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Jul 3, 2011

Happy Independence Day


Today, we are dependent on an inefficient and unstable energy system. The U.S. relies on energy sources that threaten our economy, national security, and natural environment. However, the energy system is in transition, moving to a more prosperous and secure future.

For example, on June 29, U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Carper (DE), Tom Udall (NM), and Michael Bennet (CO) introduced legislation called the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act to eliminate our dependence on overseas oil. If passed, the legislation will ramp up deployment of electric vehicles, increase travel options and improve infrastructure, make gasoline engines more efficient, develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce the use of oil to heat buildings. The act would reduce oil consumption in the U.S. by over 8 million barrels per day in 20 years, enough to end the need for oil imports from beyond North America. See the press release.

Federal policy is an important lever, but there are various other avenues to this vision. RMI’s experts weighed in on the top five ways for the U.S. to become energy-independent.

1.Change policy at a regional level while pursuing “less sexy” low-hanging fruit in energy management.

“I think we need to be more creative, more resilient, and certainly more self sustaining at a regional level. Change clearly isn't coming from top levels of government, but we are seeing it at municipal and regional levels because the challenges and answers are different in each region. Mayors and governors have more guts than our national politicians, and they aren't afraid to do what needs to be done. We do need to expand our current focus beyond "shiny things" like renewable energy and mass transit (which are indeed important), and include the less sexy stuff like building energy retrofits, energy accountability, water quality and conservation, waste management, resource conservation, and lifestyle. There are huge opportunities for young people to get into critical fields like hydrology, ecology, soils, electrical engineering, and waste—all intertwined and contributing to energy independence.”–Elaine Gallagher Adams AIA, Senior Consultant

2. Reduce loads in retrofitted buildings by designing the space to take advantage of daylight.

“When retrofitting an existing building or design a new building, try to provide an abundance of daylight into your space.  This ultimately reduces the amount of electric light that you need during the day, and as a result reduces the energy your HVAC system must use to overcome the heat your lights produce.  Along with proper controls to automate this process, your building will consume less energy from fossil fuels.”–Nicole LeClaire PE, Senior Consultant

3. Continue to support our growing PV industry as it comes into its own.

“PV offers a way to capture the largest source of renewable energy (sunlight). Plus PVs are the ultimate modular technology that can be deployed all the way down to an individual building scale, representing a paradigm shift from the centralized power plant model and leading to increased self-reliance of electricity consumers.”–Sam Newman, Senior Consultant

4. Use social media tools to enable new types of ridesharing programs.

“Cars with three or more people in them are among the most efficient forms of transportation, but the US average is one person per car. Even modest increases in this average will save money, gasoline, decongest our roads, and cut our dependence on foreign oil.”–Sam Newman, Senior Consultant

5. U.S. industries (especially refining and chemical) need to innovate and promote bio-based feedstock to replace petroleum in industrial processes.

“Relatively little oil is actually consumed for energy purposes in U.S. industry. Rather, U.S. industries (mostly the refining and chemical subsectors) consume a great deal of oil as feedstocks for industrial processes. For instance, to create gasoline and other petrochemical-based products, oil must be consumed to create the final products. However, there is growing progress made to explore alternatives, such as bio-based feedstocks. For instance, big chemical companies such as Dupont and Dow are looking at corn and sugar to convert into feedstocks for some of their products.

“However, before bio-based feedstocks become mainstream and displace a sizeable portion of petroleum consumption, we must foster U.S. innovation and encourage market acceptance."–Albert Chan, Consultant


Showing 1-6 of 6 comments

July 6, 2011

Rewrite #3 “PVs are a modular technology that can be deployed on an individual building scale together with geothermal and wind, representing a paradigm shift from the centralized power plant model and leading to increased self-reliance of electricity consumers.”–Sam Newman, Senior Consultant

#5 "For the local, regional and centralized power plant model, the largest source of unlimited, uninterrupted energy delivery is at most 10 miles from everywhere on earth: geo ... DEEP geo. Using conventional drilling and generation technology, a bit of creative engineering and heat alone, it uses NO petrochemical or bio fuels and produces NO carbon or millenium waste. Geothermal production could replace most coal, oil, nuclear plants -- perhaps using or recycling their generation equipment! -- by 2025. --Vane Lashua, Consultant

July 6, 2011

A large pressure on the environment is the number of humans consuming nonrenewable resources and producing polution and the rate at which that number is growing, yet we no longer hear anything about ZPG (Zero Population Growth - in case you are too young to remember) as a possible mitigator. Perhaps we would rather natural consequences reduce our numbers, as we are reducing those of other species, than to control our reproduction responsibly ourselves.

July 6, 2011

I am very concerned about item number 5... using "food" stocks to create fuel. Corn is now at the highest price levels I personally have seen. As we feed corn to our animals the cost has more than doubled since using corn for bio-fuel. What is the saddest thing is that with only 18 gallons of "fuel" per acre it is an extremely high cost substitute. Burning food that costs substantially more than oil based solutions does not help save anything. It costs more oil products to harvest the food and produce fuel than it creates.

Since algae farms can produce thousands of gallons of bio-fuel per acre it would seem a better choice.

Just a side note...as an self-contained off-grid solar and wind power user I am constantly irritated by people who drive huge SUVs and have a carbon footprint of a large corporation crying about "something needs to be done". Perhaps the complainers should actually DO something and not expect everyone else to spend the extra money to go green and still allow them to do whatever they want.

July 6, 2011

There is a colossal mistake being planned this month to widen the 405 in LA.
In another 5 years the widened 405 will be packed again because thats what happens when you widen existing highways..more cars use the highway.
The Best solution is to take the money for the highway and run Mass Transit line down the middle of 405..so while the guy in the Heavy Chevy or the Rolls Royce is in traffic waiting 1 hour to go one mile and (burning 20$ worth of fuel).. the poor americans go zipping by in the train and get to their destination at least an hour before the motorists does.
The electric energy source for Mass transit will be wholly supplied from solar panel arrays in the mojave desert.
The Japanese, Chinese and Europeans ALL have a better mass transit system than we amercians do..why does the US always go for the most energy-consumptive option when there is a affordable green energy option available?

July 6, 2011

As Amory B. Lovins stated some 26 years ago, to paraphrase, "It costs far less to save energy than to buy it". Therefore, please look at www.E-SpaceSystems.net As is commonly known, inefficient buildings are our greatest energy wasters. Our commitment is to bring the construction of homes to Net Zero as soon as possible.

Barry R.

July 7, 2011

Here's the Executive Summary of a completely free-market plan to make San Diego County renewable electricity self-sufficient at a lower cost than doing nothing. For the whole paper go to www.jimbell.com and click on "Green Papers."

Electricity Supply and Price Security in
San Diego County
Comparison of Strategies for the Production/Procurement of Electricity and Elimination of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Jim Bell and Dr. Heather Honea


Copyright © 2007 Jim Bell & Heather Honea, PhD


This research brief compares two energy production and procurement options in terms of their ability to make San Diego County electricity price and supply secure. Both options require that San Diego County fully meet its electricity requirements.

• Net-Meter Option – San Diego County passes Community Choice Aggregation Ordinances and invests ratepayer dollars into becoming renewable electricity net-metered-out* by increasing its electricity use efficiency by 40% and by installing photovoltaic (PV) systems on 20.5% of its roofs and parking lots. *Net-metered-out means that San Diego County will be putting as many kWh into the Western States Grid each year as it uses from the grid each year.

• Power Link Option – SDG&E invests ratepayer dollars in building the Sunrise Power Link and Diego County continues to purchase imported electricity from SDG&E. In this Brief the Power Link is analyzed as being a continuation of the County’s current dependence on imported electricity or imported natural gas or nuclear fuels to produce it in the County.

To determine which option best meets San Diego County’s electricity supply and price security needs, each alternative was evaluated in terms of its contribution or threat to economic security and opportunity, energy security, public and environmental health, and social good. Our analyses indicate that the Net Meter Option provides the greatest benefit across all of these factors.

Return On Investment – (ROI). Of the two Options, only the Net-Meter Option generates a return on investment to ratepayers and actually becomes self-funding after initial start-up capital sets it in motion.

Energy and Economic Security. The Net-Meter Option provides San Diego County the most economic security and opportunity by changing its current negative-electricity-purchase-cash-flow into a positive-electricity-purchase-cash-flow. The Net-Meter Option keeps the majority of the money the County currently exports to pay for imported electricity or imported natural gas to produce it locally -- in its local economy. This dollar export exceeded $1 billion in 2005.

The Net-Meter Option is fueled by inexhaustible solar energy which is delivered free. Therefore, it will protect San Diego County from economic shocks related to rapid rises in the cost of natural gas or other nonrenewable fuels whether such price hikes are real or contrived.

In contrast the Power Link Option will deliver imported electricity. Regardless of whether this electricity is produced renewably or with nonrenewable fuels, it will continue the current negative-electricity-purchase-cash-flow out of the County’s economy.
If the average retail cost for electricity in the County is $.10 per kWh the County’s 2010 negative-electricity-purchase-cash-flow will exceed $1.6 billion and grow to over $2 billion in 2050 assuming the County’s population grows to 3.92 million by 2050. If the cost of natural gas doubles or triples as it did during the 2001-2002 energy crisis the negative cash flow related to purchasing natural gas to produce electricity locally or purchasing imported electricity produced by burning it would grow proportionally. This level of negative-electricity-purchase-cash-flow would adversely affect the economy.

The Net-Meter Option is the only strategy that can provide San Diego County with true electricity supply and price security. This is because solar energy in its various forms is our County’s primary indigenous energy resource. All we have to do to harness this resource is to install sufficient efficiency improvements and devices to convert free solar energy into electricity. If the County were to net-metered-out, for all practical purposes it would become renewable electricity self-sufficient. Similar to power plants that depend on the grid for power when they are down for repairs and overhauls, solar generation would depend on the grid when there was insufficient local renewably generated electricity to meet the County’s electricity needs. Once the County is renewable electricity net-metered-out, its PV system output would substantially exceed the County’s need for electricity during the majority of its peak demand hours, when the sun is shining. This would reduce transmission congestion.

The Power Link Option is highly dependent on increasingly costly, politically vulnerable, finite supplies of natural gas and other non-renewable energy resources. It is difficult to predict the cost of natural gas and other nonrenewable energy resources -- especially, if liquefied natural gas is imported from terrorist and earthquake racked Indonesia to the Power Links terminus in Mexicali, Mexico. This is SDG&E’s current plan. Therefore, the Power Link Option does not provide real energy price and supply security.

Social and Environmental Good. The Net-Meter Option will be virtually health and environment benign because solar generated electricity produces no pollution or greenhouse gases. It will also stimulate local business and employment

The Power Link will deliver electricity produced in distant power plants primarily by burning natural gas or some other nonrenewable and polluting energy sources. While this will minimizes local pollution, it will increase it globally because of transmission losses.

Proof of Concept

As the first step toward making the Net-Meter Option a reality, this brief proposes that San Diego County begin with a modest Proof of Concept Project. This project would consist of the County Board of Supervisors issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to qualified bidders to make the County 2% renewable electricity net-metered-out by mid 2010. Specifically, we propose that the San Diego County in partnership with the San Diego Apollo Alliance develop a Proof of Concept Project that would mirror the County’s current electricity use profile of 4% large commercial, 28% medium commercial, 7% small commercial, 7% agriculture and 54% residential. By maintaining this ratio, the success of the Proof of Concept Project would validate the security, economic, health, and public good benefits outlined in this brief and provide an economic model that the County could apply to becoming completely renewable electricity net-metered-out.

San Diego County would issue an RFP for the Proof of Concept Project to qualified bidders. Qualified bidders would include Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and SDG&E. ESCOs are companies who help clients reduce energy costs by improving their energy use efficiency and developing their renewable energy resources. ESCOs typically supply the working capital to perform the work they do. They pay back their capital investment and make their profits by sharing in the savings on energy costs that the work they perform makes available. Once finance costs are paid and profit margins are met, the ESCO’s role ends. After that, all the savings generated by the improvements go to the client, which in this case would be San Diego County, its residents and resident businesses.

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