Category: Energy efficiency

Remote Home Energy Assessments

Download the document.

This report investigates the potential of remote home energy assessments, which gained popularity during the pandemic but will continue to be a useful tool going forward. Using data sources from multiple stakeholders, our own independent survey comparing in-person and remote assessment recipients, and direct observations of remote assessments, we examined the effectiveness of remote assessments and how they can be improved. We find that remote assessments are not only necessary to expand the reach of energy efficiency, they are also effective, useful for encouraging energy upgrades, and liked by customers. They are an excellent option for utilities to provide alongside (or in addition to) in-person assessments, especially for certain demographic groups such as young and tech-savvy customers. We conclude with tips (in the report and summarized in a supplementary tips sheet) on how to use behavioral science to increase the likelihood of conversion following a remote assessment.

Telecom giant, Midwest researchers partner on energy-efficient manufacturing

Read the full story at Centered.

Midwestern university researchers are teaming up with a telecom giant to find ways to solve climate problems. The Purdue Research Foundation in Indiana joined AT&T’s Connected Climate Initiative, with a main goal of incorporating new technologies to improve industrial manufacturing power management.

Purdue will examine the potential of 5G-enabled wireless technologies to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions for advanced manufacturing applications. AT&T is providing funding for the research project.

DOE proposes tougher light bulb efficiency standard, finalizes testing waiver rule

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed energy efficiency requirements for the most common types of light bulbs, which conservation advocates believe will save consumers $300 million each month on their energy bills.

The rule would codify a “backstop,” or minimum efficacy standard, of 45 lumens per watt (lm/W) for general service lamps. DOE’s notice of proposed rulemaking hints at a “staggered implementation” to ease the burden on manufacturers, leading the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) to question whether the Biden administration is moving rapidly enough to combat climate change.

DOE has also finalized a rule revising the agency’s appliance test procedure interim waiver process, which under former President Donald Trump was altered to allow greater flexibility for product manufacturers. Efficiency advocates say those changes allowed inefficient appliances to remain on shelves longer than necessary.

The average person’s daily choices can still make a big difference in fighting climate change – and getting governments and utilities to tackle it, too

Reducing household energy use can contribute to slowing climate change. Westend61 via Getty Images

by Tom Ptak, Texas State University

The average American’s everyday interactions with energy sources are limited. They range from turning appliances on or off, to commuting, to paying utility bills.

The connections between those acts and rising global temperatures may seem distant.

However, individuals hold many keys to unlocking solutions to climate change – the biggest challenge our species currently faces – which is perhaps why the fossil fuel industry spent decades misleading and misinforming the public about it.

I’m an assistant professor of geography and environmental studies at Texas State University. My research explores how geography affects the complex relationships between societies, energy and contemporary environmental challenges. I’ve found that the human element is critical for developing creative, effective and sustainable solutions to climate challenges.

There’s a large and growing body of evidence showing that individuals can have a major impact on climate change in a number of ways. Citizen action can compel utilities to increase renewable energy and governments to enact strong climate action laws. When enough individuals make changes that lower daily household energy consumption, huge emissions reductions can result. Consumer demand can compel businesses to pursue climate and environmental sustainability.

These actions combined could bridge the “emissions gap”: the significant difference between the greenhouse gas emissions expected globally and how much they need to drop in the next few decades to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Climate change is outracing government action

People have worked for decades to slow climate change by altering national energy policies. Several states, for example, have renewable portfolio standards for utilities that require them to increase their use of renewable energy.

But 30 years of evidence from international climate talks suggests that even when nations commit on paper to reducing emissions, they seldom achieve those cuts.

The United Nations climate summit in Glasgow is the latest example. Researchers have found that many countries’ pledges have been developed using flawed data.

People are also increasingly talking about geoengineering solutions for climate change. The idea is that over the coming decades, researchers will find ways to manipulate the environment to absorb more carbon pollution. However, some experts argue that geoengineering could be environmentally catastrophic. Also, there’s significant doubt that technological “draw down” interventions can be perfected and scaled up soon enough to make a difference.

So if government, technology or geoengineering aren’t good answers, what are?

Citizen action

Pledges, goals and targets for shifting from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources are only as good as the efforts by utilities and governments to reach them. Citizen participation and action have proved effective at compelling decision-makers to act. For example, scholars studying the economic, political and social dynamics that led five U.S. municipalities to adopt 100% renewable energy found that grassroots citizen advocacy was one of the key factors that drove the change.

According to the Sierra Club, through citizen-driven action, over 180 cities, more than 10 counties and eight U.S. states have made commitments to transitioning to 100% renewable energy. Consequently, over 100 million U.S residents already live in a community with a 100% renewable energy target.

Citizens have also been taking collective action at the ballot box. For example, in 2019, after New York City voters elected a more climate conscious City Council, the city enacted an ambitious emissions reduction law, and has since begun to enforce it. Also in 2019, after voters similarly shook up the state legislature, New York state enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Among the nation’s strongest climate change laws, New York’s measure mandates that the state shift to 100% renewable energy by 2040 and that its emissions from all sources drop 40% by 2040 and 85% by 2050.

Consumer demand

How and where people spend their money can also influence corporate behavior. Companies and utilities are changing their products and production practices as consumers increasingly demand that they produce ecologically sustainable products and lower their carbon footprints. Scholars have documented that consumer boycotts negatively affect the wealth of a corporation’s shareholders – which in turn can create pressure for a firm to change in response.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that thanks to surging consumer awareness and demand, more than 565 companies have publicly pledged to slash their carbon emissions. Some of the world’s biggest brands have responded to this pressure with claims of already being powered by 100% renewable energy, including Google and Apple.

Google put its global economic might behind climate solutions when it announced in 2019 that it would support the growth of renewable energy resources by making solar and wind energy deals worth US$2 billion.

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One drawback to consumer demand-driven action is that it’s often unclear how to hold these firms accountable for their promises. Recently, two impact investing experts suggested in Vox that since around 137 million Americans own stock in publicly traded companies, they could use their collective power as shareholders to make sure companies follow through.

Shifting household energy behavior

A substantial body of research shows that small changes to everyday behaviors can significantly reduce energy demand. This may be the biggest way individuals and families can contribute to lowering fossil fuel consumption and reducing carbon emissions.

These steps include weatherization and using energy-efficient appliances, as well as energy efficiency measures such as turning down thermostats, washing laundry with cold water and air-drying it rather than using a dryer.

So is shifting transportation behavior. Using public transportation, car pooling, riding a bicycle or walking can significantly reduce individual and cumulative emissions.

People ride bicycles across a roadway as cars wait.
Choosing to ride a bicycle, walk or take public transit rather than drive can significantly lower a person’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

So since most governments aren’t acting quickly enough, and many technology and geoengineering solutions are still unproven or come with high risks, emission reduction goals won’t be achieved without incorporating additional strategies.

The evidence is clear that these strategies should include millions of average people factoring climate change into their everyday activities regarding their communities, purchases and personal energy use.

As the environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in 2006 about dealing with climate change, “There are no silver bullets, only silver buckshot.”

Tom Ptak, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, Texas State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Webinar: Introducing EPA’s Energy Savings and Impacts Scenario Tool

Dec 8, 2021, 1-2 pm CST
Register here.

This one-hour webinar will introduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s new Energy Savings and Impacts Scenario Tool (ESIST) to be launched the same day. ESIST is a customizable and transparent Excel-based planning tool for analyzing the energy savings and costs from energy efficiency programs and their impacts on emissions, public health, and equity. Users can generate energy efficiency scenarios from 2010–2040 at different geographical resolutions, ranging from national- or state-level analysis to different customer sectors within specific utilities.

ESIST enables users to develop scenarios and estimate the multiple benefits of electric customer-funded energy efficiency investments–including avoided emissions, public health benefits, peak demand impacts, and energy burden reductions–and review customer demographic data.

ESIST is a scenario planning tool that balances complexity and relative ease of use, combining several publicly available and peer-reviewed data sets. Users can customize data assumptions or use default values. During this webinar, EPA will provide an overview of the tool, describe use cases, and a perform a demonstration for users.

Speakers

  • Maggie Molina, EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program
  • Cassandra Kubes, EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program
  • Patrick Knight, Synapse Energy Economics

Ready-to-Go: State and Local Efforts Advancing Energy Efficiency

Download the toolkit.

This toolkit provides a resource for local and state governments, and their partner organizations, as they prepare to deploy current and future federal funding opportunities. We first discuss six guiding principles for governments developing energy efficiency programs, synthesizing lessons learned from examples and centering equity considerations. Following this discussion of guiding principles, we provide descriptions of 17 example programs across the United States. These programs address housing, transportation, workforce development, and other topics. Each project description summarizes the program, identifies successes and challenges, and highlights key ways that the program can be applied to other governments’ work.

Smithfield air knife energy reduction project saves compressed air costs

Read the full story at ProFood World.

Smithfield Foods’ Kinston, N.C., facility uses air knives on two of its packaging lines to remove moisture before applying code dating, but air was discharged continuously, even if product was not coming down the line.

“Compressed air is our second-largest energy user at the facility,” states Smithfield Environmental Coordinator Charlie Prentice. “As a simple and inexpensive fix, we installed photo eyes and timers on the knives. They are now set to cut off air to the knife if an eye does not detect product within three seconds, reducing the demand on our air system and eliminating an estimated 11,351.04 kWh from our annual plant usage.”

From leaky windows to building codes, this is how the infrastructure bill will tackle buildings

Read the full story in Fast Company.

The bill contains $5 billion for programs addressing energy efficiency in buildings—but still doesn’t go far enough.

Disaggregation resets expectations when energy efficiency falls short

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

It seems obvious that when a homeowner replaces an old appliance or fixture with a more efficient model, it is always a good thing. Surprisingly, it is not so clear-cut. A number of studies have found that some kinds of residential energy efficiency retrofits not only do not result in significantly less power usage but end up increasing power usage. The positive news is that many utilities are offering solutions to address this challenge by using disaggregation tools to offer homeowners information as to why their energy bill increases rather than drops.

Webinar: Applying open-source tools to unlock data and optimize building operations

Nov 18, 2021, 11 am
Register here.

Join SERDP and ESTCP for a webinar featuring DoD-funded research efforts to optimize building operations through improved energy data management and analysis. William Livingood (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) will discuss open-source tools that help installation energy managers analyze smart meter data to make informed decisions, reduce energy waste and meet DoD mandates. Then, Chris Battisti (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center) will present his team’s work to improve communication and interpretation of energy data across different organizations by using standardized semantic metadata for DoD buildings.

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