May 6, 2011 – Volume 13, Issue 13
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


Partial Eclipse of the Moon

Some years ago, Jim Nybo and I were steaming across eastern Washington late at night, driving his packed van in the bright light of a full moon. We were loaded to the gills with Jim’s favorite banana packing boxes. He was headed home, east from Portland to Helena, Montana after a five-year stint with the Northwest Power Planning Council.

We were fast approaching a partial eclipse, and we were just a few miles from the Stonehenge Memorial in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a full-scale replica of England’s Neolithic Stonehenge, built as a tribute to Klickitat County soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. There’s something about its form, accentuated in the moonlight. Like Stonehenge, its energy puzzles the logical, and enchants those metaphysically inclined.

Moving it was, the partial eclipse of the moon high above the Gorge. We named our analysis of the Northwest’s efficiency transformation accordingly. It was full of examples of efficiency successes in the region, from Salem and Eugene through Portland and up to Seattle and out to Spokane.

The recent news of renewable power topping nuclear capacity reminded me of the partial eclipse. New York City’s topping capped landfills on Staten Island and Brooklyn with 50 MW of solar capacity reinforces this. Dylan yes, “The times they are a’changin.”

Clean and green eclipsing nuclear? A Worldwatch Institute report marking the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010 - 2011, finds that total installed renewable capacity is now 381 GW (193 GW wind; 56 GW biomass/waste to energy; and 43 GW solar) passing 375 GW of global nuclear capacity. Total 2010 investments in renewables were $243 billion, and almost entirely from private sources. Amory Lovins wrote the report’s forward citing the “buildability” of solar.

The report also finds that while wind and nuclear each produced about the same amount of power in their first 15 years, the nuclear subsidy was over 40 times that of the wind subsidy. In Texas, an abundance of wind and now plans for a major wind energy storage facility there has caused NRG Energy to scuttle plans for two nuclear reactors. Worldwatch’s lead author said that the nuclear industry was “arguably on life support before Fukushima.”

Nuclear on the ropes. The other night we attended a party hosted by Mike Peevey for my former boss, the legenday David S. Freeman. I love hearing Dave speak. In his farewell remarks to the likes of Davis, Villaraigosa, Foster, Pulido, Kantor, and Nichols, he joked that this was a preview of his funeral. He then reminisced about his passions for efficiency, renewables, and electric vehicles; what a remarkable career spanning the White House, and later at the helm of TVA, NYPA, SMUD, and LADWP. He called nuclear “the deadliest form of power.”

The eclipse is building my confidence. Net zero is attainable. California’s “big and bold” energy efficiency strategy calls for all new homes to be net zero by 2020, all commercial by 2030. That’s soon. South Carolina Electric & Gas is building to own and operate a 2.6 MW solar system on a Boeing 787 final assembly plant there. It will produce 100% of on-site power use, making it a utility-supported, net-zero electricity site. The U.S. Army has announced that six bases will go to net zero by 2020 including bases in Maryland, California, the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and West Point, New York. Four years ago we took our own house close to net zero electricity without too much difficulty, and with a fair return.

At EcoMotion, it’s been an amazing April, all part of the great transformation. For me, it began in San Francisco promoting a new Distributed Generation power model to the Aspen Accord. At Solar Santa Monica we’re testing the market to establish a Community Solar Fund, an LLC investment strategy. We now see that New York City Mayor Bloomberg has announced a similar strategy. Our Solar Flags in Anaheim are reinstalled on eight campuses and our utility client now wants two more. The City of Palm Desert unanimously approved a contract for EcoMotion to manage PACE Solutions, a non-profit with the tag line of Energy Independence America. Late in April, our team managed two Earth Day celebrations, one on each coast, and an Energy Upgrade California kick-off meeting in Santa Monica. For us it was Earth Month.

Late last fall, the Mayor of Irvine (right in photo) congratulated the Capital Group Companies and their Owner's Representative, EcoMotion, for installing the largest solar system in Orange County. This week, the 1 MW system produced its millionth kilowatt-hour, at 6:40 PM on Tuesday to be precise. Among its benefits are worker pride and a five-year payback.

This is the partial eclipse of the moon that was not long ago just a dream and a vision.
"I think 40%, at a reasonable cost, is well within our grasp in the near future.”
Governor Jerry Brown on California’s bold new 33% renewable portfolio standard

California’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard

In mid-April, California Governor Jerry Brown signed to law a mandate requiring California utilities to get 33% of their power from renewable resources. It’s a hefty mandate. Citing tens of thousands of jobs and energy independence, Brown suggested that this was merely a step to a 40% RPS in California’s future.

California’s new law, Senate Bill X1-2, establishes a three-stage compliance schedule: By 2013, utilities, energy service providers, and community choice aggregators (CCAs) will have to supply 20% of their power with renewables. This increases to 25% by the end of 2016, and 33% by 2020. SB X1-2 establishes rules for in-state generation too: During the 2011-2013 compliance period, a minimum of 50% of the energy must be generated within or directly proximate to California; increasing to 65% in the 2014–2016 compliance period, and 75% for the 2016 and beyond. Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) can provide no more than 25% of the total in the 2011–2013 period, dropping to 15% in the 2014–2016 period, and 10% thereafter.

Hawaii has the most aggressive RPS of any state. Its Clean Energy Initiative has a 40% RPS by 2030. Hawaii also established an “energy efficiency portfolio standard (EEPS)” in 2009 that calls on savings of 4,300 GWh by 2030. That’s equivalent to 40% of 2007 supply. While the rules of separation between the RPS and EEPS are being established, and will be codified in 2015, in simple terms the RPS and EEPS together call for a 70% reduction in electricity consumption in the next 18 years.

Other states are not that far behind California and Hawaii: New York has a 30% standard by 2030; Oregon has a 25% standard by 2025; and Colorado has a 30% standard by 2020. The European Union, not surprisingly, has raised the bar highest: Germany has an 80% standard by 2050.

Do I hear 100%? A paper published in Energy Policy by Mark Jacobson (Stanford) and Mark Delucchi (University of California-Davis) concludes that the world can be 100% powered by renewable energy in 20-40 years using currently available technology. They claim that wind and solar can provide 90% of energy demand through electricity. Vehicles, ships, and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters and water would be preheated by the sun.

Jacobsen and Delucchi say that all new energy generation can be renewable by 2030; all existing energy production could be converted to renewables by 2050.

Connecting University of Phoenix and the Boys and Girls Club

Four months ago, Jody Skenderian of the University of Phoenix called. She wanted to discuss the idea of UOPX sponsoring some kind of solar project for Earth Day. UOPX has a history with solar; its main campus in Phoenix has a major installation. UOPX, the nation’s largest private university system, is also keen on branding itself, especially in target regions such as East Los Angeles County and Western Riverside County.

Could EcoMotion develop a “solar flag” demonstration for UOPX as we had done at Long Beach Airport? The Long Beach Airport demonstration – funded by EcoMedia -- certainly makes an impression. There, EcoMotion was project manager for a six-“flag,” dual-axis tracking solar system made up of bifacial panels that collect light and thus energy from top and bottom. They’re also transparent, perfect for education. They are at the JetBlue baggage claim and are seen by thousands daily.

What could we do for UOPX? At the EcoMotion office in Irvine, we discussed the teaching Solar Flags that EcoMotion has installed at Anaheim elementary school campuses. How could a small amount of funds leverage the greatest branding opportunity? Schools were considered, as were municipal facilities such as parks. We decided to explore Boys and Girls clubs in a target area. By giving a 5 kW roof-top solar system, we figured, UOPX’s donation would make an initial Earth Day splash followed by an annual contribution of about $2,000 per year to the select club.

EcoMotion’s solar team investigated each of 15 clubs in the target area. We took an electrical contractor to the two best sites to verify the interconnection configuration. Then it was up to the clubs: Which one would put its best foot forward and accept the solar system for its multiple values? Pomona Boys and Girls Club Director Victor Caceras “gets it,” he so clearly sees the value of the solar power. His bid for the system was successful. Now he’s so proud to show off the system “dashboard,” the flat-screen monitor there that tracks generation, consumption, and the club’s environmental savings thanks to UOPX.

As project manager, EcoMotion hired a contractor and the installation was completed on budget and on time for the Earth Day ribbon cutting by the Mayor of Pomona. A discount from SolarWorld for 24, 245–watt panels, resulted in a 5.2 kW AC system. The kick-off was a thrill, a party for the kids and a reception with local officials. Also recognized was one of the Clubs prized alumni, a safety for the Minnesota Vikings who well knows the value of these clubs for the youth of America.

1,000,000 Priuses; EV taxes and heaters

In April, Toyota announced that it has sold 1 million Priuses in America. In October 2010, the company announced that it had sold 2 million worldwide. Toyota has sold a total of three million hybrid vehicles. Since launched 11 years ago in the United States, the Prius, when compared to average vehicles, has saved Americans 881 million gallons of gas worth some $2.19 billion, while cutting 12.4 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The State of Oregon legislature has introduced a bill to tax electric vehicles since they will not be paying federal and state gasoline taxes. The bill would levy a tax of $0.0143/mile for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Currently motorists in Oregon pay about 30 cents a gallon in state taxes, plus three cents for local jurisdictions. Oregon’s pioneering EV tax is designed to be on par with the petrol-tax.

In related news, the Volvo Car Corporation has announced that it is adding ethanol-powered heaters to its Volvo C30 electric vehicles. Cold weather in Sweden can be especially troublesome for electric vehicles as using the EV battery for cabin heat decreases range. The 14.5 liter tank will provide 30 hours of heat on its highest setting. All of the company’s electric vehicles will be fitted with the heaters.

Fisher College’s Earthstock
- by Sierra Flanigan, Campus Services Coordinator

Earth Day was approaching and one of Fisher’s EcoReps had an idea: Why not have an Open Mike with a green theme? My first thought was that people are shy and bashful. It would flop. Boy was I mistaken.

As the date drew near, it seemed that the event was destined to fail. Easter gave many students the opportunity to go home. Even those who had suggested the idea were leaving for the holiday weekend. I feared that no one would come. Then sophomore James Vasquez volunteered to be the host.

Never could I have predicted what was to come: Earthstock, April 22, 2011, was deeply, and I mean deeply, moving. All of the chairs were filled, the ice cream and cupcakes glimmering. Murph was the first performer, one of our newest EcoReps recruited for Fisher’s Earth Hour activities. He wasn’t familiar with “green” at first, but when I told him, he joined on without hesitation.

I asked Murph what he was into. “Girls and crumping,” he said without hesitation.

I asked him to share his “crumping” for the Earthstock audience and he was thrilled. We moved chairs into a circle. Crumping is an intense form of dancing; everyone broke into applause. Some jumped right up and tried it themselves! The show had begun. Matt followed on guitar; then James played his own compositions. Natasha claimed she “couldn’t sing” but blared her heart out! She then called to her roommate: “Come down here, we are having so much fun! And bring my water bottle, the silver re-usable one, and don’t forget!”

The event lasted far past its planned schedule. And, everyone had a great time, everyone. I had pictured myself up on stage filling time with silly jokes or green news, but in the end, I couldn’t have gotten a hold of the microphone if I tried.

Arthur used his stage time to tell jokes and to thank the audience for helping him to grow. “I love Fisher College,” he said, and everyone cheered. Eric sang a silly YouTube video song that no one in the room over the age of 23 understood. We ate enough ice cream to last us until next year’s Earth Day.

A testimonial at the end of Earthstock signaled success: “I have been planning on transferring, but this group and event has given me promise to stay at Fisher.” I knew at that point, it was all worth it. We committed to eco-caroling! Music brings people together, highlights our shared commonalities, and blurs our differences. Sometimes in my job, I question, “Is it all worth it?” Earthstock put this question to rest.

Gasoline Prices: Pain and Relief

So how do high gas prices spell relief? Less driving, less greenhouse gases, less demand for oil, and more long-term solutions. I know the transition is tough but high gas prices deliver efficiency and innovation, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel, potentially less sprawl, algae, and more.

In March, gasoline demand dropped by about 3%, the steepest decline since 2008 when average national gas prices topped $4/gallon. This time, unrest in Northern African and the Middle East is causing prices to rise, and causing consumers to turn to mobile phone apps and suburban gas stations (versus inner-city stations) to find least-cost gas.

Sales of efficient vehicles are up, the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra grew 55% in the month; Chevy Suburban sales are off 24%. Oil companies are posting record profits, disconcerting, while U.S. refineries are producing less for domestic use and more for exports. And while North American consumption is double down given the recession and prices, South American countries plus China continue to increase demand for oil.

Researchers at the University of Quebec, Georges Tanguay and Ian Gingras, have found a correlation between rising gas prices, and less “sprawl.” For every 1% increase in gasoline prices, they find a 0.32% increase in inner city population, and a 1.26% decrease in low-density housing.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report that algae can produce 17% of domestic oil production. By strategically locating algae production in the sunniest areas with high humidity, such as the Gulf Coast, water requirements are lessened. President Obama has presented his plan to reduce oil imports by a third in the next decade. This involves supply and demand-side solutions: The Interior Department is working to expedite drilling permits for “companies that meet stringent safety requirements;” he also called for tapping unused oil leases. On the demand side, the President will increase fuel economy standards and aims to put one million electric vehicles on American roads by 2015. Obama is directing federal agencies to purchase only alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles by 2015. His plan also provides incentives for natural gas vehicles and biofuel incentives.

A U.S. Efficiency Report Card

In late March, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the US Department of Energy released the results of its Residential Energy Consumption Survey. Having prepared such reports periodically since 1979, EIA reports a trade-off: We get A for effort and B- for results on residential efficiency gains. Why? More homes have energy-efficient appliances but these gains are partly offset by more consumer electronics, in particular personal computers, televisions, and related devices. Highlights:

• 58% of U.S. homes had energy-efficient, multi-pane windows, up from 36% in the 1993 survey
• 76% of the 114 million U.S. homes had at least one computer, 8% more than just 4 years prior; 35% had multiple computers
• 68 million homes have energy-efficient compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode lights
• 44% of all U.S. homes had three or more televisions. Screen size and average energy consumption per television continue to grow

What about your home and energy efficiency?

Meanwhile, American Electric Power reports decreasing residential use that correlates with gasoline prices: Its residential customers are responding to higher prices by adjusting the household thermostat.