The Rundown: 2011 BERC Energy Symposium

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Last week, I attended the 2011 BERC Energy Symposium, on the UC Berkeley campus. There were a number of interesting folks both speaking and attending, so I’d like to give you all a sense of what was covered.

I attended a panel on energy and behavior on Friday morning – I will post some thoughts on it in the next few days.

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Coverage from The Berkeley Science Review:

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You can find more information about BERC and this year’s expo and symposium here.

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The Future of Energy

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The most recent Planet Money podcast is a discussion of the future of energy with Daniel Yergin, an influential thinker and author on energy issues.

The podcast is online here (with a transcript). The energy part of the discussion starts between 3.5-4 minutes in.

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Implementing the AIA 2030 Commitment

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I came across this blog through one of the many mailing lists I am subscribed to. I started reading, and I wanted to share.

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Mike Davis has a blog about convincing his architectural firm, Bergmeyer, to sign the AIA 2030 Commitment – Mike Davis FAIA.

It all starts when he tries to convince his local AIA chapter, the Boston Society of Architects, to set a goal of getting all member firms to sign the commitment. Then, as he puts it:

 I said “this Committee should set a goal of achieving 100% BSA member-firm participation in the 2030 Commitment!”

Eric White, BSA Deputy Director, was quick to throw down the gauntlet. “Mike, you could get your firm to join and write a blog about it! Stories-from-the-trenches kind of thing.”

So here we are. For the next year or so, I will be blogging about getting my architectural firm – Bergmeyer – to sign the AIA 2030 Commitment and recording our progress as we follow through with our first year of reporting. You should try this at your firm, too.

He’s been blogging since June. It’s very interesting insight into how the culture of the design community approaches meeting sustainability goals. Go check it out!

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You can find more information on the AIA 2030 Commitment on the AIA website, here.

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PG&E Smart Grid Plan

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On June 30, PG&E posted a notice on its website that it posted a plan for “modernizing its electric infrastructure to deliver a host of energy and cost savings to PG&E customers across Northern and Central California.”

For those interested in reading the plan, you can access it via the news release or open the PDF directly here.

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Climate Change Hits Home

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(Image credit: flickr user heidi.nutters, via SPUR)

A recent report by SPUR entitled “Climate change hits home” addresses how we should plan to adapt to climate change in the Bay Area. The report includes a number of strategies to help local communities to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Some of the key impacts discussed in the report include:

  1. Higher average temperatures,
  2. Increased number of heat waves,
  3. Water uncertainty: droughts, extreme storms, flooding,
  4. An increased risk of wildfire, and
  5. Sea level rise.

The SPUR task force responsible for the report then considered how these impacts would affect various areas of planning in the Bay Area and proposed strategies to adapt to them.

The goal of the report is to get local agencies to begin to talk to one another to coordinate responses to climate change. Many of the adaptation strategies proposed in the report will also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a real “win-win” overall.

A copy of the report is available for download from the SPUR website.

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Battle of the Buildings

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Early this month the U.S. EPA launched its 2011 National Building Competition, “Battle of the Buildings“. 245 buildings from across the country will be battling it out “head to head” to see how much each can reduce energy consumption by a given deadline.

The buildings represent a mix of  buildings including 26 different commercial building types and a range of building ages up to 100+. The Competitors will be using EPA’s online tracking tool Energy Star Portfolio Manager to keep track of results.

With the building sector contributing near 20 percent of the country’s energy use and emissions according to the EPA, this competition will help raise awareness and provide practical case studies for a variety of real-world situations.

the competition site even features a tweet stream to follow along with participants’ progress.

The top scoring buildings move on to the finals in July, with an overall winner announced in November.

Some Shameless Self-Promotion

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I am a contributing author to Energy, Sustainability and the Environment: Technology, Incentives, Behavior. The book was just released by Elsevier, and you can find it on Amazon here.

Many thanks to friends and mentors Nick Rajkovich and Bill Miller for all their work on the chapter we wrote together.

I got my copy from the publisher in the mail last night.

More Bad News – EIA Faces a Funding Cut

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In addition to the bad news about CBECS 2007, the U.S. Energy Information Administation is facing an immediate 14% funding cut. This means there will be less information and analysis about energy.

The following is from an EIA press release:

“The lower FY 2011 funding level will require significant cuts in EIA’s data, analysis, and forecasting activities,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. “EIA had already taken a number of decisive steps in recent years to streamline operations and enhance overall efficiency, and we will continue to do so in order to minimize the impact of these cuts at a time when both policymaker and public interest in energy issues is high,” he said… …

Initial adjustments to EIA’s data, analysis, and forecasting programs include the following:

Oil and Natural Gas Information

  • Do not prepare or publish 2011 edition of the annual data release on U.S. proved oil and natural gas reserves.
  • Curtail efforts to understand linkages between physical energy markets and financial trading.
  • Suspend analysis and reporting on the market impacts of planned refinery outages.
  • Curtail collection and dissemination of monthly state-level data on wholesale petroleum product prices, including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, propane, residual fuel oil, and kerosene. Also, terminate the preparation and publication of the annual petroleum marketing data report and the fuel oil and kerosene sales report.
  • Suspend auditing of data submitted by major oil and natural gas companies and reporting on their 2010 financial performance through EIA’s Financial Reporting System.
  • Reduce collection of data from natural gas marketing companies.
  • Cancel the planned increase in resources to be applied to petroleum data quality issues.
  • Reduce data collection from smaller entities across a range of EIA oil and natural gas surveys.

Electricity, Renewables, and Coal Information

  • Reduce data on electricity exports and imports.
  • Terminate annual data collection and report on geothermal space heating (heat pump) systems.
  • Terminate annual data collection and report on solar thermal systems.
  • Reduce data collection from smaller entities across a range of EIA electricity and coal surveys.

Consumption, Efficiency, and International Energy Information

  • Suspend work on EIA’s 2011 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), the Nation’s only source of statistical data for energy consumption and related characteristics of commercial buildings.
  • Terminate updates to EIA’s International Energy Statistics.

Energy Analysis Capacity

  • Halt preparation of the 2012 edition of EIA’s International Energy Outlook.
  • Suspend further upgrades to the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS). NEMS is the country’s preeminent tool for developing projections of U.S. energy production, consumption, prices, and technologies and its results are widely used by policymakers, industry, and others in making energy-related decisions. A multiyear project to replace aging NEMS components will be halted.
  • Eliminate annual published inventory of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States.
  • Limit responses to requests from policymakers for special analyses.
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Bad News About CBECS 2007

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I just got an email pointing me towards the following press release from the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

CBECS Status

EIA regrets to report that the 2007 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) has not yielded valid statistical estimates of building counts, energy characteristics, consumption, and expenditures.  Because the data do not meet EIA standards for quality, credible energy information, neither data tables nor a public use file will be released.  In the interim, EIA will develop key energy indicators for commercial buildings in collaboration with EIA’s forecasting staff for the Annual Energy Outlook.

Factors contributing to the failure of the 2007 survey include the use of a cheaper but experimental survey frame and sampling method by EIA’s prime contractor, design errors in the construction of the method and selection of common building types, and an inability to monitor and manage its use in a production survey environment.  EIA has reviewed and introduced significant changes in its procurement and project management standards that will prevent this type of loss in the future.

As reported in the EIA Press Release, “Immediate Reductions in EIA’s Energy Data and Analysis Programs Necessitated by FY 2011 Funding Cut” (http://www.eia.gov/pressroom/releases/press362.cfm), work on the 2011 CBECS has been suspended at this time.

The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) is a national sample survey that collects information on the stock of U.S. commercial buildings, their energy-related building characteristics, and their energy consumption and expenditures. Commercial buildings include all buildings in which at least half of the floorspace is used for a purpose that is not residential, industrial, or agricultural, so they include building types that might not traditionally be considered “commercial,” such as schools, correctional institutions, and buildings used for religious worship.

The CBECS was first conducted in 1979; the eighth, and most recent survey, was conducted in 2003. CBECS is currently conducted on a quadrennial basis.

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The San Francisco Federal Building…at 2 AM

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Yes, it’s true. While I was waiting for a TransBay bus near Civic Center at 2 am a couple weeks ago (not something I do often), I was thinking about energy efficiency.

I took the following (terrible) cell phone photo of the Federal Building from Market Street:

And I wondered, “Why are all those lights on?”

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There are a number of reasons that entire floors of lights might be on in a building in the middle of the night. Reasons could include:

  • Cleaning crews come in after workers leave and turn all the lights on a floor on
  • A few folks are working really, really late and can only control large areas of lights
  • Sensors or timers that turn off the lights are not functioning properly
  • Nobody knows how to turn off the lights

But the San Francisco Federal Building is touted as a high-performance low-energy building. And someone else has previously noticed lights on late at night. So what’s going on?

I’m going to see what I can find out in the next week or two and will write a follow-up post.

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More information on the San Francisco Federal Building is available from the architects (Morphosis),  Flex Your Power, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a case study by Rocky Mountain Institute.

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