Bill McKibben, THE NEW YORKER
A 1999 graduate in sustainable design from the University of Virginia, Dana Robbins Schneider led sustainability efforts for many years at the commercial-real-estate giant J.L.L. As the director of sustainability at the Empire State Realty Trust, she oversaw an energy-efficiency retrofit of the iconic Manhattan skyscraper on Thirty-fourth Street, which demonstrated how landlords could save both carbon and money, and which helped pave the way for Local Law 97, the city’s effort to force large buildings to improve their energy performance. (Our interview has been edited.)
How did the Empire State Building retrofit come about? What are the bottom-line before-and-after numbers?
The Empire State Building’s ten-year energy-efficiency retrofit started as an exercise to prove—or disprove—that there could be an investment-and-return business case for deep energy retrofits. Once it was proven, it was implemented to save energy and reduce costs for both the tenants and Empire State Realty Trust. We partnered with the Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls, and J.L.L. to manage the project. Through the rebuild, we were able to cut emissions from the building by fifty-four per cent and counting, which has saved us upward of four million dollars each year, with a 3.1-year payback. We have attempted to inform policy with local, state, and federal governments to share what we’ve learned to reduce emissions—and to meet E.S.R.T.’s target for the building to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
As a result of the retrofit, the building is in the top twenty per cent in energy efficiency among all measured buildings in the United States. E.S.R.T. is the nation’s largest user of a hundred-per-cent green power in real estate and was named Energy Star Partner of the Year in 2021.
Continue reading “The Empire State Building energy retrofit”
Todd Woody, BLOOMBERG,COM
California wants to replace millions of gas water heaters with high-tech electric ones to serve as “thermal batteries” for storing solar and wind energy.
Nearly every home has a water heater, but people tend not to think about it until the shock of a cold shower signals its failure. To regulators, though, the ubiquitous household appliance is increasingly top of mind for the role it could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and weaning the power grid from fossil fuels
High-tech electric water heaters can double as thermal batteries, storing excess production from wind and solar generators. In California, officials aim to install them in place of millions of gas water heaters throughout the state.
That would reduce the need to fire up polluting fossil fuel power plants to supply electricity for water heating after the sun sets.
“Water heaters have significant potential,” says Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen of the California Public Utilities Commission. “We know we’ll need a tremendous amount of storage to get to our decarbonization goals. We’re challenged now in evenings when renewable energy production declines and demand peaks.”
The focus is on heat pump water heaters, which transfer warmth from the atmosphere to a tank. They’re up to four times as efficient as conventional gas or electric water heaters. Nationwide, about half of water heaters are powered by natural gas. In California, water heating is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and gas water heaters account for 90% of the market. Swapping them for heat pump versions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from water heating in the state by as much as 77%, according to a paper published in January by the nonprofit New Buildings Institute.
Read more at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-11/how-your-water-heater-can-be-a-secret-weapon-in-the-climate-change-fight
Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET
Rooftop solar,storage and energy efficiency still play critical roles
California’s new landmark energy law should be a matter of pride for the whole state. It calls for electricity providers to rely on renewable sources for at least 60% of their delivered power by 2030 and on zero greenhouse gas-emitted sources for the remaining 40% by 2045. People refer to this as the 100% clean energy bill, and it represents a bold new approach for reducing California’s carbon footprint. The California Legislature deserves praise for its dedication to these important issues and for its leadership.
Let’s be clear, however, about what this change is and what it isn’t. The new law is not a 100% renewable energy mandate. The zero-emitting 40% could include large-scale hydroelectric, which is not called “renewable” for the purposes of California’s mandate, and nuclear power. It could even include natural gas or coal-fired power if people can figure out an economical way to capture and sequester all of the related greenhouse gas emissions. Although the new law leaves it to regulators to define what “clean” means, arguably some of the eligible power sources are not particularly clean, as I will explain below. Nonetheless, at this point only Hawaii can boast of a similar broad effort to eliminate carbon-based powerplant fuels.
So, we’re done! Since all power is going to be clean, we are all off the hook. It doesn’t matter how much we use. It doesn’t matter if we generate power on our rooftops, or if we provide community solar parks. We can plug in our cars, set up new districts with neon lights that rival Las Vegas, and get a second or third refrigerator to store beer in the garage — our friendly retail electricity provider will take care of everything.
Well, not so fast. It is still important for us all to do what we can to reduce demand for energy, across-the-board, and shift our usage to periods of lower demand. It is still valuable to distribute power generation throughout a utility service area (closer to customers), add solar photovoltaics to suitable rooftops, and rely on storage in batteries and other devices to make renewable energy available at night and when the wind doesn’t blow.
Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/09/10/californias-new-energy-law-sb-100-is-a-piece-in-a-larger-puzzle/
Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. – Newsroom
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an executive order to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half.
“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” said Governor Brown. This executive action sets the stage for the important work being done on climate change by the Legislature.
The Governor’s executive order aligns California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets with those of leading international governments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. The 28-nation European Union, for instance, set the same target for 2030 just last October. California is on track to meet or exceed the current target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as established in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). California’s new emission reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 will make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050. This is in line with the scientifically established levels needed in the U.S. to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius – the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be major climate disruptions such as super droughts and rising sea levels.
Read more via: Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. – Newsroom
Bob Schildgen, SIERRA
Hey Mr. Green,
I hear that agriculture and food transportation take a whopping amount of energy, and therefore contribute to global warming. If so, what can we do about it?
–Janet in Jacksonville, Florida
Locavores complain that agribusiness burns way too much energy. Growing food, however, takes less of the total U.S. energy budget–about 2 percent–than processing and packaging it. And surprisingly, given all the fretting about food miles, food transportation requires only 0.5 percent of our total energy, and half that much comes not from big rigs barreling down the interstate but from shoppers driving to and from stores and restaurants. A car on a four-mile round-trip to fetch 50 pounds of groceries uses 300 times more fuel per pound per mile than a semi does.
Increased reliance on fast foods and commercially prepared meals adds to food-related energy use, because it requires more transportation and replaces manual labor with machines. But the biggest food-related energy drain is in your own home: Refrigeration, cooking, dishwashing, and disposal consume a third of the energy in the food system.
Here’s how to reduce your dinner’s energy content: (1) cut down on heavily processed, excessively packaged food and get back to basics, which will help farmers (who once received nearly 50 cents of every food dollar and now get only 17 cents, thanks to the increased share taken by processors, packagers, and marketers); (2) bike, walk, carpool, or take public transit to food stores; (3) avoid fast foods and eat out less; (4) get efficient Energy Star-approved appliances; (5) grow your own produce if possible; and (6) do like Grandma said: Clean your plate and don’t waste so dern much. Annually, 34 million tons of food waste ends up in dumps, creating the greenhouse gas methane and wasting the energy it took to produce it. –Bob Schildgen
via Hey Mr. Green, Should I Care How Far My Food Travels? | Sierra Club.
Paul Bogard, BLOOMBERG VIEW
Feb 24, 2013. The City of Light dimmed? It’s true. Thanks to a new law, not only Paris but all of France will see its lighting level reduced, beginning this July. Window lighting in commercial buildings and the lights on building facades will be turned off after 1 a.m., and interior lighting in office buildings will be off an hour after the last employee departs.
The new law promises to reduce carbon emissions and save energy — the annual equivalent of 750,000 households’ worth. Most significant is its potential to turn the tide against light pollution by changing attitudes about our unnecessary overuse of light at night.
In almost every U.S. city, suburb and town, the streets, parking lots, gas stations, and commercial and public buildings are lit through the night. Over recent decades, the growth of this pollution has been relentless, yet slow enough that most of us haven’t noticed. Parking lots and gas stations, for example, are now often 10 times brighter than they were just 20 years ago, and light pollution continues to grow at 6 percent every year.
The cost of all this light, monetary and otherwise, is high. The connections to sleep disorders, cancer, diabetes and other disease are serious enough that the American Medical Association has declared its support for light-pollution control efforts. Every ecosystem on Earth is both nocturnal as well as diurnal, and light destroys habitat just as easily as any bulldozer can. And when eight out of 10 children born in the U.S. today will never see the Milky Way, we have even lost the stars.
The usual justification for these costs is that we need all this light for safety and security. This simply isn’t true.
No one doubts that artificial light can reduce the risks of being out at night, and no one is saying that we ought to exist in the dark. But increasingly, police, doctors, astronomers, economists, business leaders, communities and now the French government agree that we should reduce the light we use, and that too much brightness at night actually reduces our safety and security. Bright lights may make us feel safer. Alone, however, they don’t actually make us safer.
The research bears this out. In 2008, PG&E Corp., the San Francisco-based energy company, reviewed the research and found “either that there is no link between lighting and crime, or that any link is too subtle or complex to have been evident in the data.”
Read more via Turn Down the City Lights and Make Streets Safer – Bloomberg View.
Edward Ortiz, SACRAMENTO BEE
Hundreds of people Saturday cooked using only the power of the sun – a practice little used in the United States, but considered a liberating tool for women in developing countries that also helps curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The solar cooking event at William Land Park capped a three-day conference by Sacramento-based Solar Cookers International. Attendees came from as far as Bolivia and Kenya. The cookers on display ranged from low-tech affairs featuring cardboard and aluminum foil to reflect the sun to sophisticated cookers featuring a giant lens on huge pedestals.
Yet all highlighted the basic simplicity of the solar cooker – all that’s needed is a surface to reflect and concentrate sunlight.
Attendees shared a passion for a way of cooking that emits little pollution and that requires only a sunny day as fuel. Nearly 3 billion people in the developing world cook food and heat their homes with traditional cook stoves or open fires, which account for more than half of the greenhouse gases contributed by cooking methods. A global study released in 2010 estimated that exposure to smoke from the cooking is the fourth-worst risk factor for disease in developing countries.
via Solar cooking conference extols virtues of cookers to developing world – Our Region – The Sacramento Bee.