Saturday, March 19, 2011

Working Toward a Clean Energy Economy

Check out this guest commentary at the Denver Post from an outgoing member of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Although this PUC member is leaving, it's refreshing to see his passion for Colorado's clean energy economy. It's necessary that we start transitioning away as quickly as we can from fossil fuels and move towards clean and renewable sources of energy. The reason? Simply put, burning fossil fuels to provide transportation to move ourselves and our products as well as providing heating and cooling for our homes is unsustainable. With the rate of consumption and the amount of those consuming (6.9 billion so far) increasing exponentially, we will not have enough fossil fuels for future generations to use for their energy needs. But lack of sustainability is only half the problem. Don't forget about the pollutants that occur to our air, water, and land from the use of fossil fuels. Anybody remember watching the footage of the Olympics in Beijing? The haze that was clearly visible (and clearly felt in the lungs by the visiting athletes) was from coal-burning power plants and manufacturing plants. Of course, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has thankfully prevented us from becoming a Beijing (although before the EPA's creation we were certainly headed there). I could go on, but I think you get the picture - the use of fossil fuels are unsustainable.

I look forward to the cooperation that will occur between the utilities, the PUC, and the consumers in order to help the state of Colorado create a sustainable, clean energy economy, if not for ourselves, then for future generations.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NREL Software Visualizes Energy Use in Buildings

I truly love this stuff! A software development team at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) have created a free program called OpenStudio that allows you to explore the energy use in any building. The software program was developed for Windows, OSX, and Linux and enables you to add various "loads" such as lighting, HVAC systems, and other equipment that use energy throughout a building. The program integrates well with a few Google applications like SketchUp and there are various plug-ins that can do cool things like convert a photograph of a building into a 3D model. According to the developers there is great potential here to integrate with other Google apps. My only critique is that there isn't a robust GUI to make it user-friendly for the nontechnical, but I imagine that this will come in time. This is a gigantic first step in bringing energy modeling to the masses and helping to further educate each of us on how a building consumes energy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Does Energy Efficiency’s Promise Remain Unfulfilled?

Recently, I have felt that energy efficiency techniques haven't been adopted by commercial and residential buildings as quickly as they should. I'm really a bit shocked when individuals and businesses don't want to save cold hard cash by reducing how much energy is consumed by their home or office. We all should know that of all the "clean" methods that provide the quickest return on investment (ROI), making a home or business use energy wisely is it. And while we wait for the cost of solar photovoltaic modules to come down in price, we should prepare our building by getting a professional energy audit and then incorporating energy efficiency measures. This process of changing light bulbs or adding insulation or caulking the holes isn't difficult and I wonder why more folks aren't thinking about doing it and really aren't interested in saving a buck.

So when I saw this article, "Why Does Energy Efficiency's Promise Remain Unfulfilled," I just had to read it. You should too, because it addresses the reasons why consumers aren't always motivated by what makes economic sense. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true!

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?

*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.


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