- AC Transit Cuts Take Effect Today
- Is the Grid Ready for Electric Cars?
- $274 Million for Water & Sewer Upgrades
- Substandard Workmanship in Weatherization
- Cool Planet – Art Rosenfeld
- L.A.’s Electric Vehicle/ Mass Transit Experiment
- Cool Pavements – Melvin Pomerantz
- Cool Roofs – Ronnen Levinson
- Cool Roofs – Melvin Pomerantz
- 33% of California Energy Renewable by 2020
- Berkeley Gets Shiny New Recycling Bins
- Chris Field – Director of Dept. of Global Ecology
- Don’t Call It A Retrofit… Or An Audit
- Gigaton Throwdown
- Alex Wilson, Founder of EBN – Part 2
- Alex Wilson, Founder of EBN – Part 3
The New York Times Green blog reports on a recent audit by the Department of Energy’s inspector general:
An audit by the inspector general focused on some work done by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, one of 35 agencies in Illinois that are expected to share $91 million over three years. The audit looked at 15 homes and found that 12 failed final inspection “because of substandard workmanship.” In some cases, technicians who tuned up gas-fired heating systems did so improperly, so that they emitted carbon monoxide “at higher than acceptable levels.”
In eight cases, initial assessments of the houses and apartments called for “inappropriate weatherization measures.” In one case an inspector called for more attic insulation but ignored leaks in the roof, which would have ruined the insulation, the audit said. And for 10 homes, “contractors billed for labor charges that had not been incurred and for materials that had not been installed.’’
You can read the entire story here.
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A Lawrence Berkeley National Lab report examined case studies of retrofit projects across the United States as examples of local approaches that saved considerable energy. A recent article in Greentech Media highlights some of the results:
“The bottom line is that providing information and financing isn’t sufficient,” [Merrian] Fuller said during a DOE Technical Assistance Program webinar. For starters, put the message in terms people know and understand. Sell something people actually want. “Often people already assume they’re doing everything they can, so figure out what messages get beyond that,” said Fuller. LBNL found that comfort, health reasons (such as reducing allergens or mold), appealing to people’s social norms or even becoming a self-reliant American were all preferable to just talking about energy savings, or even bill savings. “Don’t assume saving 20 percent on your energy bill will motivate people,” she warned.
She went on to note that communications styles matter. People need hard examples. Instead of telling people their house is leaking energy, instead they need to hear that their hard-earned money is literally flying up the chimney, or that their house is the equivalent of a car getting only 15 miles per gallon. Carl Nelson, the Program and Policy Manager at Center for Energy and Environment in Minnesota, said his group leaders go through training with an improv comedian to more effectively lead community information sessions. They also shy away from the word ‘audit,’ because after all, people rarely associate the word with anything positive. “We try not to make it boring,” said Nelson. “We set up the expectation that they’re going to have this home visit and commit to making a major investment in their home.”
You can read all of the case studies and the full report here.
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Highlighting a few recent stories…
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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Research by the California Public Utility Commission staff indicates that if enough existing lighting and lighting for new buildings incorporate the latest technologies, the state could achieve a 60 to 80 percent reduction in light-related energy use. New policies adopted by the commission promote that goal by encouraging utilities to rethink their current consumer subsidies, which tend to focus on compact fluorescents, in favor of the newer and more energy-efficient technologies. “We need to move on and look at how best to spend our resources on the next step of lighting,” said Theresa Cho, an aide to Commissioner Diane Grueneich. “Our goal is market transformation.” The shelves of Wal-Mart and other big-box stores are already full of compact fluorescents, she said – via the New York Times Green Blog.
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A trio of House Republicans, Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, which would repeal the section of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and would effectively phase out most ordinary incandescents – via the New York Times Green Blog.
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The Department of Energy’s inspector general released an audit on Wednesday showing that it is continuing to buy obsolete fluorescent lamps, bypassing the more modern technologies that it spent tax dollars to develop. Yet even more surprising, it is still buying the familiar incandescent bulbs in place of compact fluorescents. The department operates at 24 sites, and the auditors visited seven of them. “Despite the substantial benefits of C.F.L.’s, all of the sites we visited continued to purchase incandescent lights,” the report said – also via the New York Times Green Blog.
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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.
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I am not (and have never been) a Bay Area homeowner, which is perhaps why I was not very familiar with the term “RECO” until recently.
There are many well-publicized programs aimed at making new buildings as “green” and energy efficient as possible. These efforts are viewed as integral to efforts to reduce future energy use and combat climate change. But in many places, we’re mostly stuck with the buildings that we’ve got. And we’ll likely be stuck with them for many years to come. So how do we influence and improve the energy and water performance of these buildings? One answer is a RECO.
Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance (RECO)
The purpose of a RECO is to improve the energy (and now water) efficiency of housing stock at the point of sale and major renovation.
In Berkeley, CA, the majority of the housing stock was built before the introduction of state building energy codes. The buildings are often drafty, with no insulation and single-pane windows. Further, more than half of the city’s housing units are occupied by renters. In rental units landlords must approve and often conduct and pay for any major energy retrofits. However, the retrofits primarily benefit the renters, who pay the utility bills. Because of these split incentives, an obvious point of intervention to improve the energy efficiency of the existing building stock over time is at transfer of ownership or major renovation. The Berkeley RECO, which has been in place since the 1980s, applies to all residential homes and units, whether single-family homes, condos, multi-family properties, or live-work spaces, and requires that the home or unit comply with specific energy and water performance measures at the time of sale or major renovation.
The Berkeley RECO has ten prescriptive measures covering toilets, showerheads, faucets, water heaters, hot and cold water piping, exterior door weather-stripping, furnace ducts, fireplace chimneys, ceiling insulation, and lighting in common areas (for multi-family buildings).
It is tempting to say the measures are not enough, that much more drastic intervention (and more quickly) will be needed to achieve dramatic energy savings. This is probably true. But many approaches will be needed, and the gradual but consistent improvement of existing housing stock is a good place to start.
Since 1994, Berkeley has also had a Commercial Energy Conservation Ordinance (CECO).
Participants in Berkeley FIRST (Berkeley’s solar financing program) have to comply with RECO/CECO.
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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.