NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: SOLAR PLUS ENERGY EFFICIENCY = BEST SAVINGS

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSMISSION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 20: ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY; YAHOO BUYS WIND; SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HOTTEST SEPTEMBER EVER; WORLD’S HOTTEST MONTHS STREAK AT SIX
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU WIND BEATS FOSSIL, NUKE ENERGY PRICES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DESERTEC SUCCUMBS TO MIDEAST TURMOIL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-JAPAN UPS PUSH FOR GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 16:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE MILITARY FALLS FOR THE HOAX
  • TTTA Thursday-FORTUNE 100 BUSINESSES BOOST SUN
  • TTTA Thursday-IOWA UTILITY BUYS WIND TO CUT COSTS
  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY FROM THE CLOUD
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY BECOMES PRICE COMPETITIVE
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 15: NEW NUMBERS SHOW BIG OCEAN WIND POWER; SOLAR TURNS IN A NEW DIRECTION; FUEL CELL MARKETS TO VARY, GROW
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: WORLD WIND COMES ON
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 14: THE UTILITY-SOLAR DEBATE OVER WHO PAYS; TECHNICIANS WANTED – APPLY TO WIND; MAKING MULTIFAMILY BLDGS MORE EFFICIENT
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    TODAY’S STUDY: SOLAR PLUS ENERGY EFFICIENCY = BEST SAVINGS

    Singular solutions are appealingly simple but often the best answers are as complicated as real life. Example: Some people advocate for wind, others are passionate about solar and yet others say there is no answer to the energy conundrum that comes before efficiency. It turns out those are all oversimplified approaches.

    And what is apparently contradictory often turns out to be true. Example: It takes spending money to make money.

    Running the numbers on home energy use, as in the study below, turns up paired, nuanced insights: The cheapest way to use energy in a home in almost any city in the U.S. is to spend the money to install solar AND retrofit for energy efficiency.

    Life lesson: Combinations complicate the question but can offer the ultimate answer.


    Reducing Home Energy Costs by Combining Solar and Energy Efficiency
    November 2010 (California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) and Westinghouse Solar)

    Abstract

    Energy efficiency and solar energy generation can effectively reduce -- and in many cases virtually eliminate -- residential energy bills. However, factors such as climate, age of the home and utility rates all dramatically affect the relative economic benefits of these measures. Since homeowners bear the brunt of these expenses, policies must be designed that are consistent with individual homeowner economics. For example, policies that mandate defined energy efficiency retrofit measures before solar energy generation result in bad economic investments for many homeowners. This paper examines the tradeoffs between energy efficiency retrofits and solar energy generation systems for homeowners throughout the U.S., and proposes solutions to encourage investments by homeowners that make good economic sense for their particular situation.

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    Executive Summary

    Saving energy in the U.S. starts right at home. The residential sector consumes 22% of the energy in the United States; by comparison, cars use about 17%. Actions that individuals take to reduce home energy costs will give them more disposable income – while simultaneously creating good local jobs, improving our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

    Numerous surveys validate that homeowners’ first goal is to save money when making efficiency and solar improvements. Homeowners have two ways to structurally reduce their energy costs: retrofit energy efficiency measures and solar energy generation.
    Although they bear most of the cost for these retrofits, it is very confusing to sort out the various energy savings claims from contractors, retailers and manufacturers of these products and services.

    In order to objectively determine what combination of energy efficiency and renewable generation makes the most sense for homeowners, this White Paper uses Department of Energy software to evaluate three different ages of homes (old, typical and new) in ten cities in the U.S. The results of these 30 different home simulations are that climate, local utility rates and home condition are the biggest factors in determining what are the most cost effective energy savings measures for homeowners. In particular:


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    • Lighting retrofits are always cost effective (paybacks < 1 year).

    • Weatherization and insulation energy efficiency measures are most cost effective in old homes in cold climates (paybacks <3 years), but are not cost effective in newer homes or in temperate climates.

    • Basic building shell and ventilation energy efficiency measures are most cost-effective in cold climates, but have long paybacks in more temperate zones (paybacks 20+ years).

    • Rooftop solar power systems have good paybacks regardless of home condition in sunny areas and in areas with either high electric rates or high solar incentives (paybacks 5-15 years).

    • Solar thermal systems have good paybacks when the fuel source for hot water is electricity, or if there are local incentives in areas using natural gas with a tiered rate structure.

    • Upgrades to Energy Star appliances and equipment are generally cost-effective when replacing broken or obsolete equipment, but are generally not cost effective when the existing equipment is still functional (analogous to not upgrading to a new, higher mileage car if the old one still works).

    click to enlarge

    In almost all of the typical and new housing stock in the U.S., the “low hanging fruit” of basic energy saving measures have already been harvested. Consequently, for a typical home in the U.S., rooftop solar energy systems (electric and thermal), will generate six times more energy than can be saved with lighting, weatherization and insulation retrofits combined.

    Generating the remaining energy required by the home will have the biggest impact on home energy consumption. Put simply, we cannot conserve our way to energy independence.

    The results are somewhat contrary to the “conventional wisdom” regarding cost effectiveness for energy efficiency and solar power systems. However, these results are not surprising when one considers the range of U.S. housing stock, varying climate conditions and current costs of various retrofit and renewable energy options. Most importantly, these results provide guidance for good national energy efficiency and solar policies that are consistent with homeowner economics.

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    Introduction

    In order for the U.S. to consume less energy, the place to start is right at home. The residential sector consumes 22% of the energy in the United States; by comparison, cars use about 17%. Actions that individuals take to reduce home energy costs will give them more disposable income -- while simultaneously creating good local jobs, improving our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

    Homeowners have two ways to structurally reduce their energy costs: retrofit energy efficiency measures and solar energy generation. Retrofit energy efficiency measures include caulking, ceiling insulation, energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, appliances (laundry, refrigerator), lighting, and windows. Solar energy generation includes solar power (photovoltaic), solar water heating, and solar space conditioning. Each of these measures address specific aspects of a home’s energy requirements. For example, insulation addresses heating and cooling requirements, and energy efficient appliances address electricity demand. Photovoltaic systems reduce overall electricity demand by generating electricity on-site, including ‘plug loads’ from televisions and appliances, as well as the electricity needed to run heating and air conditioning systems.

    click to enlarge

    In all cases, homeowners bear most of the costs for selecting and implementing these measures. Their individual economic situation and energy usage patterns directly impact their choice of which measure or combination of measures to implement. Although some portion of these costs can be reduced through local rebate programs and federal tax credits, the majority of the cost of these improvements is borne by the individual.
    Therefore, their specific preferences and economic choices must be addressed when establishing energy savings policies. Failure to consider these consumer economic factors risks creating policies that may look good on paper but will fail in practice.

    For the last few decades, energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar power have proven their ability to reduce homeowner’s utility bills. While it is indeed important for energy consumers to reduce energy consumption, it is not true that all efficiency measures make sense for all homes. The reality is that the climate region in which the home is located, the age and condition of the home, and utility rates dramatically change the cost-effectiveness and preference for various energy saving and energy generating measures. To succeed in home energy reduction goals policymakers must encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption in a way that is consistent with their best economic interests.

    Numerous surveys validate that homeowners’ first goal is to save money when making efficiency and solar improvements. However, there is a wide range of retrofit and energy audit options available to homeowners to reduce their energy costs. Moreover, it can be quite confusing to sort out the various energy savings claims from contractors, retailers and manufacturers of these products and services. The primary goal of this White Paper was to use widely accepted software to determine if generalizations about the best energy savings measures can be made for homeowners.

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    Retrofit Recommendations

    One cannot generalize retrofit priorities for the entire U.S. However, certain retrofit priorities are clear when considering the location and condition of the home, as summarized below:

    • Lighting retrofits always show a rapid payback (< 1 year); these are low cost, mostly DIY activities.

    • Weatherization energy efficiency measures are most cost effective in old homes in cold climates (<3 years), but are not cost effective at all in newer homes or in temperate climates.

    • Basic building shell and ventilation energy efficiency measures are most cost-effective in cold climates (5-15 years), but have long paybacks in more temperate zones (20+ years).

    • Rooftop solar power systems have good paybacks, in the range of 5-15 years regardless of home age and climate as long as there are either high electric rates or high solar incentives. Due to technology advancements and mass production, costs for rooftop solar power systems are dropping rapidly – likely making these measures even more cost effective in future years.

    • Solar thermal systems have good paybacks when the fuel source for hot water is electricity, or if there are local incentives in areas using natural gas with a tiered rate structure.

    • Upgrades to Energy Star appliances and equipment are generally cost-effective when replacing broken or obsolete equipment, but are generally not cost effective when the existing equipment is still functional (analogous to not upgrading to a new, higher mileage car if the old one still works).

    Financing of retrofit measures is a critical consideration to homeowners. Many homeowners decide to take out a bank loan, PACE loan or lease financing. These loans have fixed transaction costs that make them impractical for low cost retrofits. When one considers both the financing costs and contractor project costs, packages of retrofits with relatively high costs (justifying the financing) and high annual savings (generating a short payback) are most likely to be widely adopted – saving the most residential energy in the U.S.

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    Conclusions and Policy Recommendations

    Public policy that is well aligned with consumer economics will have a tremendously positive impact in reducing home energy costs. In the course of doing this research it is apparent that some of these factors are being overlooked in the overall debate about energy savings.

    Conclusions

    • “Loading Orders”3 or retrofit priorities that do not consider actual homeowner economics can lead to public policies that fail in the marketplace.

    • The conventional wisdom approach of “energy efficiency first” does not consider four factors: the actual condition of the housing stock; local climatic conditions; electricity rates that are escalating faster than heating fuel rates; and the rapidly declining costs for solar and lighting upgrades.

    • If the goal is to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, then rooftop solar electric and thermal systems are clearly the best retrofit option. For a typical home in the U.S., these systems will generate six times more energy than can be saved with lighting, weatherization and insulation retrofits combined.

    • Overall, solar upgrades will save eight times more energy for typical California homeowners than lighting, weatherization and insulation measures combined – and should therefore be the first priority rather than the last option.

    • Traditional retrofit measures such as insulation, weatherstripping and HVAC upgrades do not show fast paybacks, except in old homes in cold climates.

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    • Homeowners should be encouraged to implement retrofits in payback or NPV order rather than in an arbitrary fashion

    • The DOE Home Energy Saver program is a tremendously useful web-based tool for both homeowners and energy auditors to use. The internal energy simulation and recommendations it provides are well calibrated to local climate and home design parameters. However, the program should be adjusted for local energy costs, total (not incremental) retrofit costs, marginal electric rates, and solar power and solar thermal retrofit measures.

    • Energy audits are not necessary to determine the suitability of a home for some of the most cost effective retrofits (note that some home energy audits cost as much as $1,000 per homes – and this cost is generally not factored in to energy efficiency cost effectiveness evaluations). Old homes in poor condition in cold areas will almost always need insulation and air infiltration improvements – these homes are good energy audit candidates. However, new homes and most homes in temperate areas may not justify the cost of an expensive HERS-type energy audit; moreover, these audits are simply not necessary to determine the applicability of the obvious lighting and solar retrofits.

    • Monitoring and control systems have great potential for reducing home energy consumption, although they were not considered in this analysis. Part of the problem is that thermostats can be over-ridden and consumption monitors can be ignored – whereas efficient lighting, rooftop solar or building insulation will deliver savings regardless of homeowner actions (or inactions). Nevertheless, innovations such as the “smart grid”, internet-connected thermostats and automatic load-shedding appliances can overcome some of the behavioral limitations that inhibit many energy savings efforts.

    • Due to technology advancements and mass production, costs for rooftop solar power systems are dropping rapidly – likely making rooftop solar even more cost effective in future years. On the other hand, since building shell and weatherization retrofits use conventional construction materials and labor techniques it is not likely that these costs will be substantially less in future years.

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    Policy Recommendations:

    • Modify loading order policies to encourage homeowners to select energy efficiency and self-generation in the appropriate payback order for their individual situation.

    • Modify loading order policies to take into account factors such as the actual condition of the housing stock and local climate conditions,

    • The cost of energy audits should be incorporated into the cost effectiveness evaluations for home energy efficiency retrofit measures.

    • The DOE Home Energy Saver program should be adjusted for local energy costs, total (not incremental) retrofit costs, marginal electric rates, and solar power and solar thermal retrofit measures.

    • Policies that anticipate long-term programs should consider likely future costs of retrofit measures.

    1 Comments:

    At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Beau D'Arcy said...

    I really like this article, and I think it makes the common point that EE + RE = best investment for typical homeowners. However, instead of simple showing the costs/benefits of the hybrid approach as a sum of the individual parts, it would be more powerful to show the cost of PV assuming EE upgrades are not made. That is, if you just slap a PV system on a house as is, it'll require 25-50% more capacity (twice the cost) than if you perform EE upgrades first and then only need half the PV system as you would have originally. The thousand dollars you spend on EE will save you thousands on the reduced PV systems! That's why the hybrid model is the best way to go.

     

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