Imagine homeowners and businesses saving millions of dollars – and cutting pollution – without needing to do anything. Magic? No, but it does require electric utilities to take advantage of new technologies that better provide customers with just the right amount of voltage to their electrical outlets.
Many appliances, including incandescent lighting, work just as effectively, yet consume less energy, when the flow of electricity to them is reduced. Put another way, higher voltages generally make individuals and businesses needlessly use more energy, driving up electricity bills and air pollution. Therefore, if voltage was “right-sized,” residents would get enough power to run their appliances efficiently, but not so much that they use more electricity than needed.
What we’ve described above is “voltage optimization,” and a new study by Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) looking at this technology’s potential within Chicago and northern Illinois found it could reduce the need for almost 2,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity (enough to power 180,000 homes) each year at an amazingly low cost of less than two cents per kilowatt-hour – more than is achieved now from the utility’s other efficiency programs. This translates to $240 million per year in savings for ComEd’s customers, of which 90 percent could potentially benefit. The study also suggested full deployment of voltage optimization would only take about five years. Read More
Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first ever national carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. Fossil fuel-fired power plants account for almost 40% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, making them the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation and one of the single largest categories of greenhouse gas sources in the world.
Under the Clean Power Plan, these emissions will decline to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 – accompanied by a significant decline in other harmful pollutants from the power sector, such as sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen. The power sector is already halfway to this target, already 15% below 2005 levels.
The EPA has carefully designed the Clean Power Plan to provide extensive flexibility so that states and power companies can continue to deliver a steady flow of electricity while deploying cost-effective measures to reduce carbon pollution over the next fifteen years. Read More
There is an assault on public health and environmental integrity underway in the Texas Legislature right now that’s the worst I’ve seen in my twenty-something years as an environmental advocate.
The Texas Legislature is currently considering a series of bills that would eliminate much of the important rules protecting not just air and water, but also public health and safety. Many of these laws have been in place for decades and are critical in a state where the energy industry and large polluting companies are a key part of our economy.
Here’s a run-down of some of the worst bills being considered at the Texas Legislature and the elected “leaders” sponsoring them:
Crime: State Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), author of Senate Bill (SB) 931, is proposing to undo the law that put Texas on the national – and international – map for wind energy: the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Set into law in 1999, the RPS set renewable energy, predominately wind, goals for Texas, launching a windfall of new investment in West Texas and the Panhandle. This is the same law that helped create 40 new businesses and 30,000 jobs in 57 West Texas counties, including Fraser’s own county.
Wind energy is a vital component of Texas’ economy and environment. Not only does it support thousands of jobs, predominately in rural West Texas, but wind energy also requires virtually zero water, saving an estimated eight billion gallons of water each year. This bill would also halt construction of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power. This project, one that the state has already invested in, would deliver enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase the available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent. Read More
It’s been 60 years in the making and it’s finally here: America’s power generation fleet has changed so much since the 1950s, and especially over the last decade, that the amount of carbon we emit per megawatt-hour of electricity produced has dropped to its lowest point in recorded history.
In fact, 2015 could be the cleanest ever for our power industry, according to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Two major developments have driven this change:
- Renewable energy projects are skyrocketing.
Based on confirmed contracts, renewable energy will hit a record 18.3 gigawatt of new build in 2015. Of that, 9.1 gigawatts will come from solar (an all-time high) and 8.9 gigawatt from wind (third-most ever).
By the end of 2014, renewables (not including hydro power) accounted for 7 percent of electricity generated in the United States. Solar and wind, alone, are expected to account for 60 percent of new capacity in 2015. Read More
Methane emissions from the US oil and gas sector increased, according to new data finalized today by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sadly, the figures come as no surprise, based on preliminary numbers and plenty of other observations, both scientific and anecdotal. No surprise unless you’re part of the industry’s public relations machine, which keeps insisting that up means down.
What is legitimately surprising is that this problem continues in spite of the many simple, proven and cost effective ways there are to fix it. And therein lies opportunity. Read More
The new Apple Watch, which went on sale last Friday, is attracting huge attention. Among many other features, the watch will monitor your health by tracking fitness and activity, like the Fitbit. In its first day on the market, nearly one million were sold.
The popularity of this wearable device speaks to a larger trend happening in technology that one might call “life tracking”: the ability to track, analyze, and hone your personal activities through the use of connected devices. From fitness to finance, technology like the Apple Watch is enabling more choice and efficiency than ever before. And, just as fitness wearables monitor our personal activity, other devices can monitor our home energy activity – leading to an array of cost-saving and environmental benefits.
Home energy monitors
The Nest thermostat is one of the most well-known home energy monitors. It learns how you like to set your home temperature, and then automatically programs itself to follow your patterns.
For example, if you work an office job and are away from home nine to ten hours a day, the Nest thermostat may cycle the air conditioner down to increase the home temperature a couple of degrees during the day while you’re gone, and then automatically reduce the temperature an hour or so before you return to re-establish your preferred home temperature. Read More