Energy policy?

There are some good things happening in the sustainable energy field in the US, but the lack of a coherent long-term policy hampers many of the efforts.  Customers and investors just hate uncertainty.  Unless a policy is clear and has a definite future, people will sit on their hands.  Here are some examples:

Good thing #1

The Department of Energy has circulated a “National Energy Rating Program for Homes”.  This is a rating system for houses to indicate their energy efficiency.  This is much like the Energy Performance Certificates in the UK, that I mentioned in my 5/10/2010 blog.

The devil is of course in the detail.  I don’t see anything mandatory in the DoE proposal and don’t think there will be any political incentive for that any time soon.  The comment period ended yesterday (6/10/2010).  My hope is that the DoE will not implement some new process and bureaucracy but use the existing methods and standards (e.g. BPI).

One thing did catch my eye; look at the last sentence in these definitions of source and site energy:

Site Energy – The total amount of energy consumed at a building location or other end use site.

Source Energy – All the energy used in delivering energy to a site, including power generation, transmission and distribution losses, to perform a specific function, such as space conditioning, lighting or water heating. The sum of direct fossil fuel consumption and electricity, with electricity converted from kWh to Btu using the national average power plant conversion (10,236 Btu/kWh). Approximately 3 watts of energy is consumed to deliver 1 watt of usable electricity at the end use site.

We need to really be aware of that ratio!  In an impossibly perfect world we could save 2/3rds of the total energy by generating it on site.  What a powerful argument for on-site solar, wind and ground-source heat pumps.

Good thing #2

Gainesville, FL introduced a feed-in tariff for solar electricity in 2009.  At the time it was hailed as a great step forward.  It was said to be modeled on the German system, and the hope was for this to kick start the use of PV in Gainesville  and, by competition and emulation, by other utilities throughout Florida.

It makes sense!  And the program was an outstanding success, showing just how much pent up demand there is for solar energy.

The devil is in the detail again…where Gainesville did not emulate Germany was that they imposed a cap on capacity.  So the initial cap was snapped up before the program even started, and went mostly to businesses, not individual houses.  The Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) website as of today states:

“GRU has received enough completed applications to reach our annual cap of 4 megawatts through 2016. We are no longer accepting applications for this program.”

Sort of sad isn’t it?  Still, glass half full, good that someone has made a start, and good that so many customers see the obvious benefits.

Good thing #3

Warwick is about to move into his house in SW Australia.  Latest picture are in the Australian section of the site.

He also pointed me to this Greentech site with this collection of iconic slides.

Not so good news – depending on your point of view

OK, so Treehugger is a biased site – the name says it all.  But this little item should make you think.  Why is this announcement made on a sleepy summer Friday – while coincidentally the BP leak is going at full force pending installation of another cap?  And why can’t I find this on any major news outlet?

From the Associated Press:

“The Interior Department is offering oil and gas leases on 1.8 million acres of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve while promising to protect critical migratory bird and caribou habitat.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Friday that the Bureau of Land Management will offer 190 tracts, covering more than 2,800 square miles, with bids to be opened Aug. 11 in Anchorage. “

The full AP item is here.

The Treehugger report, with commentary, is here.

Summary:  This all doesn’t look like a comprehensive energy policy to me.

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