Energy Efficiency is a Net Zero Fundamental

It is interesting to watch all the fuss over green energy sources and the excitement over dreams of a zero carbon electric grid.  It is of course also hopeful that all of these new energy resources are acquired at a low cost compared to alternatives.  But, what I don’t hear is the outcry from the same prognosticators that energy efficiency is critical to this future.  We shouldn’t waste energy now or in the future because doing so consumes resources that would otherwise reduce our carbon footprints along the way.

I remember this same cry in discussions of emergency generators being used for peak shaving.  Energy efficiency and load management reduced the size and fuel cost of those generators.  But, the reality of this hit me when I advised major health care providers and university campus energy designers that energy efficiency should be in the foundation of the right forecast.  They scoffed at energy efficiency because they wanted to build the largest generator they could.

Similarly, I remember talking to a planner with one of the world’s largest energy companies about a nationwide network of call centers he’d been tasked to mapping out. I pointed out that there were ways of reducing the requirement for call centers by using automated digital communications.  He dismissed the idea because his metric of success was the number of call centers and seats … bigger was better.

One last example.  We were working with an electric utility that had an overloaded feeder running through an environmental hotspot meaning upgrading that feeder was going to be not only costly but contentious.  We came up with a peak load management plan and exercised it to prove that the feeder would be adequate for another decade at least.  You could feel the disdain for our plan in the system operations group.  They were in the business of building.

We are living in interesting times.  EE and DR are key fundamentals.  Every time you hear of people talking about new supply side resources, ask them whether they have exhausted the demand side EE and DR potentials.  Watch them squirm.

And they should squirm.  Their attitudes are wrong, and they shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction they get when they seek regulatory or legislative approvals.  Most consumer protection groups, intervenors, and others with a broader view of the landscape know what should be happening.  As Amory Lovins suggested more than 30 years ago, if you can’t keep the bathtub full, put in a plug before turning up the water flow.


Banning Natural Gas Now??

If we had a zero or even a low carbon grid now I could understand banning natural gas.  But, why ban a net contributor to carbon reduction today just because it will eventually perhaps reduce carbon in the future.

You all are aware that several municipalities have banned natural gas in new construction.  Yet, the idea that the local electric grids are lower carbon emitting is a distant hope … very distant.

Here are some statistics that should wake them up:

“The latest outlook from the Energy and Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the share of renewable energy technologies in the electricity generation mix will more than double by 2050. In 2020, renewable energy accounted for 18% of overall electricity generation capacity, meaning it will amount to roughly 36% of the mix by 2050. That figure might have been a cause for celebration were it not for the fact that the same agency estimated a 38% share for renewable energy by 2050 last year.

This means that over 60% of the electricity in the year 2050 will be produced with a carbon footprint that is similar to today …

That is 30 years into the future.  Look back 30 years and see what was predicted for today back then.  One can rightly wonder whether this forecast is even potentially correct.

Why not then wait until we can see a bit more clearly before we bash natural gas today, especially for water heating?

Unless of course all of this is simply for optics … especially given most of those proposing these rules will not be in office when this time comes.


What is the Value of Safety?

I remember the electric utility marketing meetings back in the early 1990s where they would show videos of homes blowing up that were heated with natural gas. Despite the brash nature to this type of a marketing ad, at least it was only being used to make a point in that meeting.  Thank goodness they didn’t actually use it.  Ironically, I remember the image of a billboard right over a burnt out home in El Paso that read “Gas cooks better than electricity!” Unfortunately, we do still hear of actual tragic situations where a natural gas leak did result in devastating losses.  Electric marketers walk softly if they mention safety concerns with natural gas as a result.  Plus, honestly, most Americans do not sense much risk using natural gas.

Car safety is quite another matter.  Will Tesla’s release that their cars are seven times safer than others make a difference?  Perhaps this is a big deal.  After all, Tecla’s cars are faster and fun to drive… something that normally flies in the face of statistics on safety.  Take a look at this yourself: Tesmanian Blog

As you may remember, I have a Model S with autopilot and have used it around town and of course on the highways.  I can attest that it does work well in MOST but not all situations, and I am sure within a few years they will perfect it.  You can now order a Tesla that is promised to be able to go and park itself and come back to you in shopping plaza parking lots.  I am just not sure how comfortable I would be letting it do that, but the technology certainly looks like it is imminent.

What I can tell you is that my Tesla screams at me with shrill beeps if it detects a stopped car in front of me and automatically applies the breaks in plenty of time.  I believe this feature is being implemented in all new cars.  Oh, then if all new cars have increased safety measures like this is there a real difference we can use to promote electric vehicles?

This my friends is the critical thinking we need.  It is not just about what we know now or think is going to happen in the markets.  It is framed up by that quote by the most famous hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretsky, when asked why he was so much better than any other player.  “The answer is simple.  Others skate to where the puck is.  I skate to where the puck is going!”

Transparency is Not Always Good

I have been impressed with delivery services that literally tell me where they are.  Door Dash is really fun to use.  You truly get a personalized experience.  You feel totally in control.

I have been impressed with Amazon as well … until just recently.  Here is the path a book I had just ordered has taken so far:

(Remember, the most recent step is at the top of this message stack from their website and I have no idea where it was originally shipped.  I just know it was a week ago!)

Wednesday, January 27, 10:24 AM
Package arrived at a carrier facility
Greensboro NC Network Distribution Center, US
2:25 AM Package arrived at a carrier facility
Atlanta, GA US

Tuesday, January 26 11:01 PM
Package arrived at a carrier facility
Atlanta GA Network Distribution Center, US
4:43 PM Package has left the carrier facility

Monday, January 25 6:59 AM
Package arrived at a carrier facility
Greensboro NC Network Distribution Center, US

5:44 AM Package arrived at a carrier facility
Columbia, SC US

Friday, January 22
Package has shipped

I don’t know how many times more the package is going to play ping pong between Atlanta, Georgia and Greensboro, North Carolina.

I live in a suburb of Atlanta!

El Chirper Tacos

We are evidently in for a rare treat in nature: the emergence of the 17 year cicada.  We see cicadas every year but these are the annual green ones.  They kind of look like a grasshopper.  But, the scientists say we are going to see a black red-eyed cicada and in such high numbers that we might want to harvest them and eat them.  See for yourself: USA Today

However, this event is likely to be deafening given the sheer number of cicadas.  There are so many aspects of nature that just make no intuitive sense.  I am continually amazed that birds migrate and don’t get lost.  It makes me crazy to think that all those Monarch butterflies migrate to one small area in Mexico.  Who teaches spiders to make those intricate webs?  The list goes on.

In any event, the big question we should think about is why we are so disgusted about these sources of protein.  Many cultures around the world use these protein sources.  Many cultures eat scorpions, rats, and whatever.  Don’t we remember the prison riot in Maine caused by inmates objecting to being fed “sea bugs” because they thought they were being poisoned!

Don’t be surprised as this comes up more and more this year.  We are seeing the concept of circularity emerge to center stage.  Bugs are on the menu!