Recent and Fun California Green Energy Initiatives

“If everyone purchasing a room air conditioner in 2009 chooses an ENERGY STAR qualified model, it would save 390 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That would prevent more than 600 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year—equivalent to taking more than 50,000 cars off the road—and save consumers over $43 million each year in energy bills.” (Pickens Plan Fact of the Day, 8 Oct 09)

California has always prided itself as being a leader in alternative energy innovation. Driving through the hills around Livermore, Palm Springs, or between San Diego and Yuma bring skylines full of wind turbines. The California Energy Commission claims that wind Solar Panels for Californiaturbines generated 6,802 gigawatt-hours of electricity – about 2.3 percent of the state’s gross system power. By the end of 2009 California actually expects to hit nearly 5% energy production from renewable sources.

While the wind turbine program has slowed down a bit due to animal rights groups objecting to bird casualties due to propeller strikes, California has not slowed down at all in the state’s aggressive goals for green energy production. While it is probably a bit too aggressive, California’s Energy Commission has set a goal of hitting 20% by the end of 2010 (Senate Bill 107), and 33% by the end of 2020 (Executive Order S-14-08).

The US Congress is shooting for 20% renewable energy production nationwide by 2010 – a far lower threshold than desired in California.

Energy Programs and Incentives in California

Each state has some level of renewable energy initiative supporting energy efficient homes. California’s program falls under the “The California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership” (NSHP). This is a great resource not only for existing home owners in California, but also those persons planning to build new structures. The objectives of NSHP’s program include:

In the Home

A solar home with high energy-efficiency features offers homeowners:

  • Clean, renewable energy
  • Utility bill savings
  • Predictable utility costs
  • Protection against future rising electricity costs

California is also offering financial incentives to homebuilders to design energy efficiency and the potential of renewable energy planning into the new home. Solar energy “is one of the most significant personal actions one can take to cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while helping to conserve precious energy resources for future generations. Plus, it reduces the need for costly new power plants” according to the NSHP.

All California homeowners implementing solar panels in their homes also qualify for the federal tax credits up to $2000.

An unscientific jog around the Sunset Canyon Drive area of Burbank on 17 Oct 2009 tallied around 1 of every 5 homes observed supporting some level of solar panel on the property, visible from street level. Using guidelines from the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) you will see the average family in the Los Angeles area will save nearly $714 a year with solar panels supplementing their electrical supply.

For us apartment and condo-dwellers, that could almost pay 100% of our energy requirement during normal conditions, if we have a means of storing energy during evening hours and period of bad weather.

Don’t forget our earlier discussions on other simple things such as painting your rooftop white, or using solar reflective material on your roof to reduce the amount of heat in your home during the summer. By the way… you also get a one-time energy credit for that simple task.

“More than 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for space heating and cooling. Much of that conditioned air escapes through poorly sealed, under-insulated attics. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well insulated.  Properly sealing and insulating your attic can save you up to 10% annually on energy bills.” (Pickens Plan Fact of the Day7 Oct 2009)

In Commercial Sites

Companies such as the Bank of America (in Riverside, California) have built their facility with solar covering the entire rooftop of the building. Not only do they enjoy a tremendous savings in energy costs, but with a commercial property the BoA will receive a 30% federal construction tax credit, accelerated equipment depreciation, and additional financing support to help defray the cost of installing renewable energy resources.

California will tack on an additional incentive of $1.90 per watt up to a 1Megawatt solar panel system.

All focused on getting us to that 20% milestone in 2010, and the world-leading 33% renewable energy target for 2020.

Some Resources to Look at During Energy Awareness Month (October)

The State of California, California’s energy utilities, and the US Department of Energy have great resources to guide us in meeting our energy awareness and energy planning goals. Here is a partial list, but a great start. The Internet and Google searches will help lead you further.

  • The California Energy Commission Home
  • California Renewable Energy Handbook
  • Go Solar California Home
  • California Solar Initiative
  • SoCal Edison solar initiative website
  • PG&E solar initiative website
  • State of California CSI rebate calculator
  • US Department of Energy Solar Initiatives
  • The Pickens Plan

What Are You Doing?

Share your energy stories with us. What has worked for you? What has failed? Are you an alternative and reneable energy skeptic like Texas’ Governor Rick Perry? Are you an energy leader? Let us know.

John Savageau, Long Beach

National GRID – National Energy Leadership

Those of us who are soldiers in the Pickens Army are dedicated to promoting and evangelizing the religion of reducing carbon produced by oil, reducing our dependence on foreign energy, and are always on the lookout for initiatives to feed our passion to solve critical energy issues facing America’s economy, the environment, and our national security.” (from the Pickens Plan)

We should aggressively find those jewels of energy leadership, highlight them, and learn from their efforts.

The National GRID is actually a British company, specializing in delivering both electrical and natural gas in the northeast United States (as well as the UK). Serving about 3.3 million electricity users, and around 3.4 million natural gas users, national GRID is taking a leadership role in developing US policy towards energy transmission and use.

“The average home that converts from oil to natural gas heat will cut by as much as 99.9% its emissions of sulfur dioxide, a major contributor to acid rain, and emit up to 28% less carbon dioxide (CO2), which equates to planting 100 trees every year. North America has abundant supplies of this environmentally friendly energy source, so converting from oil to gas delivers double benefits by helping to reduce our carbon footprint while reducing reliance on foreign-sourced fuels.” (Tom King, president of National Grid in the US)

Is it Real, or is it…?

Writing in a blog, news release, website, or marketing brochure is easy. The proof is in the results, and National GRID is holding management responsible for results. Leadership starts at the top, and National GRID has policies in place from the board of directors down to individual employees established to promote a culture of being environmentally conscience and dedicated to both reducing impacts of both energy delivery and usage within the United States.

04/09/2009

For the 10th consecutive year, National Grid has received national recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for leadership in mitigating the effects of climate change by promoting energy efficiency.
The company received three awards at the EPA-DOE ENERGY STAR awards ceremony in Washington D.C; the ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award; the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award; and, the ENERGY STAR Award for Sustained Excellence in Program Delivery. 

However the most interesting part of the National GRID story is just appearing the horizon. More than sharing Pickens Plans promoting the use of natural gas, the National GRID is also now aggressively going after investment in, and production of, wind power. You might ask, “aren’t a lot of companies messing around with wind power?” or “isn’t California already a leader in the development of wind power?” Yes, and Yes.

The problem is that other states are also in wind corridors, and could generate as much or more wind energy as California. There is only one minor problem, how do you get the energy out of Texas and into Chicago? The transmission line infrastructure in the USA cannot current support or carry the power generated in many of our most attractive locations.

The Power of Electrical Transmission

Several complicated factors contribute to power transmission challenges:

  • The US has hundreds of separate power companies and independent transmission companies
  • Power generation in the US is generally a vertical industry, where power is generated and delivered within a single company infrastructure, or through private supply contracts with power wholesalers
  • Most power companies are public, or public utilities, with very little reason for cooperation with competitors in the same region
  • The lead time from planning to construction can take many years, with actual electrical delivery in excess of 8~10 years from the initial project start date
  • Given the cost of transmission, reliability and redundancy is not always the highest priority in any electrical transmission design

The value companies like National GRID bring to the US are very compelling. In Europe, electrical transmission systems for delivering “green” or renewable energy had much greater government and industry focus than in the US. In the period of 2004~2008, according to the Edison Electrical Institute, the UK invested more than 3 times the amount of money in transmission technologies for renewable energy sources than in the US. Even worse, the demand for power in the US outstripped the transmission capacity on long distance routes by near 2:1.

So, the National GRID brings their experience and investment culture in building electrical transmission technology to the US. They propose solutions ranging from recommending independent regional high capacity transmission lines, to supporting energy transmission trial initiatives such as recently advanced by New York State (Gov Patterson’s “45” by “15” project, which would provide power for 6,500 households, and reduce carbon emissions by 20,000 tons per year).

“The Governor’s aggressive energy agenda is particularly encouraging as it matches National Grid’s equally robust initiatives, including recently proposed smart grid pilot programs in the Albany and Syracuse areas,” said William E. Flynn, vice president of New York government relations for National Grid.

For Those of Us in California

All is not lost in California. While PG&E and SoCal Edison struggle through many of the issues National GRID highlights in the Northeast, both companies (and others of course) do understand and promote the use of clean energy. My Edison bill not only shows how energy is being used, but also my personal usage trends and carbon cost of my use. I can go to any grocery store in Long Beach, and see “Edison Certified” light bulbs for sale. Yes, there are politics involved. Who can forget the lessons we learn from the Erin Brockovich story?

In the coming weeks we will look at several different energy companies and energy initiatives. For today, national GRID gets a strong tip-of-the-hat for efforts in making our energy better, greener, and more sustainable.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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