Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Create a Sustainable Home

While there are plenty of ways to save energy in your home, going green can actually be more expensive. Buying green cleaning products and investing in energy saving initiates can sometimes turn people off because of their prices, despite being an investment into the home's energy costs down the line.

However, there are plenty of ways to save on energy costs in your home. Follow some of these tips and tricks and your wallet will thank you!

Make sure to turn off all electronics when you are done using them. Even if they are turned off they can still be sucking energy from your home, so simply turn them all the way off when you're done. This includes your computer, your television, and your microwave.

Install a programmable thermostat. Doing so will save you up to 10% on cooling and heating costs as you'll be able to plan exactly when your home will use its energy efficiently.
Ditch your newspaper and magazine subscriptions -- you'll be able to read them online for a similar price but save loads of paper in the process.
Get rid of your paper towels and invest in cloth. It may take some time getting used to, but you'll be shocked at the amount of paper you use every day that just goes into the trash!
Time your showers. Play your favorite song and see if you can get in and out by the time it is done.
Buy a lunch box instead of using plastic bags every day. Not only will you reduce your plastic consumption, you'll be inspired to pack your lunch every day because of your nice new bag.
Contact your utility provider as they may have some sustainable energy options for you to try out including solar, wind, and geothermal.
Put a recycling bin on every level of your home so there is no excuse for your family not to recycle.
Pay all of your bills online. Less paper equals less energy used overall -- and direct deposit means you won't have to worry about a thing!

These simple tips and tricks will go far when it comes to investing in taking care of Mother Nature.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

There are 9.8 Million Green Jobs Around the World


9.8 million people were employed by the renewable energy industry during 2016 according to the Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017 report issued by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

But not all types of renewable energy are growing at the same rate. Roughly 1.5 million sustainable energy jobs are in large hydropower plants, which did not see any significant growth over the last year. Instead, other renewable energy sources such as solar (3.1 million jobs) and wind (1.2 million jobs) grew considerably – doubling the number of jobs from four years ago.

The largest creation of these jobs was in Asia -- China saw a 3.4% improvement alone, now employing 3.64 million people. Africa also made great strides forward, with small scale developments proving particularly useful in helping to develop sustainable energy in regions that have never had the infrastructure for a utility provider before.
Domestically, the explosion is even more dramatic. Solar-energy jobs in the United States are growing faster than the United States economy.

According to another new report, published by the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Climate Corps program, wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in the country.
The same EDF report has fossil-fuel jobs in 2016 decreased 4.5% from 2015, as more and more people opt for green sources of energy. Solar energy use, for instance, replaces 75 million barrels of oil annually.

The two predominant causes of this surge are the increased affordability and a greater effort to create policies that removed barriers for green energy across the globe. The cost of producing solar panels, for instance, dropped 72% from 2010 to 2015. This has enabled a much higher amount of energy generated by solar means, growing from 876 megawatts in 2010 to 10,727.
One of the more interesting figures to come out of these surveys is that 70% green energy jobs are with companies that employ 10 or fewer people. The implication is that most energy efficiency companies tend to serve a more local client base.

But whether or not customers have access to greener technology is still largely determined by whether or not they live in one of the deregulated energy states. Those that do have a much broader choice of where they get their energy, and what types of renewable energy they would like to utilize. If they don't live in a state with energy deregulation, they likely have many fewer choices.
Still, it looks like all types of renewable energy jobs will continue to grow in the United States, with solar power being poised for the most growth.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Consumers Fare Better With Competitive Electricity Markets

Policymakers across the country are grappling with a stunning transition under way in the United States’ $380 billion electricity sector. Electricity consumption is flat, cleaner energy sources are dramatically increasing market share while nuclear and fossil fuel generation plants struggle to maintain economic viability, and new consumer-empowering technology innovations promise to transform how households and businesses use energy.

The U.S. electricity sector hasn’t seen such foment since 20 years ago, when state and federal policymakers began to introduce competitive reforms to the staid monopoly-regulated electric utility industry. While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acted to establish the wholesale power markets that now dominate most of the country, many states acted to open up retail markets so that for the first time in more than a century electricity consumers could choose from among competing suppliers.

Indeed, until California’s well-intentioned but poorly conceived first-in-the-nation experience with electricity competition, it appeared that a majority of states across the country would restructure their electricity markets to enable competition. But after California, some states poised to enact restructuring declined to do so, and others that had adopted competitive reforms reversed course.

Nevertheless, slightly more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia, which account for one-third of all electricity generation and consumption in the country, persisted with the task. They learned from California’s mistakes and created vibrant retail competition programs that have grown and prospered over the past 20 years, benefiting consumers with abundant choices among increasingly innovative, clean and cost-competitive electricity product and service offerings.

So for two decades we’ve had what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described as laboratories of democracy at work, with one set of states preserving monopoly utility regulation while another set pursued competition and customer choice.

And as shown in a new white paper commissioned by the Retail Energy Supply Association, entitled “RESTRUCTURING RECHARGED — The Superior Performance of Competitive Electricity Markets 2008-2016,” the verdict is in: Consumers with competitive choice are disproportionately benefiting. Using U.S. Energy Information Administration data, the white paper by Philip R. O’Connor, Ph.D., former chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, found that competitive choice jurisdiction customers fared demonstrably better in terms of price, investment and efficiency than did those who remained under monopoly regulation.

Weighted average prices in the group of 35 monopoly states have risen nearly 15 percent while in the 14 competitive markets total weighted average prices have declined 8 percent. Inflation-adjusted price changes for major customer classes in choice and monopoly states are starkly different, declining 18 percent for customers in competitive jurisdictions compared to the experience in monopoly states.

It is no surprise then that relatively sophisticated commercial and industrial electricity customers have widely embraced competition, and we’ve a seen a majority of customers in those classes benefit by purchasing electricity from non-utility suppliers in competitive choice states, particularly as competition enables access to cleaner energy supply options. But residential customers are increasingly benefiting from the competitive marketplace too.

Between 2003 and 2008, the number of residential accounts served in competitive jurisdictions by non-utility providers more than tripled from about 2.3 million to 7.1 million, and more than doubled again since to average more than 16.4 million annually. For jobs-producing commercial and industrial customers, between 2003 and 2008 those served by non-utility suppliers grew 240 percent, from 436,000 to nearly 1.6 million. Since then we’ve seen a near doubling again with competitive commercial and industrial accounts averaging more than 2.9 million and exceeding 3 million in 2016.

Dr. O’Connor’s analysis also found a sharp contrast between the two sets of states in terms of innovation. Competitive choice jurisdictions are enabling innovation in customer-empowering alternatives such as “green” energy options and smart thermostats that allow customers to better manage how and when they use electricity. Monopoly utilities, meanwhile, are inherently inhospitable to innovation, his analysis found. This is especially important when one considers the many innovative ideas emerging from Silicon Valley that will power the electricity sector and consumers into a clean energy future.

It is against this backdrop of growing evidence that competitive markets are delivering real and tangible benefits in terms of pricing and innovation that policy makers in several states are beginning to consider once again taking steps to introduce competition in electricity to retail customers. Given the demonstrably superior performance of retail choice markets, a coming second wave of retail electricity market restructuring has begun, as evidenced by ongoing debates in Nevada and California.

Consumers want and expect choices. Given the stunning economic and technological transformation underway in the electricity industry, it makes little sense to cling to a monopoly regulatory model for electricity that is a vestige of 19th century economic thinking and a barrier to the efficient 21st century clean-energy economy that consumers and policymakers seek to embrace.
Darrin Pfannenstiel, senior vice president and associate general counsel for Stream, a Dallas-based competitive retail energy supplier, is president of the Retail Energy Supply Association, a broad and diverse group of retail energy suppliers who share the common vision that competitive retail electricity and natural gas markets deliver a more efficient, customer-oriented outcome than the regulated utility structure.

Article by: DARRIN PFANNENSTIEL

Source: https://morningconsult.com/opinions/consumers-fare-better-competitive-electricity-markets/

Friday, July 14, 2017

Explaining the 3 Most Common Sources of Renewable Energy


Nowadays, homeowners are looking for ways to both save on energy costs in the home while helping the environment. The best way to do so is by investing in renewable energy sources, but since there are so many available for use, it can be confusing to differentiate between all the options available to you.
So, to help prevent some of the confusion here is a short and simple guide on the different types of renewable energy that are available.

Biomass

Simply put, biomass is the breaking down of organic materials and converting them into other forms of energy. This is the most popular form of renewable energy and the focus on using biomass is to cut down on the release of carbon dioxide into the air. Across the nation, the two most common forms of biomass include:

-Biofuel: Also known as biodiesel, this oil is produced from fats and oils and is used instead of fossil fuels such as gasoline.
-Bioethanol: This fuel is created by fermenting carbohydrates found in crops such as sugarcane or corn.

Wind Power

Considered a very reliable form of renewable energy, this is the simple action of harnessing the wind to create electricity. Many utility companies prefer to use wind power as it is an incredibly consistent source of power and can be almost unlimited with the construction of wind turbines.
Solar Power

Have you ever noticed homes with large sheets of window-like panels on their roof? If so, they are utilizing solar power as an energy source. This is when you use solar cells, created by crystalline silicon that absorbs protons from the sun's heat and transfers them into electrons. Solar energy is so versatile that it can be used for anything from a small residential home to powering a massive commercial plant.

Even if you choose to utilize one of these energy sources in your home, there are still small things you can do every day that will save you money on energy costs, while helping the environment in the long run. For example, planting trees near your home! The reductions in energy use from shade trees can save up to 2.4 tons of CO2 emissions per year!

Besides planting trees and incorporating renewable energy into your home, there are plenty of ways to save energy in your home!  Some quick internet research can help you find cost effective and eco-friendly energy solutions for you and your home.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What Happens to Solar Power During an Eclipse?

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On August 21st, 2017, the United States will see its first full solar eclipse in a generation. While solar eclipses are an exciting time for parents and small children, who experience them with wonder, they can also pose a number of difficulties.

Utility suppliers and anyone working at a green energy company in California are particularly inconvenienced by the eclipse. According to California's grid operator, the net demand for energy will rise by 6,000 megawatts as the solar output collapses -- that's roughly the equivalent to the power needs of Los Angeles. 

While renewable energy is growing in popularity in the United States -- with more than 13% of energy generation coming from renewable sources -- it will take time for utility suppliers to learn all of the subtle challenges inherent in every energy source.

For instance, hydropower can be susceptible to both drought and flooding, whereas oil is dependent on large economic costs and dangerous working conditions. 

While solar power is necessarily variable thanks to its dependence on clear skies, this total lack of energy generating ability comes at a high cost. According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the amount of lost energy generation could amount to 70 megawatts per minute. 

There is also the challenge of the rapid decline and reintroduction of the solar light, which is significantly more than would naturally be experienced.

In order to compensate for the loss, energy providers are taking steps to prepare themselves. The first step is to set aside energy reserves to be used during the eclipse. The second is looking for ways to maximize the hydroelectric generation. 

One small blessing, according to Amber Motley, manager of CAISO, is the timing of the eclipse, which comes after a historically rainy winter season. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

3 Ways You Can Afford Solar Energy


Solar energy has long been considered one of the cleanest, least invasive form of sustainable energy available to us. Yet as of 2016, only 1% of energy produced by U.S. electric suppliers is generated by solar power. However, even that small percentage provides major benefits, including reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons.
But if solar energy is such a great source of clean power, why don't more electric suppliers utilize it? Simple. The cost.

Solar energy can be expensive in the short term. In fact, that is the primary reason most homeowners choose traditional electric suppliers over this green energy option.
But the news isn't all bad. As more and more Americans realize the importance of renewable energy sources, solar and other forms of green energy are becoming much more accessible.
If you're considering investing in solar energy suppliers but are concerned about the cost, here are three different ways to make solar power more affordable.

Purchasing
Even though the prices of solar panels themselves are dropping like a rock, solar installation for a single home can cost tens of thousands of dollars. While the costs for solar paneling is restrictive for some homeowners, there are programs that help to make owning and installing your own solar panels more affordable. The largest is the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which offers a 30% rebate.

There are also a number of financing options that can help you spread the cost of owning your own solar panels out over the equipment's lifetime. Just like you make payments on your car loan or mortgage, these options let you invest in the future of green energy.

Leasing
If the upfront cost of installation is too high, you can consider leasing solar panels. While leasing does not qualify you for the same tax credit, it allows you to have access to clean, renewable energy at an affordable price.
Another perk of leasing your solar panels is that all maintenance is the responsibility of the company who is leasing you the panels. If you are uncomfortable with technology, and would prefer someone else maintain your equipment, this option might be for you.
This is a particularly attractive option for people who own several acres or more of unused property, which may be prime real estate for a solar array.

Solar Gardens
Solar Gardens are a popular option for groups of people who might not be able to afford solar on their own. In this co-op model, individual landowners, small towns, and municipalities pool their resources and invest in community-based solar harvesting equipment. An outgrowth of the cooperative culture, these gardens are especially effective for people who might not be able to afford their own solar panels, or who are prevented by trees or building limitations, like many renters and urban apartment dwellers.

Typically, a Solar Garden will work on a credit basis, meaning that the members of the solar garden will receive credits for their share the electricity produced at the garden, which will be deducted from their electric supplier bill.

Solar Energy is not as difficult to harvest as it has been in the past. And, hopefully, in the next decade we will see it become even more accessible to a wider range of people.
 

Monday, June 5, 2017

How Micro Hydro Can Help You Become Energy Independent


Hydropower has been harnessed by mankind dating back to the first waterwheels invented and implemented by the ancient Romans. In 2015, hydropower represented only 6% of the energy generated in the United States and 46% of the power generated by renewable energy sources.
There are many reasons why hydropower is less available than it could be. One of the main reasons is that utility suppliers are still heavily regulated in many states. In deregulated energy states, consumers often have the option of selecting renewable energy sources, using consumer choice to force an energy company to diversify more.
But what can you do if you live in a regulated energy state or your local electricity company has no green options? One good option might be building your own Micro Hydro system.

What is Micro Hydro?
Micro Hydropower is a low-impact form of harnessing moving water to generate enough clean energy to power either a single home or several closely connected modern homes. It works similarly to a conventional hydroelectric system: water passes through a turbine, which spins a generator to produce electricity.

What Do You Need
A sufficiently powerful stream and approval from your local authorities are the first two must-haves for a home micro hydro set. Then comes the matter of the intake, building an inlet for your system which funnels water in from the stream.
Other items you will need are a battery bank, a power inverter, and a transmission line leading to your home or other point of use.

Advantages
The biggest advantage is the regularity of the power source. Unlike solar or wind energy, there are few regular disruptions to the power generating like a cloudy or windless day would be, respectively. This also allows for a smaller battery bank, and more consumptive energy uses.
Another advantage is the price. While the initial cost of setting up a home micro hydro system can range from $1,000 to $20,000, over the life of the unit it will prove to be a cheaper, more reliable method for generating energy.

Drawbacks
Because hydropower is highly site specific, you must not only live in an area with powerful enough streams to spin the turbine, but you must also contend with local regulations, even if you own the land.
There is also the danger of drought or flooding. While drought would render your hydropower system moot, enough flooding could cause severe damage to your equipment.
Sustainable Energy can be hard to find if you don't live in a deregulated energy state. Building your own micro hydro system is just one of the many ways you utilize renewable energy sources to gain energy independence.