Many cities, like Asheville, North Carolina, used federal stimulus funds to install LED streetlights. (Photo via City of Asheville)
A federal infusion of energy efficiency and conservation funds to cities, counties and tribal governments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a smashing success, according to a recent report released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The report, released February 27, also bemoans the fact that the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program funded by the federal stimulus was not renewed, and since then local partnerships with the federal government on efficiency and renewable energy projects have plummeted.
The EECBG was created by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, based on the community development block grants awarded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. About a year after the EECBG was created, it was funded by Congress under the stimulus program.
After being funded, the EECBG provided $2.7 billion for energy efficiency and conservation initiatives to cities larger than 35,000 people, counties larger than 200,000 and tribal governments, along with giving money to states to distribute to municipalities. Also as part of the stimulus the U.S. Department of Energy awarded another $400 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects.
(Photo by Walter Grutchfield via Creative Commons)
Two economists who favor scaling back Ohio’s energy efficiency standard admit they did not consider all potential benefits in their recent reports criticizing the current law.
Last week, an industry group released two reports finding fault with an analysis that projects billions of dollars in costs and thousands of job losses if Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are rolled back.
The new reports conclude that the costs of energy efficiency programs outweigh one benefit—lower wholesale energy prices. The reports’ authors acknowledge, however, that they did not calculate any other potential benefits.
The new reports are basically “nitpicking,” responds Joseph Fiksel. He heads The Ohio State University’s Center for Resilience, which did the modeling work last fall.
More importantly, supporters of the current law say, the reports don’t address basic problems in a pending bill that would scale back Ohio’s energy efficiency law.
(Photo by Tau Zero via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Clean energy advocates are pointing to recent reports on electricity use in the Midwest as clear evidence that state efficiency programs and technological advances are paying dividends in the region and fundamentally altering the landscape for utilities, regulators and consumers.
One example is a recent projection from the Midwest’s grid operator that showed electricity demand in the region is expected to decline almost 1 percent annually through 2016.
The forecast of a 0.75-percent reduction in annual electricity demand within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.’s North and Central regions represents a shift from the 0.8 percent growth rate in the organization’s previous long-term reliability assessment.
(Photo by Michael Krigsman via Creative Commons)
After a three-year pilot program that won praise from state officials and environmental groups, Minnesota’s largest natural gas utility is proposing to walk away from a concept known as revenue decoupling.
CenterPoint Energy, which is in the midst of a contested rate case, said in a Jan. 31 regulatory filing that it will no longer seek approval for a permanent decoupling mechanism it proposed last summer.
That proposal faced opposition from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which argued that it would confuse customers and shift too many costs and risks onto residential and small business ratepayers.
As more customers switch to high-efficiency lighting, utilities are having to look elsewhere to meet energy conservation mandates. (Photo by Dan McKay via Creative Commons)
What happens when the “low-hanging fruit” of energy efficiency runs out?
Illinois is about to find out.
After years of heavy reliance on lighting upgrades and other programs, the state’s two largest utilities, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Ameren Illinois, are now coming up short on meeting state-mandated efficiency goals.
However, Illinois Commerce Commission orders released last month show there are still plenty of opportunities to further cut energy consumption, according to clean energy advocates who are part of the stakeholder group involved in the proceedings.
“Nikki Neutron” is among the characters used in the National Theatre for Children’s energy-themed school performances. (Photo courtesy National Theatre for Children)
As low-hanging fruit gets tougher to find, utilities are being forced to think creatively about their energy conservation programs.
Ward Eames has a solution that’s certainly creative.
Eames is founder of the National Theatre for Children, a Minneapolis education company that stages thousands of shows each year in school gyms and auditoriums across the country. The productions are paid for by utilities and deliver lessons on electrical safety, renewable energy or energy conservation.
The aim is to spark kids’ interest in energy with an entertaining program, but the real target is often adults.
(Photo by Pedro Moura Pinheiro via Creative Commons)
If you traveled by air over the holidays, you may have landed with a bit of green guilt.
Conventional wisdom says that driving a relatively fuel-efficient car is usually better for the environment than flying.
That may no longer be the case, though, according to new calculations from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.
Over the last four decades, driving has steadily lost the fuel-efficiency edge it once held over flying. In 1970, the per-passenger-mile fuel intensity for flying was twice that of an average car trip.
“That is no longer the case for the average vehicle,” says Michael Sivak, director of Michigan’s sustainable transportation program, which produces a monthly “eco-driving” index of greenhouse emissions from U.S. drivers.
In fact, matching the fuel intensity of an average flight now requires a car get at least 33.8 mpg or have more than two occupants, according to to Sivak’s latest paper, “Making Driving Less Energy Intensive Than Flying.”
David Rotbard, left, developer of Coalition:Energy and Jeremy Adelman of the Energy Foundry break in a new co-working space in Chicago. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Adelman)
Look out the east side windows from the 12th floor of the historic Gage building in downtown Chicago, and you see Millennium Park and the glittering expanse of Lake Michigan.
Paradoxically, the view from the west side is also the lake’s blue waters. It throws the viewer for a loop, until you realize that you’re seeing the lake reflected in a neighboring sleek glass building.
This unexpected touch seems to symbolize the sense of unfettered possibility and imagination that developers are going for with this freshly painted orange and aqua space, that they hope will become a hive of entrepreneurship and innovation on the clean energy front.
It’s a former hat factory turned co-working space complete with minimalist offices and retro phone booths — lacking seats so that no one will linger inside too long. It’s meant to be something like 1871, Chicago’s hotshot digital co-working space and startup incubator.
(Photo by Laura Gilmore via Creative Commons)
Starting in 2014, large commercial building owners in Minneapolis will be required to annually report data on their properties’ energy use to the city, which will make that information available to the public.
For many, meeting the requirement will be no big deal. Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager tool is already used to track energy consumption for about 40 percent of U.S. commercial building space.
But adding up energy use can be an administrative hassle for multi-tenant building owners, who may need signed waivers from every renter and manual calculations by their utility to reach a total.
The city of Minneapolis and the U.S. Department of Energy hope that won’t be the case for long.