) issues affecting our schools’ faculty, staff, and students.
Each weekday, 55 million children and 2 million adults—roughly 20% of the entire U.S. population—spend their day inside a school. Yet, many of our school buildings still contain harmful environmental health hazards such as asbestos, lead paint, mold, heavy metals, pesticides, and other volatile organic chemicals. This need not be the case.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.