May 20th, 2019 by Scott Cooney
When we look at the options for transitioning the world to a 100% clean energy future, it really is true what our very own Zach Shahan says, “The future is now.” While technology will continue to advance at its exponential pace in this field (and we’ll continue to cover every angle on that transition here at CleanTechnica), Zach’s point is that we already have all the technologies we need to go 100% renewable. The only real challenge is the pace of adoption.
Consider the transition of Brayton Point, a former dirty energy coal facility, which is on its way to become a renewable energy hub. With offshore wind and batteries, the facility will power 600,000 homes in the area. Awesome, of course, but it will not generate a single kilowatt hour until 2023, if all goes according to plan. We need these projects, and welcome them with open arms, but we also need to do things immediately. Even in places with emergency needs, like Puerto Rico, the transition is not smooth, nor rapid. Why? Besides technological challenges, which do exist and can be overcome with a dedicated effort, we have to consider the cost to consumers, which is a legitimate concern. And of course, there are direct (hidden in plain site) and well-funded propaganda machines and manipulations from fossil fuel moneyed interests to derail the adoption of clean energy (everywhere).
So how do we overcome these obstacles in order to move faster and faster? Blue Planet Foundation, a Hawaii-based nonprofit dedicated to transitioning the world to a fossil-free-future, says it best:
“The cheapest electricity is the electricity you don’t use. Making energy efficient choices is the easiest and most affordable way to make big impacts…“
Energy efficiency. It’s the bomb. It IMMEDIATELY AND PERMANENTLY reduces carbon, often requires zero utility input or approval, and saves people money. It basically answers all those objections I mentioned above, except for the fossil gremlins, who will continue to promote hoaxes as diverse as smears against smart meters to hoaxes about people getting robbed at gunpoint if they let people in their home to perform energy efficiency work. I’d wager my entire lifetime income that these are a direct result of fossil-funded fake nonprofit / grassroots groups who work with Tea Party-esque tactics to derail even the adoption of technologies that help everyone….(everyone except the fossil funders who have a pile of stranded assets they need a few more years to amortize and are willing to risk the future of all life itself in order to do so, that is). If I had a nickel for every time I heard the rumor that allowing your home to change temperature while you’re at work with a smart or programmable thermostat actually costs more to bring it back to comfortable levels when you get home, I could probably retire. Despite all the evidence, that kind of BS still is believed by a lot of people — where, oh where could they possibly be getting manipulated by misinformation from?
So unless you’re a fossil gremlin, you probably should be a fan of energy efficiency and start implementing it right away. Let’s get to work. It comes in all shapes and sizes.
Home efficiency is a total no-brainer. There is no faster payback period in any investment in the clean tech world than efficiency, and since you have control over your home, there’s very little barrier. I recently wrote a post about thermal imaging, DIY lighting auditing, and high efficiency shower fixtures. There are, of course, big gains to be made with appliance upgrades, but in that article, I focus on the really low hanging fruit and DIY stuff.
What kind of gains can be made in fighting climate change? A fair bit! Recently my company, Pono Home, conducted a pilot program with funding from Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and the County of Kauai. With matching funding from the two entities, we were contracted to perform energy and water saving retrofits for low and moderate income (LMI) people. The scope consisted of installing LED lighting, high efficiency water fixtures, and advanced power strips.
With just $28,000 in funding, here’s what we accomplished in ANNUAL SAVINGS:
On top of that, the people whose homes we retrofitted are on track to save more than half a million dollars over ten years. How’s that for helping an island community that is highly reliant on fossil fuel imports to power its grid? Every dime of money that an island spends on outside energy sources makes the fossil fuel industry more profitable, and removes that money from the island’s economy, diminishing job opportunities and keeping LMI people struggling. And to think, many utilities instead just subsidize heating oil or energy costs for LMI folks. No, no, no. Stop that, utilities. Put that money into retrofitting and helping these people realize real savings and become empowered.
Efficiency is the bomb, like I said. Want to start a home efficiency company and do the same in your community? Our company just launched a consulting option to help people start an energy efficiency company for homes and small businesses in their community, so yep, this is shameless self-promotion, but hey, if it helps move us away from fossil fuels, I am unashamed. haha. If you’re interested, click that link to find out more.
Commercial Energy Efficiency
While home retrofitting is great, the gains from the commercial sector can be on a whole other level. Take Carbon Lighthouse, for instance, a San Francisco-based startup that has helped eliminate the power needs of more than 8 power plants and reduced 177,000 metric tons of carbon pollution. These guys are wayyyy smarter than me. CEO Brenden Millstein and his co-founder Raphael Rosen figured out that while some people are concerned about climate, a much bigger percent of the population is concerned about money. Their innovative model finds energy savings in commercial buildings and splits the proceeds among the various stakeholders — the building owners, the tenants, and the service providers. See? Way smarter than me. But still, these guys are not rocket scientists. They’re smart people who came up with a smart business model and worked hard to implement.
Industrial Energy Efficiency
How about a whole different level? Check out Hawaii Engineering, a company which has installed and maintained high efficiency mechanisms to handle wastewater on islands across the Pacific, from Guam to Maui to Oahu to Saipan. Founder and CEO Mike Elhoff started the company after seeing the abysmal waste of taxpayer dollars going on to pump water around the island of Oahu. Inefficient pumps, running around the clock, rack up huge energy costs. Mike started installing more highly efficient mechanisms and worked his way up, navigating the often challenging bureaucratic institutions of government, convincing people that the ROI was good enough to overcome the inertia of “well it’s there already, why change it?,” and doing it all with a wry smile. Along the way, Mike also started a company that provided an alternative to styrofoam products in the islands. Mike would be the first to tell you he’s no smarter than the average bear. But he did find an innovative solution to a real problem, and has moved mountains with his team in terms of reducing carbon pollution and wasted money.