A Year Ago on Zero Resource – September 2010

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California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 2


On Tuesday, January 25, I was in the audience at the SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco as Panama Bartholomy, CEC, and Emma Wendt, PG&E, gave presentation about California’s clean energy future.

The post below consists of Part 2 of my record of the presentation – the second part of Panama Bartholomy’s presentation. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any photos or images.

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Panama Bartholomy

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That’s the context. Let’s get into solutions. On is zero net energy new buildings…. All new homes will produce as much energy as they use by 2020. But our challenge isn’t really new buildings. Our challenge is existing buildings… … We have 3/4 of the units in California built before there were energy codes. So that’s a real challenge….

So we adopted a very ambitious plan in California… the Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan… [highlighting retrofit goals] If you look just at the building sector and where the GHG emissions are coming from… Lighting represents 12% of all the emissions from the building sector. All the pieces get more and more efficient… Except for the “misc” category… which is basically plug loads… Flat screen TVs are 10% of residential energy consumption… and 1% of California’s total electricity consumption…. So we created standards… We had a choice of either building power plants to power all those TVs, or making efficient TVs… we chose efficient TVs.

… …

The CEC now has the authority to enforce energy reduction in existing buildings… We’re going to start by eventually requiring labeling of buildings… Eventually requiring upgrades at different parts in the lifecycle of buildings to improve energy efficiency… Please join us at the rulemaking.

But there are major market barriers… awareness… lack of coordination among the various programs… lack of a trained home performance workforce… lack of home energy rating system. And lastly, a significant lack of access to capital… One of the ways we’re addressing this is with a new program… Energy Upgrade California.

Now I want to talk about renewables… It’s a law that by the end of 2010, all IOUs need to provide at least 20% of their electricity to consumers through renewables… The IOUs have enough renewables under contract to get to 33% by 2020… … There has been intense growth in the Renewable Portfolio Standard capacity over the last few years…. …

Geothermal right now is the number 1 producer, then wind, then a significant amount of small hydro … You can get the most updated numbers on the CEC website….

There are a huge number of renewable projects going through permitting at the state and local level right now… Almost 51 MW total. Obviously, not all will get through permitting, and not all will get built, but that’s a significant number.

… …

One of the reasons the CEC was created is because we were having trouble getting new power plants built in California in the 1970s… thermal plants. We don’t do solar and we don’t do wind… The average solar project site is over 125 times larger than the average natural gas plant. So there are some major issues there… And the Mojave Desert is not a wasteland – it is a fragile ecosystem.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Is solar a renewable resource if it destroys a fragile ecosystem that can never be replaced? … We’re seeing a need to reassess what we mean by renewable energy in California. So we’re developing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan… Starting to created a program for the future of responsible renewable energy in the Mojave Desert. … Achieving all cost-effective energy efficiency reduces the renewable energy needed to meet electricity demand… this means we can have much more strategic placement of the projects…

It comes down to a choice. California’s residents, who live mostly in cities, can put down new power plants on tortoises, or they can change some light bulbs …

… … [looking at a map of where the good wind, solar sites are] So either we need major power lines from spots in the desert to where the people are, or we need to put some PVs on a roof… or on a parking lot… …

With electricity you have a lot of options… With natural gas, you don’t have a lot of options. One is solar thermal… And we better do it quick… … Right now in China, you can buy a system for about $200. The alternative is to heat water with electricity for about $150 per year. In the US a system costs about $7500…

In California, about 42% of union trade members are on the bench right now… [looking at a chart] For every MW of construction, we can look at how many jobs are created for different generation technologies… You can invest in renewable, which are a little more expensive up front, but create jobs…and it’s pretty much free after that except for some maintenance…

Now, to summarize Brown’s plan:

  • Build 12,000 MW of localized electricity generation…
  • Build 8,000 MW of large-scale renewable energy…
  • Federal and state agencies should carry out one integrated environmental review…
  • Reduce peak energy demands and develop energy storage…
  • Increase efficiency of buildings and appliances…
  • Develop more combined heat and power…
  • Appoint a clean energy jobs czar…
  • Develop CEQA Guidelines that accelerate permitting of renewable energy projects…
  • Deliver targeted workforce training programs…

We’re not going to achieve these goals in Sacramento… Politicians don’t retrofit homes… … The only way we achieve any of these goals is through leaders in community, leaders in industry, and the leaders in this room. Thank you very much for your time.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 3 will be posted soon.

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Hot Water, Lights, and Solar as a Service?


A number of start-up companies are trying to formulate a business model that sells hot water, lights, air conditioning, and solar power as a service.

The rationale is that the folks occupying buildings don’t necessarily want to own the equipment that produces hot water, light, cool air, or solar power, but they do want the end result.

The current model is that the companies (such as Skyline Innovations and Metrus Energy) retrofit commercial and industrial buildings, retain ownership of the equipment, and then charge a fee for the energy avoided. Because the fee is almost always less than the cost of the energy avoided, and because the maintenance costs of the equipment are generally included in the fee, the building owner can see further savings.

You can read more about this at Greentech Media.

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Why is DOE Regulating Showerheads?


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Why does the Department of Energy care what kind of showerhead you have? Well, unless you shower exclusively in cold water, the more water you use, the more energy is needed to heat that water.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) states that a showerhead manufactured after January 1, 1994, can deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. However, the term “showerhead” was interpreted by manufacturers to be a device sending water over a bather. Each device was considered to count separately and  separately needed to meet the standard.

The draft interpretive rule published by the DOE clarifies that “a showerhead is any plumbing fitting that is designed to direct water onto a bather regardless of the shape, size, placement, or number of sprays or openings that it may have.”  All nozzles would need to jointly meet the 2.5 gallon per minute standard. This primarily will affect high-end showerheads that deliver much more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

The entire draft interpretive rule can be found on the DOE website here.

At this point, the DOE is planning enforcement actions only against the manufacturers of the offending showerheads. Some of the products that manufacturers have stopped selling as a result of letters from DOE include the “Shower Rose” from Grupo Helvex, which delivered 12 gallons a minute. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association (PHCC-NA) is up in arms over the new interpretation of the definition and is trying to spin the new definition as having a negative impact on water conservation (though no reason is given in this article).

An article at BuildingGreen.com goes into more detail about reactions from plumbing manufacturers, the water conservation community, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

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For readers in the East Bay, East Bay Municipal Utility District offers self-survey kits to help check flow rates and find leaks and free low-flow showerheads (2.0 gallons per minute).

Readers in San Francisco can schedule a free water use evaluation and free low-flow showerheads through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

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