Archive for March, 2007

Help at home

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Wouldn’t you love general advice to “insulate more” to be replaced by very specific recommendations from someone who has visited your home/business? Cambridge, MA is creating a program to do just that:

University, commercial, and even residential buildings will receive energy audits over the next five years to pinpoint energy inefficiencies. Property owners will then be offered low- or zero-interest loans to undertake remediation efforts ranging from replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents to installing insulated roofs and more efficient heating and cooling systems…The Cambridge organizers said the first phase of their efforts will take five to seven years and will target about half of the 23,000 buildings in the city. The goal in that period is to reduce overall electricity use by 10 percent, and during peak hours — roughly 4 to 7 p.m. daily — by 14 percent, to 300 megawatts from 350 megawatts. The average household in Cambridge uses about 4,500 kilowatt/hours of electricity a year, costing about $800, according to city officials.

Financial help will be provided:

For example, proponents said a typical homeowner who gets a $1,100 loan to add insulation and buy a more efficient air-conditioner could reduce annual energy bills by around $250, meaning the payoff period can be four to five years.

Initially, property owners will be allowed to pocket about one-third of the energy savings from these measures, the consultants said, using the balance to repay their loans. Once the loans are fully repaid, the property owner would reap all future savings.

Biggest changes will occur outside the home:

In Cambridge, officials expect the greatest and quickest savings will come from working with universities and large commercial and industrial properties, which collectively account for 69 percent of the city’s energy consumption. Ultimately, proponents hope that all residential property owners will agree to undertake the recommended improvements.

Talk to your local legislators.

Houses are cosier with insulation.
Insulated houses are cosier.

Climate Policy Blog

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Society faces complex choices in dealing with climate change. The policies we adopt have the greatest chance to benefit society if they are grounded in the best available knowledge. Unfortunately, gaps in understanding among scientists, policy makers, journalists and the public permeate nearly all aspects of the issue and constitute a major barrier to the adoption of well-informed responses to the threats posed by climate change.

So begins a new blog, ClimatePolicy. Add this to your list.

Sorry about the infrequent posts. I hope to get some posts up on the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting — every single time slot had at least one session on climate change or/and energy policy.

Coal Rush

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

From the Washington Post,

the Energy Department says as many as 150 new coal-fired plants could be built by 2030

just in the US.

“A lot of congressmen ask me, ‘Dave, why are you building that coal plant?’ ” says MidAmerican’s (chief executive David) Sokol. “And I say, ‘What are my options?’ ”

Sokol says he wants to help customers improve efficiency by 10 percent. His holding company, which is more than 80 percent owned by Berkshire Hathaway, includes the utility PacifiCorp in the Northwest and Rocky Mountains as well as MidAmerican; together they generate 16.7 percent of their power from renewable resources. The Iowa subsidiary alone gets 10 percent from renewables. Between 2000 and 2005, the company cut the amount of carbon emitted for every unit of energy generated by 9 percent.

But half of that reduction in the rate of emissions was offset by higher overall output. Electricity demand in Iowa is growing at a rate of 1.25 percent a year, and Sokol says that until new technologies become commercial or nuclear power becomes more accepted, coal is the way to meet that demand.

Movement grows to get us out of our cars

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Concerns about obesity (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota), higher gasoline prices and climate change have led to money grants and

(c)ommunity workshops on strategies for making it safer and more inviting to walk or bike

according to today’s Star-Tribune.

Lots of practical details are being addressed.

Bus with Bike Rack
Bus with Bike Rack makes bicycling more attractive for longer trips or when rain threatens.