Posts Tagged energy efficiency

The International Climate REDI Project

Posted by on Tuesday, 4 January, 2011

The Climate Renewables and Efficiency Development Initiative is an international agreement, led by the Department of Energy, that helps residents of low income countries switch to more energy efficient appliances. According to the Department of Energy, the United States will be paying $85 billion of the project costs from 2011-2015, and other developed countries will cover the remaining $265 billion in costs.

This project includes several new programs. One program is the Solar and LED energy program. LED bulbs are much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they are even more energy efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs. The purpose of this project is to provide the bulbs, along with solar generators, to rural residents and other people who don’t have access to the electric grid.

The Super Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment program is also a new program that Climate REDI establishes. The program focuses on market incentives. California and other states periodically offer tax credits for energy efficient appliances, immediate purchase rebates, and provide subsidies so that sources of clean energy can compete with other power sources such as coal and oil. According to Humboldt State University, California advisers are already familiar with establishing standards for these incentive programs because of the previous and current initiatives in the state.

The third new Climate REDI program is the Clean Energy Information Platform. This is a database that allows scientists in developing countries to easily exchange information with advisers in the developed countries that are funding the project. Each technologically advanced country picks different areas of expertise, so Australia and Britain consult on carbon capture and Germany and Spain give advice about solar power.

Another program is the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program. $250 billion out of the total $350 billion of project funds will support this program, which is an existing program that the World Bank manages, according to America.gov. Although Climate REDI offers $250 million to finance this project, the World Bank also uses funds from other sources to support renewable energy projects in developing countries.

Digital Electrical Meters

Posted by on Tuesday, 1 June, 2010

It’s important to track your energy usage if you’re interested in reducing it. A target such as 20% less electricity is much easier to obtain when you’re aware of how much power appliances in your home use. Even smaller appliances such as toasters and ovens can use more power than you expect, especially if you have already purchased energy efficient larger appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators.

One method of monitoring your energy usage is suggested by a blog post at the Energy Savers Blog at the US Department of Energy. A digital electrical meter can track the power usage for an individual electrical appliance and give you the precise information on how much electricity it uses. This is very useful if you are using older electrical appliances that do not clearly state how much power they use, newer Energy Star appliances may state their power usage on a sticker pasted on the appliance itself.

The blog post is about getting a digital electrical meter and installing it. The poster wanted to borrow an electrical meter from the library, but of course the library wants to lend out books and maybe videos, CDs, and DVDs, it doesn’t want to lend out home appliances. That’s actually an interesting concept that would be an innovative community project. There’s no reason a city like Ventura can’t loan out digital electrical meters, or even other energy efficient tools such as lawnmowers and chainsaws. This isn’t something most cities have done in the past, but libraries were not common around the nation either until Andrew Carnegie decided to support education around the United States by providing grants for US cities to set up libraries.

A web page at my alma mater, Humboldt State University, explains how digital electrical meters operate. Basically, it’s a device that plugs into an appliance. Instead of directly connecting an appliance to a wall socket, you plug the appliance’s power cord into the digital electrical meter, and then you plug the electrical meter itself into the wall socket. Be sure that you have extra power cords on hand in case the meter doesn’t come with extra cords when you buy it. Humboldt reminds you to take care of these power meters, using a soft cloth to clean the screen, instead of an abrasive paper towel. I’d recommend purchasing one rather than renting it as they sell for about $200, and you will want to keep one around the house to test out new appliances you purchase. As far as I know there isn’t a government rebate specifically for digital electrical meters like there is for energy efficient refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines, but there might be a program in the future.

Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit Program

Posted by on Saturday, 15 May, 2010

Oregon offers tax credits for many businesses that invest in renewable energy as well as reductions in their overall energy usage. Although this program is subject to cutbacks because of overall economic conditions, it still provides many benefits for businesses that reduce their energy usage and carbon emissions.

The program provides benefits in several areas, according to the State of Oregon. A major area is conservation, and the program allows tax credits for business owners who set up projects that conserve resources such as water and electricity through improvements to the air conditioning and irrigation systems at their companies. Qualification for this project does involve the business owner submitting an application to the State of Oregon and explaining why their project is eligible for tax benefits. The project has to be at least ten percent more energy efficient than the typical systems which other companies install.

The Oregon tax credit is a percentage of installment costs, not the full installment cost. At a thirty five percent rate, it does provide a significant reduction in construction costs, and does create an economic stimulus effect. Oregon requires a relatively short payback period, less than fifteen years. This is short because large improvements may be designed to last decades, and if a project lasts for fifty years, demand may be high enough that the cost will not allow payback in fifty years. Payback periods are affected by overall energy costs, so even if a new refrigerator or air conditioning system does not appear to have a payback period of less than fifteen years now, it might when gas prices sharply jump during a crisis in the future. You’ll still have to make the calculation with reasonable numbers now when sending in the tax credit application, to get the approval of the Oregon auditors.

This project is now scaled back, not just because of the economy, but because of widespread fraud. According to Oregon Live, the previous regulations allowed businesses to collect money from the state of Oregon without providing any energy saving benefits. The new compromise bill allows wind power generators to still receive tax credits for building new turbines and wind farms, and reduces abuses such as dividing up the wind farms to receive greater amounts of Oregon taxpayer money. A clawback provision allows Oregon to reclaim subsidies on projects that do not continually meet energy efficiency standards. The government agency, DSIRE, offers a very long list of the types of projects eligible for Oregon energy efficiency grants, including local grants such as cities and counties that subsidize solar, wind power, and other renewable energy.

Green Refrigerator Payback Period

Posted by on Saturday, 17 April, 2010

The State of California, along with the other US states, offers rebates on the purchase of energy efficient household appliances, including refrigerators. The payback period for these green refrigerators is the amount of time it takes before a homeowner covers the expenses of their new refrigerator and starts gaining money.

A green refrigerator is sold at a retail store, such as Best Buy or Sears. The customer receives a rebate that the merchant turns in to the state government agency in charge of the environmental rebate program, so there is a deduction included in the purchase price. The customer also pays money to transport the new refrigerator home and have it installed.

So you add up the initial costs:
Refrigerator $1000
State Rebate ($200)
Installation $50
So the total purchase and installation cost is $850.

Next, add the operations expenses and energy savings each year. An Energy Star qualified refrigerator reduces energy consumption by at least twenty percent. Because of the additional cost for powering other appliances in the house, the savings from purchasing an Energy Star refrigerator may be a lot higher. Using the Energy Star Calculator and California’s average power rate, the site shows a cost reduction from $183 a year to $58 a year for a typical California refrigerator, an average annual savings of $125. Refrigerators don’t last forever, so the payback period includes the refrigerator’s depreciation cost. This requires estimating the refrigerator’s normal lifetime. Since we are buying a new 2010 refrigerator for $1000 sticker price, it’s a quality product, so we’ll use 20 years as the lifetime. Dividing $850 by 20 we get a straight line depreciation of $42.50.

Operation costs and savings:
Energy Savings $125
Depreciation ($42.50)
So the total savings each year is $82.50.

Dividing the initial refrigerator cost, $850, by the savings in energy bills, $82.50, provides the payback period, 10.3 years. The homeowner breaks even after 10.3 years, but the refrigerator usually lasts for 20 years. Multiplying the savings of $82.50 by the remaining lifespan, 9.7 years, gives the homeowner a total power bill reduction of $800.25 when buying a refrigerator through the California program. This calculation assumes energy costs remain the same, so if they increase each year, the refrigerator buyer will save more over time.

Home Star Retrofit Rebate

Posted by on Tuesday, 6 April, 2010

The Home Star Retrofit Rebate Program is a new program that will provide homeowners with federal rebates if it passes. The act is currently under discussion by House Members including Representative Waxman, and is supported by President Obama. This program would provide federal funding to fix up houses so heating and cooling use less energy.

This program will provide rebates directly to customers when they install the retrofit equipment, according to the White House. The retailer, energy company, or energy contractor offers the rebate and then receives payment from the government. It’s an efficiency retrofit program, so this doesn’t involve adding new solar panels or wind plants to houses. The rebates are offered to people who install new attic and wall insulation, heating and air conditioning, as well as other items.

Significantly, the federal government also mentions that it will help the homeowners borrow money to install the retrofits. It’s unclear how much liability the federal government is assuming if the bill passes, considering the debacle of home improvements during the bubble such as granite counter tops. At least these types of loans reduce energy usage, which does add value to a home even in a down market as these are not cosmetic improvements. It appears these loans will be provided by state and county governments, with additional backing provided by the Treasury. That potentially makes the loans up to regional governments, which may or may not be enthusiastic about lending money for the retrofits. States such as California that are hit hard by the loss of construction jobs and have many citizens concerned about energy cost reduction are more likely to go along with this policy.

The government has set targets in previous legislation, such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Meeting these targets requires additional federal backing. Researchers at Duke University explain some additional ways the federal government can support energy conservation. The support for home energy audits mentioned in this article are included in the 2010 bill, as well as conducting an information campaign as this program is posted on the President’s blog. Other options mentioned by Duke staff include allowing the states and county governments funding the retrofit program to offer tax free bonds, as well as adding the retrofits to low income housing. The government also owns a lot of other housing, such as housing for soldiers on military bases, and adding new insulation, doors, and windows at the barracks would help morale as well as conserving fuel for military equipment and providing jobs to military contractors.