Energy Efficiency Through Energy Financing Districts Essay

Submitted By maxd3210
Words: 3302
Pages: 14

OVERVIEW OF ENERGY EFFICIENCES There has been much focus over the past decade by the Government and the media regarding the benefits of renewable energy. All across the Midwest and Western United States, utility companies are benefiting from federal subsidies and tax credits to build wind farms and installing solar panel systems. Unfortunately, wind and solar still have major limitations. The unpredictability of wind farms force Utility companies to “cycle” coal plants, making them operate inefficiently. The other option is add natural gas power plants to handle the variations in loads, increasing the demand for natural gas. Also, the current renewable energy sources require extreme amounts of land to produce just a fraction of the electricity of conventional methods. As an example; the Roscoe wind farm in Texas occupies 100,000 acres for 800 MW of installed capacity; the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona occupies 4,050 acres (approximately 4 percent of the space of the Texas wind farm) and has a 500 percent larger power capacity (almost 4,000 MW.) In the United States, wind power barely exceeds one percent of energy output, yet government wind subsidies are $23 per megawatt hour, about 60 times of the $0.44 per megawatt hour that go to the mainstay of US electrical power output, coal and 100 times the $0.25 per megawatt hour that go to natural gas. Both coal and natural gas account for over 70 percent of US power supply. Once, these subsides run out, most wind farms won’t be able to afford the regular maintenance required to stay in operation. A more practical approach to reducing our carbon footprint is reducing energy consumption. Improvements in energy efficiency represent a significant untapped reserve of potential low cost reduction in the amount of coal and oil used in the United States. (Choi Granade et al. 2009) The economic benefits of reducing energy consumption are typically felt at both the end-user and regional levels. (Bernstein et al. 2000) In the United States, the commercial and residential sectors account for 72% of electricity use, and over 36% of total greenhouse gas emissions (EIA 2008; EPA 2009). The McKinsey Global Institute identifies building efficiency measures as among the most cost-effective greenhouse gas abatement measures with significant potential for emissions reductions that can be realized immediately with a comprehensive policy and support (Choi Granade et al. 2009). Reducing energy demand in buildings includes sealing leaks in walls, floors, attics, ducts and windows; upgrading lighting; installing more efficient heating and cooling systems, and other improvements (Buildings Energy Data Book September 2007: 1.1 Buildings Sector Energy Consumption). Since 1978, California has been the leader in the implementation of energy efficient strategies directed towards new construction. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, “California’s building and appliance standards have saved the State’s consumers over $56 billion in natural gas and electricity costs since 1978 and averted building 15 large power plants” (CPUC 2006).
While regulatory standards in efficiency will be important for new homes, as homes are used for decades the majority of the existing building infrastructure we have today will remain through 2020 (Fuller 2008). Over 7 million homes or more than half of the total building stock in California is dated before 1975, when energy efficiency standards were passed into law. Supporting programs that promote retrofits of existing building stock will be crucially important in achieving the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals laid out by state agencies. Energy efficiency gains globally have the potential to reduce end use energy demand in 2020 by 20-24%; 36% of this potential lies in the residential and commercial sectors through building efficiency improvements (Beinhocker et al. 2008). The McKinsey Global Institute report…