Tuesday, May 13

The Negawatt

Good article in The Economist last week exploring the reasons why energy efficiency is not pursued more vigorously as an avenue for investment. The bottom line reasons why it should:

  • It returns 10% to 17% annually. (The S&P 500 historically gets 12%.)
  • It requires reduces carbon emissions.
The reasons why it hasn't been more actively pursued by individuals:
  • Individuals tend to demand a return on investment in the neighborhood of 30%.
  • When individuals have a seemingly endless supply of cheap fuels they put off efficiency measures.
  • Individuals get overwhelmed with their options.

It has been increasingly pursued by corporations as an avenue for cost-cutting and social capital. Corporations are also more enthusiastic about a 10% annual ROI.

One player in the game has been surprisingly reticent. Power companies in most places profit by selling more power, not by encouraging people to conserve. This is starting to change for a number of reasons including these:
  • Providing peak power is increasingly expensive.
  • Some states are exploring decoupling profit from units of power sold.
  • Mandates that require a portion of the power portfolio to come from renewable sources.

There's a discussion of carbon taxes and how they might shift the game farther, but I'm going to need to take a bit longer than my lunch break to read through that.

Monday, May 12

HB 1270

I'd heard that Colorado HB 1270 -- which would prevent HOA's from restricting solar installation, shades designed to lower energy costs, installation of attic fans and vents, and from installing clothelines -- had passed the House, but I didn't hear through the same grapevines what had resulted.

I did some poking around today, and found articles on a number of HOA sites that suggested there would be an involved process of getting the Senate and House versions trued up and the earliest it would be signed was August.

Guess again.

Summarized History for Bill Number HB08-1270
(The date the bill passed to the committee of the whole reflects the date the bill passed out of committee.)

01/31/2008 Introduced In House - Assigned to Transportation & Energy
02/19/2008 House Committee on Transportation & Energy Pass Amended to House Committee of the Whole
02/22/2008 House Second Reading Laid Over
02/25/2008 House Second Reading Passed with Amendments
02/26/2008 House Third Reading Laid Over
02/27/2008 House Third Reading Passed
03/03/2008 Introduced In Senate - Assigned to Local Government
03/20/2008 Senate Committee on Local Government Pass Amended to Senate Committee of the Whole
03/27/2008 Senate Second Reading Laid Over
03/28/2008 Senate Second Reading Passed with Amendments
03/31/2008 Senate Third Reading Passed with Amendments
04/02/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/02/2008
04/03/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/03/2008
04/04/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/04/2008
04/07/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/07/2008
04/08/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/08/2008
04/09/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/09/2008
04/10/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/10/2008
04/11/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/11/2008
04/14/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/14/2008
04/15/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Concur - Repass
04/15/2008 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Laid Over Daily04/15/2008
04/17/2008 Signed by the President of the Senate
04/17/2008 Signed by the Speaker of the House
04/17/2008 Sent to the Governor
04/24/2008 Governor Action - Signed

That's a pretty good, if belated, Earth Day present.

Here's a pdf of the bill, for those interested.

Monday, May 5


The AP is reporting that up to 10,000 people may be dead in Myanmar as a result of a cyclone there.

I feel like stopping there. One second of silence for every person would be 2 1/2 hours of silence.

When 3000 people died on 9/11, the US mobilized it's armed forces for a massive response. This is 3 times that number. We are a nation that talks about the value of the life of every human being... so much so that we no longer fund birth control information for people who want it.

Why did so many people die? Rising oceans and more ferocious storms. In other words, another global warming storm.

It's not "coming", it's here.

And we need to change our lives. We can't wait until global warming means more than fewer days to ski and more days to tan. For 10,000 unique souls global warming came home on Saturday.

Friday, May 2

Energy Update

I now have 17 months of energy-use data stored in a Google Docs Spreadsheet for easy viewing from whatever computer I happen to be at. The results are very satisfying.

In the months of February, March, and April 2007 -- when I started blogging -- I was using more than 800 kWh of electricity a month (892, 814, 826). By changing all the incandescent bulbs to fluorescent, replacing four light fixtures that required incandescents to ones that could accept fluorescents, and banishing halogen lamps, that number has dropped by about 400 kWh per month (495, 420, 356). I still have three adults living in the house, but they're different adults. And one way this affects my power use is that my other roommate is actually happier sleeping on the couch on cold nights than she is figuring out the space heater.

I've applied for a subsidized energy audit to help me prioritize my next changes.

I'm watching a bill working its way through the statehouse that would keep HOAs from prohibiting exterior shades -- mine currently prohibits this and I have a south-facing patio door I want to put shadecloth over in the summer. The bill also allows clotheslines. I think I can do that anyway on my back patio, so that's less of an issue, but still of interest.

Also of interest is signatures are now being collected for a ballot measure in the fall that will place a small surcharge on the cost of electricity and natural gas (about 3%) and use the funds generated by that to create programs to help people upgrade to EnergyStar appliances, insulate, replace windows and the like. A program like this has been in place in the city of Boulder for several years and the amount saved by homeowners has more than offset the additional cost of energy while lowering carbon produced by the city. If you are a Colorado resident and you're interested in learning more (they also need signature collectors), check out the proposal here.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.