Netzerocitywide2050.1

Austin City Council adopted a resolution on April 10, 2014 to become carbon neutral as soon as feasible, but no later than 2050. This is one of the most ambitious goals ever set by a city in the world and we are going to help with the development of the framework how to get there, and write up sector plan on what energy, waste, transportation and manufacturing sectors have to offer to make this a reality.

We did it! As Council member Chris Riley said during the press conference on April 11th, 2014: “Big thanks to all the environmental community leaders who joined us at City Hall today in support of the Climate Protection Plan! This initiative re-establishes Austin as a world leader on climate change with the goal of zero net emissions by 2050. I’m proud to have sponsored this resolution, and look forward to working with the community to make this vision a reality”.

Austin passed a resolution saying: “The City Council establishes a goal of reaching net zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and prefers to achieve this goal as soon as it is feasible. The City Council also recognizes that emissions reductions accomplished sooner are more important and valuable for our city’s climate protection efforts.

This means that all organizations and all people will have to be part of a community wide effort to get to Zero Greenhouse Gas emissions as soon as we can.

We at Climate Buddies have worked with council to create the political will and the drafting of the resolution, but we could not have done it without the council members that sponsored the resolution Chris Riley, Sheryl Cole and Bill Spelman and the votes of Mike Martinez, Laura Morrison and Kathy Tovo, and the help of the environmental community of the Adaptation International, the Austin EcoNetwork, Environment Texas, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Texas Drougth Project and Stefan Wary. We want to thank Lucia Athens, the Chief Sustainability  Office of the City of Austin and Zach Baumer the Austin Climate Protection Plan manager for their help in being instrumental in getting  the support of all the City stakeholders.

Now it is up to you, us, the community to help make this ambition a reality.

The full text of the resolution can be read here

The wind industry is growing and growing and the wind keeps blowing and blowing. Texas is on a path of tripling the installed capacity in the next few years from a current installed capacity of 12,000 MW to about 30,000 MW. The last quarter of 2014 saw the start of 7,000 MW in new construction projects. All this is the result of the expansion of the transmission lines to West Texas and the Panhandle to connect the wind-rich counties to the people-rich cities of Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. This additional capacity will bring the total wind generation to over 25% of all energy generated in the state. Sounds like the market has decided that wind has a role to play, what do you say?

More details here

V16480MW

Meet the largest wind turbine in the world: The 164-8.0 MW® IEC S is designed from a power plant perspective, helping to drive your profitability to new levels in offshore wind. The ratio between the 164 m rotor and the 8.0 MW generator is designed to suit the harsh conditions in the North Sea area resulting in greater annual energy production. Fewer turbines are needed to produce the required amount of energy – reducing the cost of transportation, foundations, installation, cabling, service and maintenance. With its 25-year structural design life, the V164-8.0 MW® is designed to require as little maintenance as possible, and when servicing is required, it is safe, quick and cost efficient.

And wind is not just booming in Texas. North Dakota just announced new transmission lines that will connect it to hydropower reservoirs in Canada that are underserved at the moment. By pumping upwater uphill with wind power that is low in value at moments where demand is low, up to 4,500 MW can be stored and called upon at a later time when prices and demand are high. This opens up new options for wind generation and will help in providing a dispatchable source of wind energy. This means we can store it and use it when we need it the most.  “With expansion, the Manitoba Hydro system is like a 4,500 MW battery that you can draw on in the day during the day and recharge at night,” says Cormie. “With the new line, the potential is there to purchase up to 1,500 MW at night and return 3,000 MW during the day, so there’s a huge potential to move energy in and out.

More details here

 

And then the wind champion of the world: Denmark.  In December, wind power provided the country of Denmark with about 55% of its electricity. This is the first time that the wind-leading country (or any major country) has received over 50% of its electricity from wind power in an entire month. Of course, wind power provided well over 55% of the country’s electricity during certain periods throughout the month. On December 1, it provided ~136% of the country’s electricity needs. During the week of Christmas, it provided 68.5%. Denmark has a target of receiving 50% of its electricity from wind power on an annual basis by 2020. It looks like the country is well on its way to achieving that. The country also has a 2050 target of getting 100% of its energy from renewable resources.

Go wind!

 

 

carbonnation

Carbon nation is an optimistic, solutions-based, non-preachy, non-partisan, big tent film that shows how tackling climate change boosts the economy, increases national & energy security and promotes health & a clean environment. Plus, you’ll meet a host of entertaining and endearing characters along the way. This film is a documentary movie about climate change solutions. Even if you doubt the severity of the impact of climate change or just don’t buy it at all, this is still a compelling and relevant film that illustrates how solutions to climate change also address other social, economic and national security issues.

Bill Kurtis (Chicago newscaster, television personality, host of Investigative Reports, and environmentalist) narrates this movie. The film builds nicely from the basics about carbon dioxide and the effect it has on climate, to more complex ideas about how to curb carbon dioxide generation. The film works on the level of showing real tangible things we can do to reduce our dependence on carbon based energy. If you believe that we should do something about the amount of carbon we consume and carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, then this is an excellent film. Carbon nation is the polar opposite of An Inconvenient Truth. Where An Inconvenient Truth tended towards facts and figures and super logical argument, Carbon nation takes a much more direct practical approach. This film is about people trying to make a difference and what they’ve done to reduce carbon dioxide.

Guests in the film include such recognizable figures as Amory Lovins (Rocky Mountain Institute), James Woolsey (CIA), Richard Branson (Virgin Air), and Van Jones (Green Collar Economy). It features our own wind turbines here in Texas showing that renewable energy can be a boon for rural communities where they can make friends with the wind. It is also better for rural economics than the bust and boom of oil and gas as these projects provide a steady paycheck for up to 20 years.

You will learn that a lot has to do with how we generate and use energy, and how important our land use practices are, both for livestock and crops. How we use our lands can actually provide us with storage for a lot of carbon. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the air which is currently in overdrive at around 400ppm, needs to get down to 350ppm. This movie shows the many ways that we can do it.

You can watch the trailer here:

You can watch the movie for free here (with some commercial interruptions):  Hulu

Six years ago, President Bush signed a federal energy bill phasing out energy-wasting light bulbs on a staggered schedule to ensure a smooth and successful transition to more efficient bulbs – and eventually save Americans $13 billion on their annual energy bills. All of the major lighting companies, including GE, Philips and Sylvania, support the changes and have upgraded their supply chains to produce the energy-savings bulbs. On January 1, the next chapter begins when the old, inefficient 40- and 60-watt bulbs, which represent over half the market, no longer can be manufactured or imported into the United States. 

Energy efficiency plays a ‘non-sexy’ but very important part in our Victory Scenario. And lighting is important if you know that 30%+ of an office utility bill goes to lighting. Also, if we all replace one incandescent light bulb for a CFL or LED light, we can save the electricity use of 1.3 million households. And I bet you have more than one light in your house. The new standards eventually will save as much electricity as is generated by 30 large coal-burning power plants – and the associated pollution that harms our health and contributes to climate change – every single year.

The energy standards requiring improved efficiency have led to more lighting innovation over the past five years than we saw during the 100-plus years since Edison invented the light bulb!  you can now buy any size and fitting and type with no more flickering, instant light power and more in just about any bulb. See the chart below for what you can use for the replacements that you are going to make before the new year comes around (right?!)

Some  things to know when shopping for a new light bulb:

  • Not all CFLs and LEDs are created equally. To ensure you are getting a good one, only buy those that have the ENERGY STAR® label. These not only save you energy but will also perform well over time.
  • CFLs and LEDs last 10 to 25 times longer, respectively. Even though they might cost more to buy, they will save lots of money over their lifetime as well as prevent the need to replace each of your light bulbs every year.
  • Light bulbs come in different flavors. If you want the light to look just like it did with your old incandescent, buy one that says “warm white.” Those that say “daylight” or “cool white” will have a much whiter, almost bluish white light, which many consumers may not like.
  • If you want a dimmable bulb, buy an LED.

Bottom line, our nation’s switch toward more efficient light bulbs is well under way and the shift from the 40- and 60-watt bulbs should go without a hitch. The manufacturers and retailers have really stepped up to the plate and we now have a great energy-savings bulb on the shelf ready for every socket in your home.

reproduced from the energy collective

 

Some of the largest pension funds in the U.S. and the world are worried that major fossil fuel companies may not be as profitable in the future because of efforts to limit climate change, and they want details on how the firms will manage a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources. In a statement released Thursday, leaders of 70 funds said they’re asking 45 of the world’s top oil, gas, coal and electric power companies to do detailed assessments of how efforts to control climate change could impact their businesses. You can ask yourself, how climate change resilient are your pension investments?

PITTSBURGH (AP) —October 24, 2013

“Institutional investors must think over the long term, which means that we must take environmental risks into consideration when we make investments,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told The Associated Press in a statement. The state’s Common Retirement Fund manages almost $161 billion of investments. Fossil fuels currently provide about 80 percent of all the energy used in the world. The pension funds say that because it takes decades to recoup the huge investments required for fossil fuel exploration, there’s a significant chance that future regulations will limit production or impose expensive pollution-control requirements that would reduce the fuels’ profitability.

Others signers of the letter include the comptrollers or treasurers of California, New York City, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut, as well as The Church of England Pensions Board, the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, the investment firm Rockefeller & Co. and dozens of other funds that control a total of about $3 trillion. Only a fraction of that is with fossil fuel companies, however. The funds sent letters to the fossil fuel companies last month, asking for studies to be finished by spring. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry, was examining the statement and did not immediately comment. Shell Oil Co. declined to comment.

“The underlying question here is the billions of dollars that are being invested” in exploration for fossil fuels every year, and whether that’s a prudent investment, said Jack Ehnes, the head of the California’s State Teachers’ Retirement System, which has about $5.4 billion invested in major fossil fuel companies. Ehnes made clear that his fund is not seeking to punish the fossil fuel companies but rather work with them to study the issue and identify long-term options that will be good for shareholders, the environment and the firms. While the pension funds are concerned about climate change, their strategy is more moderate than a student-led movement that is asking schools around the country to divest from fossil fuels by 350.org (we have a local chapter here in Austin). ”The scientific trajectory that we’re on is clearly in conflict” with the business strategy of the companies, Ehnes added, referring to the overwhelming consensus among top scientists from around the world that global warming is a man-made threat, that pollution from fossil fuels is the biggest problem and that many of the already-discovered fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground to avoid extreme climate change.

ceresThe effort is being coordinated by Boston-based Ceres, a coalition of investors and companies that advocate for sustainable business practices, and the Carbon Tracker initiative, an effort to get companies to better explain to investors the value of their fossil fuel reserves. Carin Dehne-Kiley, the director of Corporate Ratings for Standard & Poor’s in New York, said the issue of how climate change may impact companies is “definitely something that we think about over the long term.” But she added that it’s going to be hard for the companies to estimate and quantify long-term risks, since the timing and intensity of regulations could vary so much in the future, as could the pace of climate change. Nevertheless, the financial clout of the pension funds “definitely” makes it more likely that major fossil fuel companies will listen to the concerns, Dehne-Kiley said. ”We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the seriousness” of some companies who are “not just blowing us off,” said Andrew Logan, a Ceres spokesman, who said 30 companies have sent preliminary responses.

Why is this important? 

- For one, your pension fund is typically where most of your money is, so where to put it defines most of what your money is actually doing in society

- The stock value of fossil fuel companies is mostly based on their reserves, if we are not going to use them, up to 80% of the value of these companies has to stay in the ground and hence the stock prices will fall if we want to keep climate change temperature rises within two degree Celcius limit.

- Fossil fuel companies have to decide whether they want to be in the energy game 25 years from now. They can, but they will have to deliver mostly renewable energy.

-Not buying their products by making your own solar electricity and driving an electric car helps a lot on your family scale, investing your pension money in renewable energy portfolios is like a magic jackpot: all your saving efforts are dwarfed by the impact it has to divest from fossil fuels and to invest in renewable energy. This can have an impact that is a 100 fold.

Sobering fact

Ceres estimates that $674 billion was invested in developing fossil fuel resources around the world in 2012, compared with $281 billion for renewables.

We have work to do.

What if you could pre-pay a solar light for a family in Uganda that would provide them with light so they can share more family time at night and children could study and do their homework? What if this would allow these same families to have 10%  more buying power left over for food and other essentials? Would you help out? It keeps getting better: you will get your money back within a year.

All this can be done and is done by a group of people that came together under the name Sunfunder. They want to eliminate “energy poverty” (remember that from our victory scenario- energy freedom and abundance for everyone, clean and affordable?) by helping families and schools switch from using kerosene and diesel for generators to solar options where the energy is locally available and free.

The latest projects aims at families in a rural farming community in Uganda. It works with a local non-profit that have experience and a social network in the region.

The latest projects aims at families in a rural farming community in Uganda. It works with a local non-profit that have experience and a social network in the region.

So far they have helped over 50,000 people through over 10 different projects. A summary of their latest project can be read here: the Rent to Own a solar light program for rural communities in Uganda. Families will need to rent the solar light at half the price of kerosene for a year, and then get to keep it. The rent pays you back. The disposable income of these families will rise 11% due to this program. Everybody wins. The family and the planet will also get healthier-no more fumes from kerosene, no more spills, no more fire risk, only clean solar power. Like with many solar technologies, there is no downside to this story. The program enables these families by removing the upfront cost and welcomes them into the world of tomorrow where people can empower themselves using the sun to heat, cook, read, study…, in other words, they can have a decent life.

Are you ready to help out a family yourself? It is about $22 per family. What a great gift to give! What a great way to add to your list of personal impact and grassroots actions to become carbon positive and share the opportunities of the victory scenario with some of our buddies in the areas of the world where a small gesture can mean the world.

When we first presented our victory scenario we formulated the following outcome: “Imagine a world, our Earth, which provides protection and nourishment, with enough energy to allow each human being the opportunity to live a meaningful, joyful,  life”. Projects like this make it really easy to see what this means and how this can be put to work in become a reality.

 

 

“The Rough Guide to Climate Change” gives the complete picture of the single biggest issue facing the planet. Cutting a swath through scientific research and political debate, this completely updated 3rd edition lays out the facts and assesses the options – global and personal – for dealing with the threat of a warming world. The guide looks at the evolution of our atmosphere over the last 4.5 billion years and what computer simulations of climate change reveal about our past, present and future. You can discover how rising temperatures and sea levels, plus changes to extreme weather patterns, are already affecting life around the world. “The Rough Guide to Climate Change” unravels how governments, scientists and engineers plan to tackle the problem and includes information on what you can do to help.
roughguidetoclimatechangeBob Henson’s Rough Guide to Climate Change stands out among textbook-style books about climate change on account of the author’s meticulous research and a perspective that rises above the din and acrimony that characterizes so much of the climate change debate today. Henson even-handedly considers the best available science, what’s known (and what’s not) about causes and consequences, and the solutions that have been proposed to address climate change.What stands out most about the Rough Guide is that Henson goes beyond presenting the science and solutions in a vacuum. Rather, in Chapter 4 “Debates & Solutions” Henson acknowledges the societal and political context in which climate change sits, including the highly polarized debates around the issue. He doesn’t shy from exploring the contours of the debates, including what’s at stake. Rather than take a position, he lends a keen eye to dissecting and trying to get to the roots of those debates and fairly represent all sides. In the end, Henson does not take a position on whether or how climate change should be addressed. Rather he organizes, summarizes, and clarifies the menu of approaches that we could take as individuals and as a society. Henson’s work has been recognized by national leaders, scientific groups, and other groups from all walks of society. The conservative-leaning Wall Street Journal wrote this in it’s review of the Rough Guide: “If you want a plain-language book about climate change, this is the book for you.”This is the work of a scholar who is clearly very immersed in and knowledgeable about the multi-faceted intersection of climate and society. If you are trying to understand climate change and what it means for society, this is where you should start.

About the author
Robert Henson is a science journalist and meteorologist based in Boulder, Colorado, where he works as a writer and editor at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. His books include “The Rough Guide to Climate Change,” which was shortlisted for the 2007 UK Royal Society Prize for Science Books, as well as “The Rough Guide to Weather” and “Weather on the Air: A History of Broadcast Meteorology,” published in 2010 by the American Meteorological Society. Henson is a contributing editor of Weatherwise magazine and a frequent guest blogger for Capital Weather Gang. His interests include photography, bicycling, and popular culture.

 

Note: this book is available at the Austin Public Library

Lowering taxation on labor and increasing taxation on pollution is a great tandem to assist the local economy and making it cleaner and more competitive. It has been demonstrated to work in many situations. You would think this would hold true for a taxation of carbon dioxide emissions as well. And, we have a winner!

British Columbia’s (BC) introduction of a revenue-neutral carbon tax shift in 2008 was controversial. This analysis compares changes in fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and GDP between BC and the rest of Canada. It finds that in the four years since the tax was introduced, BC’s per capita consumption of fuels subject to the tax has declined by 19% compared to the rest of Canada. At the same time, its economy has kept pace with the rest of Canada’s. BC’s experience mirrors the European experience with carbon tax shifting, and should inform the national debate on climate change policy. BC boost the lowest income tax rates in Canada for incomes under $119,000.

When introduced in 2008, the tax was initially set at $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). It was designed to rise by $5 per year thereafter until it reached $30 per tonne (roughly 7 cents per liter of gas, of about 25 cents per gallon) in 2012. We can disagree on whether this increase is modest or not, but we can all agree that people can choose the car they want to drive and with the smaller, hybrid and electrical vehicles you can save much more than 10% on gas. And that is exactly what is happening: we are driving smaller and more efficient cars than we did 5 years ago.

Here are a few graphs that show you what has happened, it is encouraging.

 

gdpimpactcarbontaxationcounrtries

GHGreductioncarbontaxBC

salesofpetroleumBCGDPdevelopmentBC_CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As President Obama said in his speech last month, climate change is happening — and the effects are already being felt across the country. The report U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather examines current and potential future impacts of these climate trends on the U.S. energy sector. Researchers have identified several critical issues, including power-plant disruptions due to drought and the disruption of fuel supplies during severe storms. They’ve also pinpointed potential opportunities that would make our energy infrastructure more resilient to these risks.

Source: Energy.gov

Interconnection and solution

Usually we talk about the impacts of our energy use on climate change, but as many things are, energy and climate change, or better, fossil fuel based energy and climate change are interdependent: more climate change will impact our ability to use fossil fuels. The solution to some of the problems listed in this blog are the use of relatively small scale renewable, local energy sources that will give us clean energy that does not need water and is distributed which improves the resilience of the local grid tremendously.

The map shows how the following three extreme climate trends have caused major issues to the energy sector across the country over the past ten years:

usmapclimatechangeimpactonenergy

 

  1. Increasing air and water temperatures;
  2. Decreasing water availability across regions and seasons; and
  3. Increasing intensity and frequency of storm events, flooding and sea level rise.

Here are some more details from the report:

  • Climate change has created an increased risk of shutdowns at coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants. Why? Changes in the climate mean decreased water availability — which affects cooling at thermoelectric power plants, a requirement for operation.
  • There are also higher risks to energy infrastructure located along the coasts thanks to sea level rise, the increasing intensity of storms, and higher storm surge and flooding.
  • Power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems face increasing risks of physical damage from the hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more frequent and intense.
  • Air conditioning costs will rise due to increasing temperatures and heat waves, along with the risks of blackouts and brownouts in regions throughout the country.

As climate change makes the weather more extreme, we have a moral obligation to prepare the country for its effects. Look to energy.gov for more about our plans to fight climate change.

We know what we can do as citizens: make some renewable energy ourselves.

 

 


The Solar Team Eindhoven (STE) of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) presented the world’s first solar-powered family car today. ‘Stella’ is the first ‘energy-positive car’ with room for four people, a trunk, intuitive steering and a range of 600 kilometers. This is the car being entered by the student team in the Cruiser class of the World Solar Challenge that starts in Australia in October 2013.

Source: TU/e

The solar cells of ‘Stella’- Latin for star and also a reference to the family character of the car – generate more electricity on average than the car uses and that means the surplus electricity can be returned to the power grid, thereby making the car ‘energy-positive’.

Solar Team Eindhoven has set itself the goal of developing the car of the future. By combining aerodynamic design with lightweight materials like carbon and aluminum, a very fuel-efficient car has been designed, which also has ingenious applications like a LED strip and touchscreen that make all the buttons and knobs we know today superfluous. Intuitive driving is enabled by a steering wheel that expands or contracts when you are driving too fast or too slowly. STE will have the car officially certified for road use to prove that this really is a fully-fledged car.

University teams from all over the world will be competing in a 3,000 km long race through the Australian outback. Solar Team Eindhoven is taking part in the Cruiser class in which the emphasis lies on practical and user-friendly solar cars rather than on speed. The ‘solar race’ takes place from 6 to 13 October 2013. Back in the Netherlands there will be a tour of high schools to promote engineering and science in education.

Thanks to Solar Team Eindhoven entry, TU/e is represented for the first time in the Solar World Challenge. A multidisciplinary team (with 22 students from six different TU/e departments) has spent a year on this project that involves challenges from the fields of energy and mobility. Cooperation with industry has given the students an opportunity to become familiar with top-notch entrepreneurship, thereby underlining TU/e’s vision of educating the engineer of tomorrow. TU/e professors prof.dr. Elena Lomonova and prof.dr.ir. Maarten Steinbuch are members of the steering group.

Here is a video of the unveiling of the car:

The idea behind the car was presented at TEDex:

For more information go to www.solarteameindhoven.nl

 

The IEA put out a report that shows how to stop growth in energy-related emissions by 2020 at no net economic cost. The good news is this is only one perspective of how we can reduce our climate change impact. There are many more options out there. The IEA is a respected organization which is reporting on trends and is doing research on where we can go and how we can get there.  This report shows that the energy sector itself can help us all a lot.

Source: IEA, June 10, 2013

Warning that the world is not on track to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) today urged governments to swiftly enact four energy policies that would keep climate goals alive without harming economic growth. “Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in London at the launch of a World Energy Outlook Special Report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, which highlights the need for intensive action before 2020.

Noting that the energy sector accounts for around two-thirds of global greenhouse-gas emissions, she added: “This report shows that the path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C but also finds that much more can be done to tackle energy-sector emissions without jeopardising economic growth, an important concern for many governments.”

New estimates for global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012 reveal a 1.4% increase, reaching a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt). However, these estimates also mask significant regional differences. In the United States for example, a switch from coal to gas in power generation helped reduce emissions by 200 million tonnes (Mt), bringing them back to the level of the mid‑1990s. China experienced the largest growth in CO2 emissions (300 Mt), but the increase was one of the lowest it has seen in a decade, driven by the deployment of renewables and improvements in energy intensity. Despite increased coal use in some countries, emissions in Europe declined by 50 Mt. Emissions in Japan increased by 70 Mt.

4for2scenario

The new IEA report presents the results of a 4-for-2 °C Scenario, in which four energy policies are selected that can deliver significant emissions reductions by 2020. These policies rely only on existing technologies and have already been adopted successfully in several countries. “We identify a set of proven measures that could stop the growth in global energy-related emissions by the end of this decade at no net economic cost,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, the report’s lead author. “Rapid and widespread adoption could act as a bridge to further action, buying precious time while international climate negotiations continue.”

In the 4-for-2 °C Scenario, global energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions are 8% (3.1 Gt CO2‑equivalent) lower in 2020 than the level otherwise expected.

  • Targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport account for nearly half the emissions reductions in 2020, with the additional investment required being more than offset by reduced spending on fuel bills. The items within this category are heating and cooling (30%), appliances and lighting (30%), industrial motors (30%) and vehicles(10%). Think of insulation, energy-efficient appliances, using only CFLs and increasing MPG for cars. That sounds like something we can do right? And rememeber, these are all cost-effective measures and will actually put money back in your pocket after a couple of years when the savings start to outweigh the cost. This means that you are investing in your own financial future and a better climate. It’s a win-win situation!
  • Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants delivers more than 20% of the emissions reductions and helps curb local air pollution. The share of power generation from renewables increases (from around 20% today to 27% in 2020), as does that from natural gas. Here is where the US, India and China have a big role to play. See it as a clunker power station program: if we get these dirty old plants off line, we can all breathe a little better. Government can help this transition. This is a form of dis-investment in old power plants; new jobs and revenue will come from investments in a renewable energy portfolio to aid the transition to a cleaner energy grid.
  • Actions to half expected methane (a potent greenhouse gas) releases into the atmosphere from the upstream oil and gas industry in 2020 provide 18% of the savings. Perhaps you already have your own thoughts about what happens before the gas gets to the pump, but truth is, a lot of methane escapes before we utilize it in the oil and gas industry. That is not only a waste, it is adding up to a significant amount of greenhouse gasses. All we need to do is stop wasting it and start trapping it to utilize it. Remember, methane is about 25 times more potent than CO2 in trapping heat.
  • Implementing a partial phase-out of fossil fuel consumption subsidies accounts for 12% of the reductions in emissions and supports efficiency efforts. This has the most impact for the countries that dole out the most energy subsidies. Guess who are on the top of the list? Yes, the oil rich countries, many of them in the Middle East. To give you an idea of the scale of these subsidies: the average fossil-fuel subsidies in 2011 were equivalent to an incentive of $110 per tonne of CO2. Implementing a carbon tax at this level, which is the end goal of some of the proposed legislation here in the US, aims at these same levels and the impacts are considered to be very effective. You can imagine how effective these current fossil fuel subsidies are. You would not think that the industry needs this, right?

The strategy that is part of the report, but not called out is the use of more and more renewables, circumventing the need for fossil fuel based energy. A hopeful sign is that developing countries and countries that have to import fossil fuels are investing more and more in renewable energy that allows them to keep their money in their own economy, creates jobs, provides for stable energy prices, cleans the air and helps fight climate change impacts and future costs. The investments in these countries are closing in on the investments made in China and the Western world and that is a good sign. If the developing world can leapfrog fossil fuels that would be an enormous help. We do not only need to halt growth of fossil fuels, we also need to cut our emissions by 80%. That means that this is just the beginning.

The report also finds that the energy sector is not immune to the physical impacts of climate change and must adapt. In mapping energy system vulnerabilities, it identifies several sudden and destructive impacts, caused by extreme weather events, and other more gradual impacts, caused by changes to average temperature, sea level rise and shifting weather patterns. To improve the climate resilience of the energy system, it highlights government’s role in encouraging prudent adaptation (alongside mitigation) and the need for industry to assess the risks and impacts as part of its investment decisions.

The financial implications of climate policies that would put the world on a 2 °C trajectory are not uniform across the energy sector. Net revenues for existing renewables-based and nuclear power plants increased by $1.8 trillion in 2011 collectively through to 2035, offsetting a similar decline from coal plants. No oil or gas field currently in production would need to shut down prematurely. Some fields yet to start production will not be developed before 2035, meaning that around 5% to 6% of proven oil and gas reserves do not start to recover their exploration costs. Delaying the move to a 2 °C trajectory until 2020 would result in substantial additional costs to the energy sector and increase the risk of assets needing to be retired early, idled or retrofitted. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) can act as an asset protection strategy, reducing the risk of stranded assets and enabling more fossil fuel to be commercialized.

To download the WEO special report Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, click here.

To see the presentation that accompanied the report’s launch, please click here.

We are changing the Earth at a speed that is unprecedented in four ways: 1) it is caused by one single species-mankind; 2) it is  faster than any major geological change that has happened in the millions of years of Earth’s existence; 3) it is being expressed on a human scale in terms of only a few generations; 4) it affects multiple life support systems and physical phenomena such as carbon and water cycles and biology in terms of biodiversity. Climate Change is only one of the results, but there is more to the story. And we are doing it. Welcome to the Anthropocene. See what it means below, watch a video of how extensively we are impacting the water systems of Mother Earth as well as other massive scale impacts that we are causing.

A definition of the Anthropocene
The Anthropocene is an informal geologic chronological term that serves to mark the evidence and extent of human activities that have had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. The term was coined recently by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer, but has been widely popularized by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth’s atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch for its lithosphere. To date, the term has not been adopted as part of the official nomenclature of the geological field of study.

Stoermer originally coined the term Anthropocene by analogy, with the word “Holocene” (the age we are living in now) and Paul Crutzen subsequently popularized the usage. The proposed term has Greek roots: anthropo- meaning “human” and -cene meaning “new”. Crutzen has explained, “I was at a conference where someone said something about the Holocene. I suddenly thought this was wrong. The world has changed too much. So I said: ‘No, we are in the Anthropocene.’ I just made up the word on the spur of the moment. Everyone was shocked. But it seems to have stuck.” Crutzen first used it in print in a 2000 newsletter of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, No.41. In 2008, Zalasiewicz suggested in GSA Today that an anthropocene epoch is now appropriate.

A really cool (scientifically speaking) library of maps about our impact can be found here. I included a summary map at the bottom of this post to give you an idea how ‘relevant’ and ‘significant’ our footprint is. But first a couple of excerpts.

Earth’s water cycle
This video is taken from the perspective of the world. It shows the magnitude of our impact on hydrology, sediment run off, depleting water tables and much more.

 

Biodiversity
Many species have gone extinct due to human impact. Most experts agree that human beings have accelerated the rate of species extinction, although the exact rate is controversial, perhaps 100 to 1000 times the normal background rate of extinction. In 2010 a study published in Nature found that “marine phytoplankton — the vast range of tiny algae species accounting for roughly half of Earth’s total photosynthetic biomass – have declined substantially in the world’s oceans over the past century. Since 1950 alone, algal biomass decreased by around 40%, probably in response to ocean warming – and the decline has gathered pace in recent years. Some authors have postulated that without human impacts the biodiversity of this planet would continue to grow at an exponential rate. The implications being that global warming is accelerating due to, or exacerbated by, human activities.
A 13 July 2012 New York Times op-ed piece by the ecologist, Roger Bradbury, spelled the end of biodiversity for the oceans by saying that the coral reefs are doomed, “Coral reefs will be the first, but certainly not the last, major ecosystem to succumb to the Anthropocene.” This op-ed quickly generated much discussion among conservationists and was rebutted on-line by The Nature Conservancy, defending its position of being dedicated to continuing the defense of reefs in spite of continued human causes to reef declines.

Climate
One geological symptom resulting from human activity is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) content. During the glacial–interglacial cycles of the past million years, natural processes have varied CO2 by approximately 100 ppm (from 180 ppm to 280 ppm). As of 2013, anthropogenic net emissions of CO2 have increased its atmospheric concentration by a comparable amount from 280 ppm (Holocene or pre-industrial “equilibrium”) to approximately 4005 ppm. This signal in the Earth’s climate system is especially significant because it is occurring much faster, and at an enormously greater extent than previous, similar changes. Most of this increase is due to the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, agriculture and land-use changes (e.g. deforestation).


The main lessons from this is that we are having such an impact that we are playing dice with Mother Earth, but even more so with ourselves and our children, not just future generations, but current generations. We can all change this quite easily. Make your own renewable energy for your house and transportation, stop eating animals, eat local, harvest rainwater, buy experiences not stuff, plant 25-100 trees every year, preferably in the rainforest. These are all available and affordable for most people and can be implemented right now. Join us, join one of our carbon diet groups and we can help you along the way. We can get out of the Anthropocene faster than we have gotten ourselves into this geologically relevant era.

Anthropocene Indicators: Here is the definition more or less impressionistic we propose for the Anthropocene: “A period marked by a regime change in the activity of industrial societies which began at the turn of the nineteenth century and which has caused global disruptions in the Earth System on a scale unprecedented in human history: climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution of the sea, land and air, resources depredation, land cover denudation, radical transformation of the ecumene, among others. These changes command a major realignment of our consciousness and worldviews, and call for different ways to inhabit the Earth.” Mapping the Anthropocene: first few steps. Behind the name lie the challenges of our time. This concept illustrates and groups together the main agents that shape our planet, who literally engrave its surface—it is the anthroposphere, the human layer that grows inside the biosphere. This page is dedicated to the impressionist mapping of the artifacts from this singular moment in Earth’s history. Impressionist because these maps are unlabelled and silent, giving free rein to contemplation and imagination; impressionist also because they do not follow the canons of cartography, where scales and legend are mandatory. By locating the structures and hotspots of human activity, by acknowledging the extent of our footprints and our facilities, perhaps we will glimpse the limits of our world and the importance of redefining what it means to live in and on it.

 

Do you want a car that you can drive for free, that is part of our electrical grid and is 100% renewable? You may not think this is possible, but it is closer than you think. A couple of months ago, an affordable option came to the market: the electric car with a $200/month lease. You can make it fully renewable by using GreenChoice windpower from Austin Energy, or by installing 8 solar panels to be able to drive on the sun. It is more affordable than you think. In fact, you may even get paid.

Driving it

Fun! It is quiet. Very quiet. And in the eco-mode, your ride turns into a glide. When you do not use the eco-mode, your ride unleashes all the torque it has to get you going really fast. You can speed up quickly if need be (try sitting next to a Charger or Mustang at a stop light and see if you can beat them!). It is also really comfortable. The battery is at the bottom of the car which makes it very steady to drive. It is a new world of driving and I am sure that you will never want to go back to a car that uses gas once you have tried it and made the switch.

Range

There are several electric cars on the market. Most fully electric vehicles (EVs) come with a battery that will give you 70-80 miles range, so it is the perfect car for commutes and trips all over town, just not to go to Dallas or Houston from here. We did an analysis and it would work almost everyday of last year, except for about 5 days in town, and a couple weekends up to family further away. We use our Prius for those trips, but could easily rent a car as well.

Charging

Electric cars do not need gas so you can happily forgo on stopping at the gas station and leave $20-$120 dollars in your pocket each time you don’t stop. But they do need electricity. The average electric car is much more efficient. the MPG is 100+. So you need less energy to drive it. It takes about 3000 kWh to drive a Nissan Leaf for 12,000 miles. If you charge at home this will add less than 30% to your electricity bill (per average Austin household consumption of 11,000 kWh). I use my solar panels to make the electricity and I will earn back my investment within one year. Yes, you read that right, within one year fueling/charging a Nissan Leaf will be free. If you buy a fast charger (level 2) for your home, it will take 1.5 years to never have to pay for charging anymore. That is a deal! Talk about energy independence that is renewable and clean. Another option is to use the PlugInEverywhere card from Austin Energy and charge you car on the go for a flat fee of 5$ per month and it is all through the GreenChoice wind-power program.

Bottom line: if you generate your own electricity, your electric car will drive for free after about 1.5 years. Yes, really.

Affordable car?

Of course you also need the car. Are they not very expensive  Some new electric cars  can be expensive, but the Nissan Leaf is affordable. It is even cheaper than a Prius since they lowered the price to ~$22,000. The lease can be as low as $200 per month. When you compare that to the gas savings from using your old car, you will get the car for free for about 8 months. Let me do the numbers for you: the gas savings depend on your MPG and miles, but if you drive a 25 MGP car for 12,000 miles per year, your savings in gas will be $1,600 per year (using $3.40 per gallon). So the gas savings pay for most of the lease. Your net lease payments would be less than $800 per year. That should be within range of just about anybody that drives a car. One hiccup, if you plan to lease it, there may be a downpayment, and you always have to pay tax and title.

lowgriduseconditionsfrom 9pmto7amWhy is it important everybody?

The Electric car holds the promise of needing fewer investments in our infrastructure, we will use more electricity for cars, but the beauty  is that it will give us lower prices. When you look at the image to the right, if we charge our cars at night when we park it in our garage, the existing infrastructure can be used more efficiently as it does not have to scale up and down so much. We will cut off the peak, which is most expensive. We can also use more wind energy here in Texas that is generated at night in the Panhandle. The wind electricity can use a hungry car. It  will increase demand during the off peak night hours when the wind is blowing. There is already one utility in the northeast (the University of Delaware, the regional grid operator and an electric company) that is piloting a program where your car battery becomes a two-way system: during the afternoon it can take some of your electricity from your battery and pay you for it, and at night it can charge it. Estimates are that the value of this system can be over $1800 per year. That is how much it is worth to your utility not to have to build and use peak capacity. Read more about this project in the New York Times.

So car batteries have the potential to become part of the storage when we make excess renewable energy and use it when the system is peaking. Now that is a big promise that can soon become a reality here in Austin as well.

Talk about impact: a car that you can drive for free, that is part of our electrical grid and that is 100% renewable! I can’t believe you do not have one yet :) We love it!

There is one online platform for individuals to invest from $25 and up in solar projects in the US. It is Mosaic. I want to see many more projects with them, but also from other groups, for wind and solar. The beauty is: you can own part of the renewable energy revolution and get a decent dividend from it in return. The picture below is a snap shot of the people that put money in to build their latest solar project in New Jersey. It is a form of community solar. It creates a connection between you, the renewable energy and the project that is using the solar panels.

Now we need to see this happening in our own town: would you not want to own part of the solar panels on our community houses, churches, soccer clubs and many other community based buildings and build a social network of places, people and renewable energy that is being build right here right now? It will provide a solar option for people that do not have a good roof, or do not have a roof (like tenants). And yes, if you look at the map and you try really hard, you can see me  waving at you!

p.s. for people that do not have their own solar panels yet, get some installed yourself first. The return on investment is much bigger: you will get your money’s worth back in about 4-6 years if you apply for the solar rebates from Austin Energy.  After that, your electricity is free! And if you cannot afford the upfront cost,  you can get a loan through Austin Energy as well. It is the best investment you will have ever made.

Action: shade your windows

May 4th, 2013 | Posted by Joep in Action | Conservation - (1 Comments)

The summer is about to start in full force and that is a good time to think about shading your windows. By shading windows that have more than 1 hour of sun a day, you can reduce the need for your AC about 5%, and it is easy to do. You can plant a deciduous tree that will shade you house in the summer, and let the sun in during the winter, but it will take some time to grow! A faster options is to install solar screens. We just put them back on after we had taken them off for the winter.

An example of ‘before’ and ‘after’. You will leave out 90% of the heat that would come in without solar screens.

Why shade your windows? Shade will prevent direct sunlight hitting your windows (and walls!). It reduces the heating up of the exterior of your building and the amount of energy getting in through the glass. It will reduce the amount of energy your AC needs to remove your home to keep it comfortable during days where it is warmer outside than inside.

Installing solar screens This process is quite straightforward, it just takes a little time to complete the entire procedure, especially if you apply for a rebate.  Here is the process:

1. Locate windows with more than 1 hour of sun exposure
2. Inventory the amount and size of the windows
3. Decide on doing it yourself or hiring a contractor
4. When hiring a contractor, multiply the amount of sqft by $4 and judge whether you have budget
5. Call three contractors from the Austin Energy list
6. Apply for the rebate
7. Install the solar screens
8. Submit necessary information to Austin Energy
9. Typically you receive your rebate within 6 weeks
10. You can remove the screens in the winter to let sunlight in that can warm your house, make sure to put them back on in the spring!

You can choose different colors. You can choose different shading percentages (> 70% is standard, 90% is recommended). If you plan on doing it yourself, make sure to be safe if you need a ladder to reach your windows!

There are different colors that all have the same shading performance and can match any color of your siding or brick.

Cost Using a company to install solar screens cost is per from $3.50 to $ 5.00 / sqft.  Austin Energy provides a rebate for home owners, small businesses qualify as well, under the “Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® for” program (website). It will reimburse $1/sqft when using a qualifying contractor (list). You can buy materials at any hardware store and do it yourself and save 50% of the cost. It is not difficult for people that do some projects around the house themselves.

Download the Energy Action Card This action is part of our energy action card series that we published online and are continually updating. The energy action card has more information, tips, useful links and other experience from people that have done a weatherization project. Please have a look at the entire energy action list here. You can download the Energy Action card for weatherization here.

 

 

A conference in San Francisco last week named ‘pathways to 100% renewable energy’ concluded the following:

- we need to look at things differently

- predictions underestimate the growth of renewables

- technology is not a barrier

- renewables make financial sense

- local action is key

- renewables are for everyone

- we need increased public awareness and acceptance to make the a 100% switch

Republished and edited from PV solar report

Please find a short summary of the conference conclusions below:

We need to look at things differently  For example, why not switch to driving electric vehicles? Is it just because we’ve internalized and accepted the reality of gas-powered cars?  Or, the power  industry’s current reality isn’t the only one possible. It’s bound to change as renewables make more sense economically, climate change becomes harder to deny, and consumers gain more control of power generation. Some say the industry won’t be recognizable by 2050. You can buy enough solar panels to power your car for 25 years for the money you spend on gas in a year (using a Nissan Leaf and 12,000 miles). For your house it takes between 3-8 years to recoup your initial investment and then it is free for 17-22 years. When will you get your solar panels?

Predictions underestimate the growth of renewables There are many examples of fast growth in renewables, noted that we’re already exceeding conservative scenarios. Projections from the World Bank and others have generally been a decade off or a factor of 10 lower than actual outcomes. That’s right: we’re heading down the path to 100% renewables more quickly than predicted. Some areas have already reached 100%. Case in point: Rhein-Hunsrueck, Germany. Starting with energy efficiency and moving on to generating its own power, the region of 101,000 inhabitants now produces not 100% but 104% of its energy from renewable sources. The future is here.

Technology is not a barrier That’s not to say that technology isn’t important. Solar and wind forecasting will play a role in moving us to 100% renewables, as will demand-response technologies, storage, and microgrids. We already have viable means of storing energy, and they’re only getting better. But most storage is not yet on the grid, because  the grid was built when it was thought energy couldn’t be stored — another example of how we need to change our thinking. And our thinking needs to include transportation and buildings. Going all electric would reduce global energy demand by 32%, and EVs can help support the grid by storing power and sending it back to the grid when it’s needed there. Buildings, representing 25% of global energy use, can be made more energy-efficient.

Renewables make financial sense Investors are catching on. For example, they’re beginning to understand solar as an asset class and are realizing it’s a great bet: It’s a proven technology, it harnesses an unlimited source of power, and the default rate on solar projects hovers around zero. Solar provides a hedge against volatile future power costs. And new business models are emerging to finance renewables as well as to lower their costs. That includes programs supported by the SunShot Initiative that help lower the soft costs of solar, which now account for about half the cost of solar systems in the US.

Local action is key Hundreds of communities are getting into the action with policies and targets to support renewables. Some are taking up community choice energy, which allows local governments to pool residential, business, and municipal electricity loads and to purchase or generate on their behalf. It provides rate stability and savings and allows more consumer choice and local control. Other communities are taking their own paths to renewables. Lancaster, California, for example, decided to become the solar capital of the world and is making progress toward that goal. This didn’t happen from the top down — it happened because the community decided it was important. With the will to make the change in place, it wasn’t hard or costly to implement policies to support the community’s goal, such as streamlining the permitting process.

Renewables are for everyone Greensburg, Kansas provides another great example of a community-driven move to renewables. In 2007, 95% of the town was destroyed by a tornado. The community decided to rebuild in a more sustainable way, and now Greensburg is living up to its name as a showcase for how a community can go green. The people of Greensburg built on their farming ancestors’ heritage of conserving resources, reframed to fit their modern situation. Indeed, conservatism at its heart is compatible with protecting our planet. If that’s not compelling enough, most conservatives care about public safety and national security. And for most people, conservative or liberal, the strongest argument for moving to renewables is the economics.

We need increased public awareness and acceptance to make the switch  To conclude, as more regions move to renewables, more people will see the value of making the switch. That increased public awareness and acceptance will help overcome the real challenges, which are social and political. Renewable energy is holding the promise of a truly distributed and democratized energy future. And clean and climate neutral, of course.

Are you in? What can you do in your community to make the switch?

“With each passing month, something else weakens the industry’s hand: the steady rise of renewable energy, a technology that’s gone from pie-in-the-sky to panel-on-the-roof in remarkably short order. In the few countries where governments have really gotten behind renewables, the results are staggering: There were days last spring when Germany (pale, northern Germany) managed to generate half its power from solar panels. Even in this country, much of the generating capacity added last year came from renewables. A December study from the University of Delaware showed that by 2030 we could affordably power the nation 99.9 percent of the time on renewable energy. In other words, logic, physics and technology work against the fossil-fuel industry. For the moment, it has the political power it needs – but political power shifts perhaps more easily than physics.”

This is one paragraph from the latest article of Bill McKibben in the Rolling Stone. He is naming the movement that fights to take on the challenges the Fossil Fuel Resistance. He states that ‘Right now, we’re losing the climate challenge. But as the planet runs its spiking fever, the antibodies are starting to kick in. We know what the future holds unless we resist. And so resist we will.’ As Bill puts it ‘As the world burns, a new movement to reverse climate change is emerging – fiercely, loudly and right next door.’

And yes, we see the movement growing everyday.

If you want to be part of the what we call the Victory Scenario then you are welcome to come and join Climate Buddies. We advocate for where we want to go and bring a positive attitude and call for actions on the grassroots level. We work with faith based groups and households at the moment but are always looking for more people and groups to join. If you want to hear more about what we do, come on out to Earth Day this Saturday where we will be hosting a presentation at noon and at 12:30 and we will be at our booth during the entire event. You can be part of this. We are overdue for action. Come find out what it takes to lose your carbon footprint and become carbon positive and be part of the solution.

Come on out this coming Saturday: Earth Day Austin at the old Mueller Airport HangarTX. Visit us at our Booth from noon till 7pm @noon, Stage 2: Release party for the manual ‘Becoming Carbon Positive – a manual for places of faith @ 12:30, Stage 2: A Pop-Quiz with prices to celebrate the launch of our Carbon Diet program ‘how to lose 5000 lbs in 6 weeks”
austinearthdaylogo manualfinal

Portugal, like many other countries does not have fossil fuels. All needs to be imported. But they do have energy:  they are wind battered from the ocean, they have a lot of sun and have a geography that is fit for hydro-power. Well they decided to switch in 2005. And how: the first quarter of this year, they produced 70% of all their electricity from mostly hydro and wind and some solar. It is making their economy more resilient in these tough times, the money is staying in the country, and as an added bonus: they can sell their carbon credits to the European market. 

Good news from climateprogress (here)!

Portugal’s electricity network operator announced that renewable energy supplied 70 percent of total consumption in the first quarter of this year. This increase was largely due to favorable weather conditions resulting in increased wind and water flow, as well as lower demand. Portuguese citizens are using less energy and using sources that never run out for the vast majority of what they do use.

  • Hydropower supplied most: Hydroelectric power supplied 37 percent of total electricity — a 312 percent increase compared to last year.

    Alto Lindoso (Image credit: Energias de Portugal)

  • Wind turbines broke a record: Wind energy represented 27 percent of the total share, which is 60 percent higher than last year. This is 37 percent above average and good for the highest amount generated by wind in Portugal, ever.
  • 2.3 percent less energy used: Energy consumption has fallen every year since 2010 and is now at 2006 levels. Some of the drop this quarter was due to fewer working days and a warmer winter, but even controlling for those factors, there was still a drop of .4 percent.
  • Solar energy supplied  .7 percent of total energy demand, which is not much.
  • Dropping the fossil fuel habit: Portugal’s electricity had 29 percent less coal and 44 percent less gas in it from 2012 figures. The country must import the fossil fuels it burns.
  • For sale: Portugal exported what would have been 6 percent of total electricity consumption to other countries. It will also be able to sell a chunk of its allotted carbon credits offered by the EU’s carbon trading system.

Portugal’s investment in modernizing its electricity grid in 2000 has come in handy. Like in many countries, power companies owned their own transmission lines. What the government did in 2000 was to buy all the lines, creating a publicly owned and traded company to operate them. This was used to create a smart grid that renewable energy producers could connect to (encouraged by government-organized auctions to build new wind and hydro plants). In 2010, the New York Times reported on Portugal’s renewable energy push that started in earnest in 2005.

 

Action: weatherization

April 5th, 2013 | Posted by Joep in Action | Conservation - (1 Comments)

15% of the average US household  carbon footprint comes from our utilities. And here in Austin about half of the use comes from using the HVAC to keep our homes cool over the summer. In the North of the country heating will be more important. Both uses can be reduced by insulating your homes, or for the summer, by shading your home. But there are other options too that are easy to do and typically do not cost too much. To put it differently; you will be making money because of the savings within a year. It is called weatherization.

 

Caulking: an example of sealing the connection between your window and siding.

What is weatherization?

Weatherization is the practice of protecting a building and its interior from the elements, particularly from sunlight, precipitation, and wind, and of modifying a building to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency. Weatherization is distinct from building insulation, although building insulation requires weatherization for proper functioning. Many types of insulation can be thought of as weatherization, because they block drafts or protect from cold winds. Whereas insulation primarily reduces conductive heat flow, weatherization primarily reduces convective heat flow.

When you receive an Energy Audit, weatherization recommendations will be among the outputs provided to your congregation.
Specific examples of potential building weatherization recommendations:

  • Sealing bypasses (cracks, gaps, holes), especially around doors, windows, pipes and wiring that penetrate the ceiling and floor, and other areas with high potential for heat loss, using caulk, foam sealant, weather-stripping, window film, door sweeps, electrical receptacle gaskets, and so on to reduce air infiltration.
  • Sealing recessed lighting fixtures (‘can lights’ or ‘high-hats’), which leak large amounts of air into unconditioned attic space.
  • Sealing air ducts, which can account for 20% of heat loss, using fiber-reinforced mastic(not duck/duct tape, which is not suitable for this purpose)
  • Installing/replacing dampers in exhaust ducts, to prevent outside air from entering the house when the exhaust fan or clothes dryer is not in use.
  • Protecting pipes from corrosion and freezing.

More structural options would include the following:

  • Installing footing drains, foundation waterproofing membranes, interior perimeter drains, sump pumps, gutters, downspout extensions, downward-sloping grading, French drains, and other techniques to protect a building from both surface water and ground water.
  • Providing proper ventilation to unconditioned spaces to protect a building from the effects of condensation.
  • Installing roofing, building wrap, siding, flashing, skylights or solar tubes and making sure they are in good condition on an existing building.
  • Installing insulation in walls, floors, and ceilings, around ducts and pipes, around water heaters, and near the foundation and sill.
  • Installing storm doors and storm windows.
  • Replacing old drafty doors with tightly sealing, foam-core doors.
  • Replacing older windows with low-energy, double-glazed windows.

Benefits of weatherization

Weatherization produces many potential benefits to the occupants of the buildings:

  • Improved Comfort. With air leaks eliminated and heat loss under control, the occupants of your building will enjoy improved temperature control, reduced noise, and less transfer of odors — saving you from their complaints.
  • Stripping your windows is also easy to do and worthwhile for drafty windows.

    Air Quality Control. Having your building sealed and properly filtered/ventilated reduces dust, dirt and excess humidity. Occupants will enjoy a more comfortable and pleasant work or living environment with better control over indoor air quality. Sensitive electronics and other moving parts in office and manufacturing equipment can be damaged by excessive dirt, dust, and humidity. Improving IAQ will increase functionality and extend equipment lifespan.

  • Improved Safety. Along with lowering your risk of litigation from a sick building system or smoke transfer illness, weatherization also slows smoke spread in the event of a fire.
  • Efficient Operation & Lower Utilities. Sealing and insulating your facility keeps the elements out, and conditioned air in, so your HVAC systems don’t have to work as hard. And, the energy saved reduces your building’s carbon footprint.
  • Additional Savings. The reduced run time of your HVAC systems helps extend equipment life to cut replacement costs. Sometimes, entire systems can be turned off completely.

Walk through

Why don’t you do a walk through and see what you can do? It can be as simple as getting your caulking gun out and walk around your homes and start sealing cracks! My experience is that if you do this once a year you will see less and less cracks over time.

 

Download the Energy Action Card This action is part of our energy action card series that we published online and are continually updating. The energy action card has more information, tips, useful links and other experience from people that have done a weatherization project. Please have a look at the entire energy action list here. You can download the Energy Action card for weatherization here.

 

 

 

 

Mr. Utility, disruptive change is here. This is your wake-up call. Your biggest customers, households, are beginning to self generate and store power in this decade. You will either have to change or you will be left with fewer customers, will have to charge your remaining customers more, and as they leave, go out of business. The reason: solar rooftop installations. More and more evidence keeps showing up to confirm this trend. Rooftop solar is becoming a ‘no-brainer’  and will have profound implications for the incumbent energy industry.

Below you will find a redraft of the blog “2013: The Year Solar Will Flare” that was published here.

Hear power providers and utilities talk

NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), the biggest power provider to U.S. utilities, has become a renegade in the $370 billion energy-distribution industry by providing electricity directly to consumers. Bypassing its utility clients, NRG is installing solar panels on rooftops of homes and businesses and in the future will offer natural gas-fired generators to customers to kick in when the sun goes down, Chief Executive Officer David Crane said in an interview. NRG is the first operator of traditional, large-scale power plants to branch into running mini-generation systems that run a single building. The endeavor strikes at the core business of utilities that have earned money from making and delivering electricity ever since Thomas Edison flipped the switch on the first investor-owned power plant in Manhattan in 1882. Consumers are realizing “they don’t need the power industry at all,” Crane, 54, said in an interview at this year’s MIT Energy Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “That is ultimately where big parts of the country go.” It is obviously a potential threat to us over the long term,” said Jim Rogers, chairman and chief executive officer of Duke Energy Corp. (DUK), the largest U.S. utility owner.

What is driving this change (apart from the sun!) ?

Recent technological and economic changes are expected to challenge and transform the electric utility industry. These changes (or “disruptive challenges”) arise due to a convergence of factors, including: falling costs of distributed generation and other distributed energy resources (DER); an enhanced focus on development of new DER technologies; increasing customer, regulatory, and political interest in demand- side management technologies (DSM); government programs to incentivize selected technologies; the declining price of natural gas; slowing economic growth trends; and rising electricity prices in certain areas of the country. Taken together, these factors are potential “game changers” to the U.S. electric utility industry, and are likely to dramatically impact customers, employees, investors, and the availability of capital to fund future investment. The timing of such transformative changes is unclear, but with the potential for technological innovation (e.g., solar photovoltaic or PV) becoming economically viable due to this confluence of forces, the industry and its stakeholders must proactively assess the impacts and alternatives available to address disruptive challenges in a timely manner.

While the pace of disruption cannot be predicted, the mere fact that we are seeing the beginning of customer disruption and that there is a large universe of companies pursuing this opportunity highlight the importance of proactive and timely planning to address these challenges early on so that uneconomic disruption does not proceed further. Ultimately, all stakeholders must embrace change in technology and business models in order to maintain a viable utility industry.

Solar becoming cheaper than traditional forms of electricity

The revolution in energy markets caused by the growing impact of rooftop solar PV is about to take a dramatic leap in scale. According to analysts from the global investment banking giant UBS, the arrival of socket parity – where the cost of installing solar is cheaper than grid-sourced supplies – is about to cause a boom in un-subsidised solar installation in Europe, and the energy market may never be quite the same again. Such forecasts have long been the province of environmentalists, climate activists, university researchers, and the occasional industry leader, such as David Crane, the head of NRG, the largest generator of electricity in the US. Now, the team of energy analysts from UBS, writing in response to plunging power prices in Europe, has issued a stunning report entitled “The unsubsidized solar revolution” – suggesting that investing in solar will become a “no brainer” for households in several European countries, and will have profound implications for the incumbent energy industry.

“Solar has turned from a heavily-subsidized marginal technology into a mainstream source of power generation,” the UBS analysts write. ” “Thanks to significant cost reductions and rising retail tariffs, households and commercial users are set to install solar systems to reduce electricity bills – without any subsidies.”

 

Your own utility and gas pump: on your roof. Paid for in less than 3 years.

 

This means we are getting to a market that does not rely on government programs or subsidies, it is carried by economic sense. Solar will become a necessity for new construction just as we want a bathroom and a heater. Your house will not have an electricity bill anymore. Hopeful messages that will only be reinforced by the sales of more and more electric cars. These too can be powered with your solar panels and require even fewer panels than your home. Say goodbye to paying at the pump. I mean, think of it, add up your utility bill and gas bills from the pump for a year. Then divide (in Austin at the moment) about $4,000 for low end users and $ 8,000 for high end users by this number. That is your return rate. I bet it is within 3 years. Hello sunshine.