Today, the House of Representatives passed S. 535, a modest energy efficiency bill sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). This follows Senate passage a few weeks ago. The bill now heads to the president’s desk for his approval, which is highly likely.
I start thinking about my New Year’s resolution earlier than most. I like to think ahead and know what I’m getting into before committing. This year I could go to the gym more, eat fewer hamburgers, or do more traveling. OK, let’s start with just one thing. Maybe I’ll try to travel more. But how do I set the perfect goal for me? Where do I even start?
Thanks to my organization’s work on community energy planning, I know I can use the SMART goal-setting framework to wrap my head around my plans.
A zero net energy (ZNE) building is a home or commercial building that on average produces as much energy as it uses, achieved through energy efficiency and renewable technologies. The ZNE concept has captured the imagination of the building design and clean energy communities. Now, policymakers, businesses, and a broader segment of the general public are showing an increased interest in ZNE as a means to reduce building operating costs and environmental impact while addressing energy supply challenges.
After work, to unwind, I like to turn on the TV. There is just something about watching people escape from zombies or write 1960s advertising slogans that takes my mind off my day’s work. After I’m all caught up on the soapy cable dramas, though, I get myself into trouble. That’s when I inevitably wind up on reality TV. When I watch a sea of fawning bachelors courting a lone bachelorette, or a young heiress making her way in the business world, it bothers me that these shows fail to truly portray reality. And then I start thinking about work again.
If you’ve gone for a jog or visited your neighborhood gym recently, you may have noticed new accessories popping up amid the sea of iPhones and earbuds. There’s a good chance that some of your fellow runners or gym goers have been using wearable performance monitors—like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP—to track their physical activity. Or perhaps you’ve seen a post from a friend on Facebook bragging about their new personal record for fastest mile. The idea behind these devices and apps is simple: the better you track performance, the more knowledge you have to improve your routine.
Commercial buildings consume 20% of the total energy used in the United States---more than the energy consumed by all the nation’s cars, trains, and airplanes put together. A significant portion of this energy can be saved through efficiency in design, systems, and operation. Utilities and other efficiency program administrators have long been incentivizing energy efficiency measures that target various energy end uses such as lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
The need for innovative ways to reduce residential energy use is growing. States are setting increasingly aggressive energy savings targets for utilities and program administrators, as well as longer-term energy reduction goals that call for even greater savings. In California, for example, their goal calls for a 40% reduction in existing homes’ energy use by 2020.
Today 191 Republican and 184 Democratic members of the House joined to pass the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014 (HR 2126), sponsored by Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT). The bill includes several provisions to save energy in buildings:
In the Winter Olympics that just concluded in Sochi we saw amazing examples of coordination and synchronization in event after event, from bobsled to ice hockey to pairs figure skating. Unfortunately, we seldom see this kind of cooperation on display these days in Congress. Too often it seems like every member is heading in a different direction, and the sled goes nowhere.
Chicago is making an existing energy-use disclosure ordinance more user friendly for citizens. In the 1980s, the city passed a law allowing potential homebuyers and renters access to utility information for houses and apartments of interest to them. While this gave consumers the opportunity to obtain valuable information on a major cost of housing (one that sets the average U.S. homeowner back about $2,000 a year), few prospective buyers or tenants took advantage of the access that the law provides.