The answer to the question in the real estate business about property is always “location location location.” Similarly, the answer to the energy utilization question is always “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.”
Dr. Amory Lovins, a physicist and energy guru coined a term for it called the “negawatt.” A negawatt as opposed to a kilowatt is the energy you don’t use by being more efficient. Negawatts save rather than cost money, yet still provide the same service to a homeowner.
So why all this talk about negawatts and efficiency? The Public Service Commission (PSC) here in Arkansas will soon have to address new regulations, promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intended to reduce the harmful effects of power plant emissions.
These rules will impact coal fired power plants most directly, and rightfully so. Burning coal for electricity generation releases the largest share of pollutants from any of the possible fossil fuels. For a given amount of energy produced, burning coal produces more Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur and Nitrogen Oxides, heavy metals, fine particulates, etc – all serious pollutants.
You might ask that if we throttle back the burning of coal and coal is cheap, then our cost for electricity production is going to go up. Not necessarily for two important reasons. First, the cost you see on your electric bill is only part of total cost.
The cost of impaired health due to exposure to the aforementioned pollutants is real but not accounted for. Likewise, the cost of environmental degradation from global warming is real. The cost of political instability due to global warming induced climate change is real. The Less coal we burn, the lower are these external costs born by society.
So how do we contain the directs costs? The second step is demand side management. Now we’re back to negawatts. The new EPA regulations call for lowering carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. We need to achieve about a 2% reduction per year to meet the standard. It shouldn’t be difficult to achieve this goal through efficiency improvements alone.
Nobody really cares how many kilowatt-hours they use, what they care about is having a warm in the winter, cool in the summer, well lit home. The less energy you need to achieve that goal, the lower will be the electric bill. A very cheap step is to check that ALL incandescent lights have been replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs, or even better now, Light Emitting Diodes.
Consider adding some solar panels to produce energy and lower the electric bill. The cost of PV systems has decreased drastically, 60% in just the last two years!
Check the attic to see if more insulation is in order. How old is your HVAC system? Newer equipment is much more efficient. If you have an older Heat Pump, newer is better, i.e. more efficient. Or consider a ground source heat pump which is much, much more efficient.
Some of these these efficiency upgrades can be expensive, but recent legislation can help. Most notable is the PACE law. The Property Assessed Clean Energy bill allows cities and/or counties to form Energy Improvement Districts which have the authority to assist homeowners to make improvements, the cost of which is then added to the property taxes at such a rate that the increase in property taxes is matched by a corresponding decrease is energy costs.
Efficiency, Efficiency, EFFICIENCY.