Author Archives: Kate Zerrenner

Sprung a Leak? Smart Water Meters to the Rescue

Source: freshserviceinc.com

Source: freshserviceinc.com

A few months ago I logged into my online utility account and noticed it was more than twice the amount I usually pay, all of the excess going to water. Given the kind of work I do, I scour my bill every month, comparing electric and water usage month-to-month and over the course of the year. We are water and electricity savers in our household, so what on earth could this spike be?

I immediately called the City of Austin, and they sent someone out to check the meter. Nope, nothing on that end. Then we brought in a plumber, who spent many hours and many of our dollars searching and found a leak in the toilet. By the time we went through all of that and got the toilet fixed, we had to pay our enormous bill plus the plumber’s bill. Why should I have to go through that rigmarole just to find a leak?

Wouldn’t it be easier if a smart water meter could send my utility and me a message the moment the toilet starts leaking?

Unfortunately, water infrastructure in this country is sorely in need of a reboot. The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the U.S. drinking water infrastructure a grade of a “D” in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, stating there are 240,000 water main breaks per year. And we’re still using antiquated “technology” in much of the sector. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy-Water Nexus, Smart Grid| Leave a comment

2014 is the Year of the Energy-Water Nexus

Source: worldwaterweek Flickr

Source: worldwaterweek Flickr

2014 is shaping up to be the year of the energy-water nexus. First, the United Nation’s World Water Day centered on this topic. Then, the U.S. Department of Energy released a 250-page report on the energy-water nexus and indicated that it will be included in its Quadrennial Energy Review. And, this week, the biggest international water conference, World Water Week, is taking on the nexus.

Held every year in Stockholm, Sweden, World Water Week is led by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and serves as a platform for over 200 collaborating organizations and 2,500 participants from 130 countries around the world to discuss global water and development issues.

In choosing the energy-water nexus as this year’s theme, SIWI and its supporters are affirming – on a global stage – what policy experts have been saying for years: energy and water are inextricably linked, and the best way to set the energy-water system on a sustainable course is to plan for both resources holistically. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy-Water Nexus| Tagged | Comments closed

U.S. Lags on Energy Efficiency, but Creative Communications can Help

This post was co-written by Catherine Ittner, Communications Intern, and Catherine Nisson, Clean Energy Research Intern.

Source: energyhog.org

Source: energyhog.org

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released the second edition of its International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, ranking the energy efficiency efforts of the world’s 16 largest economies. The report assigns each country a score based on three primary sectors responsible for energy use: buildings, transportation, and industry. So where did the land of the free fall on the index? Disappointingly, the U.S. ranks number 13, ahead of only Russia, Brazil, and Mexico. The international champion for the second time this summer: Germany.

ACEEE concedes the demand for energy has been declining in the U.S. since 2007, and progress is most likely due to increasingly energy-efficient appliances and buildings, as well as the local and state policies that encourage their use. But, clearly, there is significant room for improvement and much of that may lie in behavioral changes and everyday tweaks people can make to conserve energy.

With recent energy efficiency initiatives going nowhere on Capitol Hill, another means of encouraging the efficient use of energy without legislation is to take the message straight to the people. Cue creative communications campaigns that can play a role in bumping the U.S. closer to the top of the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Read More »

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EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Comments closed

New Graphics from DOE Illustrate the Energy-Water-Land Nexus

Energy-Water-Land NexusI’ve talked a lot about the inextricable link between the energy and water sectors, but land is a third component in this nexus that’s starting to gain recognition – and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking note. In fact, they recently released a 250-plus page report on the energy-water nexus (which I explore in-depth in a recent blog post) with accompanying visuals to illustrate the connection between these three sectors.

What is a Sankey diagram?

The primary graphic used to illustrate the connection between these three resources is the Sankey diagram. At first glance, it may make your head spin, but Sankey diagrams are commonly used to visualize energy transfers (although they are also used for other things, such as migration flows).

For example, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) uses Sankey diagrams in its Annual Energy Reports to illustrate the production and consumption of different energy sources. Since the width of the arrows corresponds with quantity, the viewer can easily see where the biggest impacts lie. In this case, it’s clear to see which energy resources are gulping down our water. Read More »

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Landmark Report from DOE Highlights New Challenges, Opportunities for the Energy-Water Nexus

Source: Department of Energy

Source: Department of Energy

If we can send a man to the moon, we can ensure the viability of essential resources – such as energy and water – in an unpredictable future affected by climate change.

A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities, attempts to plan for this uncertainty by providing a landmark review of the US energy-water nexus – the first report of its kind from DOE.

Although there were many compelling findings in this 250-plus page report, for me there were two compelling themes worth noting: 1) energy and water are fundamentally intertwined, but so is land in this nexus, and 2) the Federal Government has an important role to play in providing support and leadership to the entities that govern these resources so that they may begin planning for the effects of climate change more holistically and collaboratively.

The energy, water…and land nexus

The DOE report affirms that the energy and water sectors are highly interconnected, but it also sheds light on a third component that’s becoming increasingly difficult to isolate from the energy-water nexus: land. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy-Water Nexus| 1 Response, comments now closed

The Energy-Water Nexus Faces an Up-Hill Battle…But at Least it’s on ‘The Hill’

Source: Argonne National Library

Source: Argonne National Library

The energy-water nexus has been gaining traction around the globe, including serving as the theme to this year’s World Water Day, and now we are finally seeing some movement on Capitol Hill.

In January, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced S. 1971, the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability Act of 2014, or NEWS Act of 2014. Foremost, the bill would establish an interagency coordination committee focused on the nexus between energy and water production, use, and efficiency. The NEWS Act of 2014 also proposes a cross-cutting budget mechanism to allow policymakers to see where funding is needed across various energy-water initiatives.

While the bill faces a particularly steep slope to passage (7% compared to an average overall 11% passage rate, according to GovTrack, a government transparency tracker), that it has been introduced at all is the first sign of a more comprehensive approach to the energy-water nexus at the highest levels. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| 1 Response, comments now closed

Desalination can Help Solve our Water Woes, but not without Clean Energy

Source: Prodes Project

Source: Prodes Project

As drought continues to grip Texas and many other Western states, one of the solutions often discussed (and pursued) to overcome water scarcity is desalination. Simply put, desalination, or desal as it is most commonly called, is a process that removes salt and other minerals from salty (brackish) or seawater to produce freshwater for drinking and agriculture. This technology seems like a no-brainer option for addressing the state’s water woes, but the problem is that desalination uses a lot of electricity and the majority of Texas’ electricity comes from coal and gas power plants, which require copious amounts of water to generate that electricity. It doesn’t make much sense to use water to make water, especially when there’s an alternative in Texas’ abundant renewable energy resources.

Texas is the national leader in wind energy and has the greatest solar energy potential in the U.S., yet neither of these resources are being widely deployed for desal plants despite recent studies pointing to vast opportunities. Not only do these energy resources produce negligible carbon emissions, but they also consume little to no water, unlike fossil-fueled power plants. Furthermore, if we look at where brackish water sources are located compared to where the wind and solar energy potential is in this state, the overlap is pretty clear. This synergy should not be ignored. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Texas| 2 Responses, comments now closed

Showtime Brings Realities of Texas Drought Home to Millions

Source: Jack Newton

Source: Jack Newton

It may seem like only yesterday that Texans were asked to conserve water after another scorching summer, but in reality it was four, dry years ago. The drought, which began in 2010 after La Niña altered sea level temperatures in the Pacific, continues to persist in the Lone Star State and promises to surpass the state’s record-setting multi-year drought from the 1950s. Ranchers have been forced to sell off cattle, town water supplies continue to go dry, and power plants struggle to provide a reliable supply of electricity due to water scarcity and long stretches of hot weather. Given these bleak conditions, it should not come as a surprise that 70 percent of Texans believe global warming is happening—and 52 percent said they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.

An all-star team of producers, including James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to bring the Texas drought home to millions of televisions across the nation in the Years of Living Dangerously series premiering Sunday. Through this series, a host of celebrities, activists and journalists share the stories of those impacted most by our changing climate and what’s being done to save our planet. What is clear right now, in Texas and beyond, is that as climate change intensifies, we must adapt to more extreme weather conditions and make resilient changes that mitigate further stress. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas| Tagged | Comments closed

Energy-Water Nexus Around the World and the Missing Link

IEA blog

Source: Chenected

The energy-water nexus is gaining traction with diverse stakeholders around the world and it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot plan for our planet’s future if we do not consider energy and water together.

Most recently, the United Nations celebrated World Water Day, launching a yearlong effort to highlight the global energy-water nexus, the chosen theme for 2014. In honor of World Water Day, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook report, the first analysis of its kind to look at the impacts of water scarcity on the global energy sector. This signals a big step in the global understanding of the importance of the energy-water nexus, and reveals important insights on how regions, nations, and industries must cope with less water in a changing climate. Read More »

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