Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Smart Grids and the Stimulus

May 13, 2010

We’re always on the lookout for ARRA dollars spurring innovations that could change the way we live. On that note, we were thoroughly entertained by 10 Pretty Darn Interesting Stimulus-Funded Smart Grid Projects from Smart Grid News.

For example, we can’t wait to use something like this in our home:

GE Smart Grid pilot on Maui: In the isolated resort community of Wailea – located in the most fossil-fuel dependent state in the country – GE and Hawaii Electric are testing wall-mounted meters that will monitor power consumption of household appliances and let customers know when peak demand periods occur. The goal is reduce peak electricity consumption by 15% by 2012.

Of course, if we can’t get this in our home, we could always move to Maui. That wouldn’t be so bad either. . .


Things actually could be finer…in Carolina

May 11, 2010

Most states have had problems implementing the stimulus weatherization program in a timely way. But we’ve never heard of a string of bad luck and sorrow quite like North Carolina’s. Here’s the story, as related in the Greensboro News & Record:

  • The money set aside for weatherization was only a small piece of the 2009 stimulus bill, but it was more than 10 times the amount North Carolina regularly receives from the federal program for such efforts.
  • The man who had been running the program died suddenly from a stroke just as the massive influx of cash was heading to North Carolina.
  • At the same time, last year’s state budget transferred the State Energy Office and weatherization program from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Commerce. That change meant a refiling of paperwork with the federal government.
  • That bureaucratic shuffle delayed work at the state level until September, said State Energy Office spokesman Seth Effron. Money didn’t begin to filter to the nonprofits until November.
  • “And then in December and January, in terms of agencies getting things done, there were weather problems,” he said.

The result, according to the article, is that the state has completed barely one-tenth of the 22,203 housing units that could be weatherized with stimulus money.

Where are Maryland’s Green Collar Jobs?

May 3, 2010

We recommend that you listen to Maryland Morning’s excellent report on the Recovery Act’s renewable energy impact in Maryland as well as the program delays that have slowed the start of green collar jobs like solar panel installation. Maryland Morning is a radio program that runs 4 days a week.

Long-term thinking in New Mexico

April 23, 2010

Part of our incentive for starting this blog was to shed more light on the actual performance benefits of stimulus dollars, as opposed to just “jobs, jobs, jobs,” in the words of the GAO’s Stan Czerwinski.

With that in mind, we were delighted to see a press release from New Mexico that quotes Arturo L. Jaramillo, Secretary of the General Services Department, there.  Jamarillo was talking about energy efficiency projects in state buildings: .”These projects must realize energy savings per dollar spent. Reducing utility costs through high efficiency upgrades such as these will result in millions of tax dollars saved in the long term.”

That’s just the ticket, as far as we’re concerned. The key, of course, is doing the follow-up to see whether those dollars are actually saved, after the fact. We’ll be checking with New Mexico and other states, on that front, as time goes on.

In any case, performance benefits are not inconsistent with the desire to help the state’s economy in the short term. New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson recently cited the Council of Economic Advisers report, “that says the Recovery Act is responsible for creating 16,000 jobs in New Mexico to date.”

A new report on measuring energy savings

April 7, 2010

With roughly $25 billion flowing out of the stimulus package to various energy efficiency programs, there’s a compelling need to measure and evaluate energy savings.

A new report from the Alliance to Save Energy asks:  “Are taxpayers, ratepayers, shareholders and property owners getting their money’s worth?” “Are energy savings and other benefits, such as air pollution and greenhouse gas reductions and enhanced reliability of electric grids, being delivered?”

Good questions. Hard answers. The conversation about how to measure energy efficiency has been going on for decades and there’s plenty of disagreement about methods of evaluation and the assumptions to be used. The report makes a good case that discussions on these topics need to accelerate and that a wide variety of stakeholders should be included.

As usual in topics involving government evaluation and measurement, the perfect is the enemy of the good. The acceptance of some uncertainty is unavoidable and the allure of more precise measurement and evaluation has to be balanced against cost. The problems of measurement — which are delineated in detail — should not stand in the way of tackling it. As the Urban Institute’s distinguished fellow Harry Hatry said to us several years ago.  “You just have to accept the fact that it’s better to be roughly right than precisely ignorant.”

The report is loaded with sources for more information — like the California Measurement Advisory Council database of evaluation studies from that state and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency database, which contains studies from other states.