Are We "Clueless" on Saving Energy!?


Americans Are Clueless on Saving Energy


Stop telling people to just switch off the lights—it’s confusing them.

Despite all the talk about carbon footprints and the rows of compact fluorescent light bulbs at every hardware store in the U.S., consumers have no idea how much energy they use and don't understand the best ways to reduce consumption, according to a new study.
The shift to educating, and empowering, consumers has been critical in the past among utilities and smart grid startups in the home area network space. But the study shows that most efforts to date have left Americans clueless and simply doing less of their regular behavior, without looking at simple changes that could reap bigger gains in efficiency.
"Of course we should be doing everything we can. But if we're going to do just one or two things, we should focus on the big energy-saving behaviors," said lead author Shahzeen Attari, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University's Earth Institute and the university's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, in a statement. "People are still not aware of what the big savers are."
Nearly 20 percent of approximately 500 study participants listed turning off lights as the best way to save energy. Furthermore, most of the people had no idea how much energy a truck uses in comparison to a train or ship, or how much energy a room air conditioner uses versus central AC. Overall, participants were more willing to somewhat curtail their actions rather than to invest in real efficiency, even if the latter would save more energy and money over the long run.
The results of the study, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were slightly more promising when examining less energy-intensive behaviors. Although people's understanding was generally poorer when the potential for energy or carbon dioxide savings were large, they were more accurate on a smaller scale. For example, most participants were able to guesstimate the savings of swapping out an incandescent with a CFL or adjusting the thermostat in summer.
Those in the study also overrated the savings of many activities, including driving slowly on the highway, recycling glass containers or unplugging chargers when not in use. Even people who described themselves as having a high degree of pro-environmental behavior did not always report engaging in a large number energy-efficient habits and actions.
Although the study had some limitations, including the moderate sample size and a lack of incentives for correct answers, the conclusions are stark. "Many people's concerns about energy are simply not strong enough, relative to their other concerns, to warrant learning about energy conservation," the study authors write.
So for utilities and regulators looking to cut energy consumption through efficiency, how do you get people to care? For one, stop telling people to turn off lights when they leave the room. The conversation must become more sophisticated.
The problem with many of the smaller energy savings actions that are constantly suggested is that they don't offer enough gain for the effort. "We're all very instant gratification animals," said Daniel Moneta from MMB Research, an engineering firm that makes a family of ZigBee smart energy hardware and software for commercial vendors.  "From an economic standpoint, we all should have replaced our old bulbs with CFLs. If you do the math, you'd save money."
Instead of just providing actionable information, campaigns need to include information about relative effectiveness of those actionable items. For example, many people thought that line-drying clothes would save more energy than changing their washer settings, according to the study, but the opposite is true. The study also pointed out that people will often make just one or two changes and think they are doing enough, so it might be a better strategy for utilities and government programs to communicate the best two or three actions to get the most bang for the buck.
Public education campaigns and web portals should not only recommend individual actions, but should also strive to paint a picture for people about which actions, both in the home and as consumers, can save the most money and energy.
"If we have that number in front of us all of the time, and we look at it in comparison to our Facebook friends," said Moneta, "we can see that one device next to another device has a better [contextual] meaning. I think that will certainly help to motivate customers."

University cuts power bill 10 percent through asset management


Forrester Research recently reported that something like 45 percent of businesses are investing in some sort of enterprise software for managing energy consumption. A case study that shows how Bentley University has been using one such application, Infor EAM Asset Sustainability, gives you a sense of why this is so–and why this sort of thing isn't just for big companies.

The university originally looked to the Infor software as a means of automating maintenance workflow across its 46 facilities. More recently, it began wondering how to apply this same automation to managing its electricity consumption. Specifically, by integrating the software with building control systems to get a better sense of what was operating properly, and what metrics should be questioned. The software also helps with preventive maintenance.

When I spoke with the Bentley University energy systems engineer, Jess Marshall, about the project, she says the overall mission is to manage each building system (or "asset") so that it is running at its most optimal levels. By managing these technologies to certain guidelines — recognizing that each day brings new operating variables in the form of weather changes and building occupancy — the university can keep things running more smoothly, she says.

"We understand how a piece of equipment should be running vs. how it IS running," Marshall says.

So, for example, the university staff was able to see that one of its chillers was working at a dramatically different rate than the others. It was consuming 20 percent more electricity. So, the engineers adjusted the settings and made a different chiller the lead system for that building, using the more energy-hungry one as a backup, Marshall says.

In the first 11 months of using the software, Marshall says the university has reduced electricity consumption campus-wide by almost 10 percent. That's more than 2 million kilowatt hours, or the equivalent of turning off all the electricity on the campus for about 30 days.

Marshall says, where necessary, the university is using basic energy meters from Schneider Electric to feed the data into the Info software. Some of the building systems can interact with the software directly.

The visual is a Thermographic Building Summary of the university's Kresge Hall. The gray areas are unoccupied space, while the green shows occupied portions.

Rod Elsworth, vice president of global asset sustainability for Infor, says the sustainability edition of its enterprise asset management application can be licensed according to the number of concurrent users or according to the number of meters that are feeding information.

Heather Clancy

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist with a passion for green technology and corporate sustainability issues. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In a past corporate life, Heather was editor of Computer Reseller News, where she was a featured speaker about everything from software as a service to IT security to mobile computing.

Heather started her journalism life as a business writer with United Press International in New York. She holds a B.A. in English literature from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and has a thing for Lewis Carroll.


Online BPI Certification, Only from ThermalStar

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The Future of Infrared Cameras

Lyon, France — Initially developed for the military market by US defense companies, use of uncooled infrared (IR) cameras in commercial applications has been growing over the last ten years. In the infrared spectrum, Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) is the most commonly used wavelength (8-12 microns). Thermography and a variety of vision enhancement applications are the main growth markets for uncooled IR cameras.

This camera cost reduction will continue through 2015 in the thermography business and will also be a strong factor in the vision market (also called night vision or vision enhancement) with the growth of the security/surveillance and automotive markets.

Driven by the continued cost reductions, the volumes of cameras sold will triple by 2015 from more than 200,000 cameras today to more than 700,000 units, meaning +23 % annual growth rate. The revenue growth will be about + 9% as market prices for the cameras decrease.
FLIR (US) has been, and remains, the pioneer of uncooled IR cameras with a vertically integrated business model (internal detector production) and a presence in all markets. This domination will be challenged at two levels in the future:

At the camera level: camera manufacturers specialized in each market have strong distribution networks and market presence. In the thermography business, Fluke will take market share from FLIR. In the security/surveillance market, visible camera leaders will enter the IR camera business (Axis, Bosch, Pelco).
At the detector level: new detector suppliers will arrive on the market from the MEMS and semiconductor industry with low cost/high volume product capabilities (Sensonor, Bosch, Faun Infrared…).
One of the major cost components for uncooled IR cameras is the IR detector. Hence, detector cost reduction is one of the major keys to further widespread use of IR cameras.

Microbolometers are the dominant uncooled IR detector technology with more than 95 % of the market in 2010.

Microbolometer manufacturers were few up to now, often owned by camera manufacturers, which limited the cost competition at the detector level. More than 75 % of the production is based in USA, due the original development of the technology by US Defense Department.

This landscape will change in the next five years: many new players (Sensonor, Faun Infrared, Bosch…), focusing only on selling detectors, often in Europe, will enter on the market place with aggressive price strategies.

Vanadium Oxide (VO x), the current dominant microbolometer material, will be challenged by a-Si material and new silicon based materials introduced by new market entrants, thanks to their cost structure, and easier to manufacture.

Detector/Microbolometer product lines are mainly segmented by format from small format (typically 160 x 120) to large format (640 x 480). Price reduction will be huge with –58 % expected between 2010 and 2015 for small format. Larger format will be under less price pressure.

The following technical trends make detector cost reduction possible:

At the packaging level: Wafer Level Packaging and even Pixel Level Packaging will play a huge part in reducing cost, -20 % at least.
At the pixel level: smaller pixel size (17 microns is becoming a standard) will allow smaller detectors.
At the integration level: 3D integration, wafer bonding techniques will allow the production of microbolometers in standard MEMS or CMOS foundries.


Axis Communications, Acreo, Aerius, Agiltron, Argus, e2v, Audi, Autoliv, BAE systems, BMW, Bosch, Automotive, Bosch Security Systems, Bullard, Dali, Chauvin Arnoux, Current Corporation, Dalsa, DAS Photonics, Draeger, DRS technologies, Electro Optic Sensors, EO C, ETH , Extech, GE Security, FocalPlane Santa Barbara, Fraunhofer IMS, Faun Infrared, FLIR, Fluke, GM, Goodrich, Guide Infrared, Honda, Honeywell, Infrared Solutions, INO , Ipht Jena, Invisage, Irisys, ISG , Jenoptik, KTH , L3Com, Leti, MetuMET , Mikrosistemler, Mitsubishi Electric, MSA , Murata, NE C Avio, NTT , Noble Peak Vision, OKS I, Omnivision, Panasonic, Pelco, QinetiQ, Raytheon, Redshift, Sarnoff, Satir, Samsung, Scott, SCD Semiconductors, SensArray Infrared, Sensonor, Silex, Sirica, Sony, Sumitomo Electric, Testo, Thermoteknix Systems, Toshiba, Tyco, Tyndall, Umicore, Ulis, Vigo, Xenics, Ziptronix.

HOME STAR Profiled in Home Energy Magazine

The proposed HOME STAR energy retrofit program is the focus of an article published in the May/June issue of Home Energy Magazine, coauthored by Efficiency First’s national director, Jared Asch, and the association’s policy chair, Matt Golden. The article begins:

For years, those of us who work in the energy remodeling field have been promoting the personal and environmental benefits of home performance retrofits. Now industry leaders and policymakers are focusing on yet another compelling reason for Americans to invest in energy efficiency improvements—they create jobs. With one in four construction workers currently facing long-term unemployment, our nation desperately needs to cultivate sustainable employment opportunities that will breathe life into the troubled construction sector and help our economy get back on track. Large-scale retrofitting of American homes can be a big part of the solution.

Asch and Golden go on to provide a basic overview of the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act now pending in Congress. If you’re not already familiar with this important legislation, the Home Energy article is a good place to begin. Read the full text online at

Infrfared to be Incorporated in the Gaming Industry - Specifically, Microsoft's XBOX 360

Project Natal takes on Wii
Republished from The Los Angeles Times

REDMOND, Wash. — On a blustery January morning, Michel Laprise found himself in a private conference room within Microsoft Corp.’s labyrinthine campus here, surrounded by 15 of the company’s sharpest analytical thinkers.

Laprise started his presentation by dumping a pail full of sand on top of the conference table, alarming executives who worried about the wiring embedded in the table for PowerPoint presentations and technology demos. Armed with three rocks, a small wooden elephant and a flashlight, he spent an hour weaving a tale of a boy on a quest to locate meteors that have fallen from the sky and to uncover their meaning.
At the end of his talk, the artistic director for Cirque du Soleil got a standing ovation.
“It was amazing,” said an awestruck Don Mattrick, the 46-year-old executive who heads up the juggernaut’s multibillion-dollar video game business. Mattrick had invited Laprise to help Microsoft figure out an unconventional way to launch a new technology that would let people play games without the use of joysticks or controllers. “He used the power of words to share what he saw in his imagination. He was a great raconteur.”

Code-named Project Natal, the technology consists of three small motorized sensors — a camera, infrared depth sensor and a multi-array microphone. Attached to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console, the device interprets gestures, such as when players swing their arms to hit a golf ball, lean to steer their way through an obstacle course or swivel their hips through a dance routine. It also can recognize faces and associate them with their profiles.

For the last 35 years, Microsoft has strived to push technology into every corner of the world. Its Windows operating system powers 90 percent of all computers, and its software can be found on devices that sit in people’s pockets, purses, cars and living rooms. Yet in an ironic twist, the company’s next big feat required Microsoft to make its high-tech wizardry invisible.

So it hired one of the best illusionists out there — Cirque du Soleil, the French Canadian entertainment company known for its visually arresting extravaganzas and ethereal, new age music. In addition to the 21 permanent and traveling shows, Cirque has a special events business that does a handful of private and corporate events each year (clients have included the royal family of Dubai and the 2007 Super Bowl).

For Microsoft, Natal is critical to the future of its ambition to be at the center of entertainment in the living room. And like a besotted suitor who spared no expense, Microsoft gave Cirque free rein over both the creative aspects of the performance and its budget.

“This is a massive investment for Microsoft,” said Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft’s executive producer for the company’s E3 events. “For us, it wasn’t about the money. It was about creating an experience that would be remembered forever.”

In this incarnation, Natal is applied to video games. Designed to perch on top of a living room TV and attach to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console, the device can recognize faces, obey simple voice commands and track body movements and gestures.

It has been compared with Nintendo Co.’s Wii, which rocked the video game world in 2006 with its motion-sensing Wii remote. Natal is Microsoft’s attempt to one-up Nintendo, which has sold an estimated 74 million Wii consoles, compared with 43 million Xbox 360s. While the Wii has gained traction with a broad demographic ranging from toddlers to seniors, the Xbox 360 is perceived as a “hard-core” game machine for adrenaline junkies looking for elaborate ways to blow things up.

“Microsoft is deadly serious about expanding their reach with Natal,” said Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. “But people buy consoles based on the software, and right now, we just don’t know what games are actually going to be on there. Once we get a chance to see those games, then we can better evaluate things.”

Another challenge: Getting the attention of consumers who don’t normally play video games, much less the shoot-em-up’s that the Xbox 360 is known for.

EasyJet Using Infrared Technology to Avoid Ash Clouds Surrounding Iceland

EasyJet will use infrared technology to help its aircraft avoid the remains of the ash cloud caused by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
The Luton-based airline is trialling a new technology called AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector); a system that involves placing infrared technology on an aircraft to supply images to both the pilots and an airline’s flight control centre. The system produces images that will enable pilots to see ash clouds up to 100km ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes of between 5,000ft and 50,000ft.
At ground control level, staff will be able to use information from the AVOID system to build an accurate image of the volcanic ash cloud in real time, and subsequently open up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption.
Dr Fred Prata, senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), invented the AVOID system. He said: “AVOID enhances the theory around volcanic ash clouds with live data. EasyJet is committed to bring our technology to life.”
The first test flight is to be carried out by Airbus on behalf of EasyJet within two months. If it proves successful, EasyJet will trial the technology on its own planes with a view to installing it on enough aircraft to minimise future disruption from ash.

House Passes Energy Efficient Homes Tax Credit Extension

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4213 that included the extension of the $2,000 federal tax credit for energy efficient new homes.  Below is the language that was passed:
12 (a) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (g) of section 45L is
13 amended by striking ‘‘December 31, 2009’’ and inserting
14 ‘‘December 31, 2010’’.
15 (b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendment made by this
16 section shall apply to homes acquired after December 31,
17 2009.
The extension of the energy efficient homes credit was part of an omnibus tax extension bill.  Since the House version differs in total content it must go through a reconciliation process with the Senate.  Since the House and Senate language for the energy efficient homes credit extension it will not be affected by the reconciliate process.  Once the House and Senate passes the bill, President Obama must sign it.
RESNET efforts now need to be directed in extending the credit to homes that meet 50 on the HERS Index and extending the credit to 2014.

NASA's Airborne Infrared Observatory Sees 'First Light'

(re-published from

"With this flight, SOFIA begins a 20-year journey that will enable a wide variety of astronomical science observations not possible from other Earth and space-borne observatories," said Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It clearly sets expectations that SOFIA will provide us with "Great Observatory"-class astronomical science."
The highly modified SOFIA Boeing 747SP jetliner fitted with a 100-inch diameter reflecting telescope took off from its home base at the Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. The in-flight personnel consisted of an international crew from NASA, the Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Md., Cornell University and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) in Stuttgart. During the six-hour flight, at altitudes up to 35,000 feet, the crew of 10 scientists, astronomers, engineers and technicians gathered telescope performance data at consoles in the aircraft's main cabin.
"Wind tunnel tests and supercomputer calculations made at the start of the SOFIA program predicted we would have sharp enough images for front-line astronomical research," said SOFIA project scientist Pam Marcum of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "A preliminary look at the first light data indicates we indeed accomplished that."
The stability and precise pointing of the German-built telescope met or exceeded the expectations of the engineers and astronomers who put it through its paces during the flight.
"The crowning accomplishment of the night came when scientists on board SOFIA recorded images of Jupiter," said USRA SOFIA senior science advisor Eric Becklin. "The composite image from SOFIA shows heat, trapped since the formation of the planet, pouring out of Jupiter's interior through holes in its clouds."
The highly sensitive Faint Object infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) used for these initial observations was operated in flight by its builders, a team led by Cornell's Terry Herter. FORCAST captures in minutes images that would require many hour-long exposures by ground-based observatories blocked from a clear infrared view by water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere. SOFIA's operational altitude, which is above more than 99 percent of that water vapor, allows it to receive 80 percent or more of the infrared light accessible to space observatories.
The SOFIA program is managed at Dryden. Ames manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with USRA and DSI.

For more information about SOFIA, visit:
For information about SOFIA's science mission, visit:
To see video of SOFIA in flight, click here

Infrared Expands its Utitlity Astronomically

Hot Stars Found Hidden in Galaxy's Dusty Embrace
By Staff

A European telescope has used infrared vision to pierce the veil of dust around the galaxy Messier 83, and revealed clusters of young stars hidden within dusty regions that harbor star factories.
The new galaxy photo comes courtesy of the HAWK-1 camera belonging to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Such findings help astronomers seek out the younger star clusters in order to better understand the birth and evolution of stars.
An infrared view not only eliminates makes much of the dust effectively transparent, but also tones down the brightly lit gas that tends to hang around hot young stars.

Binocular-wielding stargazers already know Messier 83 as one of the brightest nearby galaxies. The galaxy is located 15 million light-years away from Earth and spans over 40,000 light-years, where a light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km).
Messier 83 also looks like a strikingly similar twin to our Milky Way galaxy with its spiral shape and bar of stars across the center, despite having just 40 percent the size of the Milky Way.
Astronomers recognize Messier 83 for its record-breaking number of observed supernovas that mark the end of many a star's life. Just one other galaxy can match that record.

Home Star Legislation has Passed!

Republished from Yahoo! News
Pelosi: 'The Home Star Jobs Bill is About Building a Stronger Economy That Works for Main Street and the Middle Class'
Thu May 6, 5:32 pm ET

WASHINGTON, May 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire - Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today following passage of the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, providing incentives for consumers to make their homes more energy efficient. The bill passed by a vote of 246 to 161.

"Today, the House took another step forward to create good-paying, American jobs that cannot be outsourced, to lower energy costs for consumers, and to build our clean energy economy.

"The Home Star jobs bill is about building a stronger economy that works for Main Street and the middle class. The legislation will create nearly 168,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing, and retail – some of the hardest hit sectors during the Bush recession. It will cut costs for consumers, decreasing energy bills by up to $500 per year for 3 million families. And it will reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and dirty fuels, cutting energy use equal to roughly 7 million barrels of heating oil in 2011.

"It's not surprising that Republicans offered a poison pill in their motion to recommit – demonstrating, once again, that they are not serious about addressing the top concerns of the American people: job creation, economic security, and energy independence. We will work with the Senate to fix this flawed language and focus the final bill on these critical challenges for our middle class.

"I applaud the Members of Congress who voted for this bill. With bills like the Home Star jobs legislation, Democrats are standing up for Main Street and creating jobs for our middle class and small businesses, while Republicans side with Wall Street, Big Oil, and special interests."

(*Note, we have no political preference or affiliation, we are simply enthusiastic as a company that the legislation passed)

Energy Star Fraud - Beware, Applicable to Homes Too

A new report from the auditing arm of Congress shows that the federal Energy Star program has a sloppy certification process that can be easily abused.

The 18-year-old program, which is administered jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, offers consumers rebates and tax credits on appliances that meet certain standards for energy efficiency.  American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies rely on the Energy Star program to identify products that decrease greenhouse emissions and lower energy costs. Companies use Energy Star certification to market their products to consumers in the hopes they will buy products based on government certification of their energy consumption and costs.

Given the millions of dollars allocated to encourage use of Energy Star products and concerns that the Energy Star program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse, GAO was asked to conduct proactive testing to (1) obtain Energy Star partnership status for bogus companies and (2) submit fictitious products for Energy Star certification. To perform this investigation, GAO used four bogus manufacturing firms and fictitious individuals to apply for Energy Star partnership and submitted 20 fictitious products with fake energy-savings claims for Energy Star certification. GAO also reviewed program documents and interviewed agency officials and officials from agency Inspector General (IG) offices.

But in a report issued today, the Government Accountability Office says its auditors obtained Energy Star certifications for 15 of 20 products it submitted using fictitious companies and individuals. Those certifications led to requests from real companies to buy some products because they had received Energy Star endorsements.

The phony products included a gasoline-powered alarm clock, which was approved by Energy Star without a review of the company web site or questions about the efficiency claimed for it.  Auditors also submitted a geothermal heat pump, which they claimed to be more efficient than any product listed as certified on the Energy Star Web site.  The product was certified and its efficiency data was not questioned. Two bogus products were rejected by the program and 3 did not receive a response. One of the products that an outside company wanted to buy was a computer monitor that had been approved by Energy Star within 30 minutes of submission.

This clearly shows how heavily American consumers rely on the Energy Star brand.

At briefings on GAO's investigation, DOE and EPA officials agreed that the program is currently based on self-certifications by manufacturers. However, officials stated there are after-market tests and self-policing that ensure standards are maintained. GAO did not test or evaluate controls related to products that were already certified and available to the public. In addition, prior DOE IG, EPA IG, and GAO reports have found that current Energy Star controls do not ensure products meet efficiency guidelines.

In 2008 Energy Star reported saving consumers $19 billion dollars on utility costs.  Energy Star is slated to receive about $300 million in federal stimulus money to be used for state rebate programs on energy-efficient products.

Energy Star fraud not only affects products, but your house. Many homes are Energy Star “approved”, while a quick thermal scan can determine whether the house is, in fact, energy efficient. As a licensed home inspector, I have come across many homes that were “Energy Star compliant” but consistently had gaps of missing insulation. Beware of an Energy Star rated home, get an infrared energy audit before investing in a property.

Below are some sample pictures of mine from home inspections of Energy Star approved houses:

President Issues Statement in Press Release on Home Star Program


President Issues Statement on HOME STAR Program

Office of the Press Secretary

April 15, 2010

“Today’s bipartisan Committee vote is an important step forward in our effort to create jobs, save consumers money, and increase energy efficiency. In my State of the Union Address and in the months since, I have called on Congress to pass a program of incentives to homeowners who make their homes more energy efficient. The Home Star legislation approved today would do just that – providing consumers with up-front rebates on investments in things like insulation, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and windows that have been proven to save energy. This proposal is not a Democratic or Republican idea: it’s a common sense strategy to help put Americans back to work while giving American consumers a break. I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties that have worked to support this legislation, as well as their colleagues in the Senate who are working to promote Home Star legislation. I look forward to working with Congress to get this bill to my desk without delay.”

Go Green Now - Better Economy Later

April 12, 2010

Energy-efficiency measures in the southern United States could save consumers $41 billion on their energy bills, open 380,000 new jobs, and save 8.6 billion gallons of water over the next 10 years, according to research conducted from Duke University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Each dollar invested in energy efficiency over the next 20 years will reap an average of $2.25 in benefits, the study concluded. These findings indicate the construction of dozens of new power plants could be avoided. Nearly 25 gigawatts of older power plants could be retired and the construction of new power plants (generating up to 50 gigawatts) of power could be avoided.

"We looked at how these policies might interact, not just single programs," says researcher Etan Gumerman at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. "The interplay between policies compounds the savings - and its all cost-effective."

Perks of energy investment include the average  residential electricity bill would decline by 26 dollars per month in 2020 and 50 dollars per month in 2030, the study projects. In total, the study concludes that investing 200 billion dollars in energy efficiency programs over the next 20 years could return 448 billion dollars in savings.

New appliance standards, incentives for retrofitting and weatherization, upgrades to utility plants and process improvements were among the policies researchers considered. To achieve their results, the researchers modeled how implementation of nine policies across the residential, commercial and industrial sectors might play out over 20 years in the District of Columbia and 16 southern states. Thirty-six percent of Americans live in the study region. With its low electricity rates, which encourage consumption, the South consumes a super-sized portion of American energy at 44 percent, and supplies 48 percent of the nation's power. Researchers generated a business as usual scenario, without any policies, and compared it with scenarios that included specific sets of energy-efficiency investments, to capture the cost savings. Yet, energy-efficient products have a lower market penetration in this region more than elsewhere in the country, and these states spend less per capita on efficiency programs than the national average.

"An aggressive commitment to energy efficiency could be an economic windfall for the South," said researcher Dr. Marilyn Brown of the Georgia Institute of Technology. "Such a shift would lower energy bills for cash-strapped consumers and businesses and create more new jobs for Southern workers."

The region's economy is anticipated to grow by 1.23 billion dollars in 2020 and increase to 2.12 billion dollars in 2030. Interestingly, the study found that the reduction in power plant capacity would save southern regions of the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation 8.6 billion gallons of fresh water in 2020 and 20.1 billion gallons in 2030.

Successful utility company Georgia Power says it is already promoting energy efficiency to help customers save money and to reduce the need for power plants. In total, the company plans to invest almost 500 million dollars over the next 10 years on  programs such as free in-home energy audits that show residential customers how energy efficient their home is and inform them of ways to save energy. The company is providing some funding to help low-income customers make home improvements for increased energy efficiency and has a recycling program for older refrigerators and freezers.

Funded with support from the Energy Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and Turner Foundation, the study, "Energy Efficiency in the South" is available on the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance website:

State profiles are also available through the Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency in the Southeast.

Obama's Energy Plan - Earn an $8,000 Tax Credit for an Energy Efficient Home

A major source of energy waste in homes is an incomplete or improperly sealed building envelope—essentially, the boundary between inside and outside. One third of all heating and cooling leaks are found between joints in the floors, ceilings, and walls; almost half of the remaining leaks are found between fireplaces, windows, doors, or heating and cooling ducts. Today a homeowner is faced with the burden

of perfecting weatherization of their house in an effort to fight rising energy costs. To assist homeowners in identifying and fixing these common problems, the Obama Administration has recently announced the HomeStar program.

HomeStar will provide tax rebates of up to $8,000 for a projected 3 million homeowners across the country. These credits will fund improvements to address the energy losses caused by leaks and air loss in unsealed houses. The HomeStar program will provide incentives for products and services affiliated with energy efficiency and, upon completion of weatherization improvements, rewards will be offered to homeowners for every nominal 5% saved in home energy consumption. Depending on the size and average energy consumption of the household, the improvements are expected to save between $200 and $500 annually. The program is expected to pass through Congress quickly due to strong bipartisan political support for energy efficiency.

The HomeStar program is divided into two tiers corresponding to the extent and expense of improvements. The Gold Star program will provide up to $8,000 for inspections including an energy audit and any efficiency measures that are projected to result in a 20% reduction in home energy costs from the previous year’s data. An additional credit of $1,000 is also available for each 5% increment of energy reduction costs. It is expected the GoldStar program will provide rebates to 500,000 homeowners in the United States.
The Silver Star component of the HomeStar program targets the Do-It-Yourself-ers who prefer to perform the work themselves. This program will provide rebates of up to 50% of the cost of weatherization materials. Products eligible for rebates must meet program efficiency standards, though they may include both synthetic and eco-friendly insulations, caulks, windows, doors, duct wrapping, fireplace seals (including flue repairs), as well as plumbing and electrical fixture seals. Homeowners will be eligible to claim credits of up to $3,000 from store rebates found on eligible products or through local energy providers; 2.9 million homes are projected to participate.
In the process of tightening the envelope, homeowners are advised to either have a professional home inspection or a do it yourself radon test in sub level basements upon completion of the weatherization process, as a perfectly sealed home can result in a rapid spread of formerly accumulated radon pollution, commonly found in sub-basements. Congress has projected a total home energy savings of $9.4 billion over the next decade with an improved health and comfort rating for up to 3.3 million homes. These energy savings are the equivalent to taking 615,000 cars off the road or four 30-megawatt power plants. Check back to our blog for more about program developments, participants’ success stories, or to learn more about how to bring green to your home - and profit!

'Home Star' Program to Plug Home Energy Retrofits

(re-published from CNET news, Isaac Savage)

You heard of Cash for Clunkers, get ready for Cash for Caulkers, a proposed multibillion program designed to create jobs and give homeowners lower energy bills.

Representatives from building efficiency advocacy groups on Friday held a “Webinar” to outline the Home Star program–nicknamed Cash for Caulkers–and said that its prospects for becoming a law should be known within several weeks. A Home Star Coalition has been formed, which includes large retailers Home Depot and Lowes, equipment suppliers such as Dow and GE appliances, along with energy-efficiency contractors, labor groups, and environmental advocacy groups.

For homeowners, the proposed legislation provides incentives to weatherize homes, through the the inspection of an energy audit, and upgrade to more efficient lighting or heating and cooling systems. Another part of a comprehensive energy audit is a blower door test, which measures how air tight a home is by measuring air flow at a given air pressure.

It will be structured on two levels; silver and gold – depending on the level of investment made, said Matt Golden, the chair of the EfficiencyFirst advocacy group.

To get up to $2,000 in tax credits for an energy efficiency retrofit, a homeowner needs to do at least two approved improvements and work with contractors that meet certain “basic standards,” said Golden, adding that Home Star is designed to fit with the EPA’s Home Performance EnergyStar standards and state programs.

The gold level involves having a building’s energy “performance” rated by contractors accredited by the Building Performance Institute. The more stringent performance goals, which could reduce a building’s energy consumption of 20 percent, would be eligible for up to $4,000 of tax credits, according to the description on the EfficiencyFirst Web site.

The intent of Home Star is to create jobs in the short term, either through training or creating demand for home efficiency products and services. But given the amount of money being discussed and its standards-based approach, Home Star has the potential to be “transformative” in the building efficiency industry, Golden said. “This is a moment in time where we are going to have a foundation to drive a strong industry,” he said.

President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which includes venture capitalist and green-tech investor John Doerr, has endorsed the plan as it meets economic and environmental goals, Golden noted. There’s also the potential to create demand for green building products. Among some of Home Star Coalition members is Serious Materials, a Silicon Valley company that makes energy-efficiency building products including windows and sheet rock that’s manufactured in a relatively low-polluting way.

Golden cautioned that Home Star is not yet law. But it does have clear support from President Obama, who has touted the benefits of home weatherization many times and called insulation “sexy” during a Home Depot visit last month.