Thursday, March 29, 2007

Go Sacramento

I think it’s about time for a good news story. Why not? This installment will have particular appeal to those who are bummed out about the nuclear industry’s strange sect-like hold on their provincial or state government.

Sit back, relax because we’re going to sunny California – Sacramento to be exact.

Pit Stop
But before we go there, if you have time, take a pit stop in British Columbia to find out more about its hydrogen highway. Who said it was going to be impossible?

Sacramento - Way back when....
Back in 1989, the customers and owners of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) had it with nuclear. They voted to close the Rancho Seco nuclear facility, in effect shutting down 43 percent of their energy supply. It was a huge leap of faith.

What did SMUD do to replace the supply? It invested eight percent of its gross revenue in energy efficiency. As a consequence, peak load was reduced by 12 percent and rates stabilized for 10 years. According to Lovins and King in Fueling the Future, “had Rancho Seco operated, rates would have increased 80 percent.”

Energy Efficiency projects included:
Helping customers purchase over 42,000 super efficient refrigerators.
Planting hundreds of thousands of shade trees to reduce indoor cooling requirements (up to 40 percent). This comes with free consultation
Providing building owners a rebate for installing Energy Star sun-reflecting coating on flat roofs to reduce load on air conditioning.

Investing in Renewable Energy
With rates stabilized, SMUD invested in renewable energy facilities, including the USA’s largest photovoltaic power plant and solar home project, one the largest utility-owned commercial wind turbine project in the USA, one of two photovoltaic recharging stations in the country and two geothermal projects.

Currently half of SMUD’s energy supply comes from its own hydro, wind an solar plants and four highly efficient natural gas cogeneration plants. The other half is purchased through long-term contracts. It is currently the most diverse mix of energy sources in the USA, buffering it from instable energy prices and grids.

Spin Off Effects
- Businesses now save 10 to 19 percent off their energy bills. One struggling company which feared higher rates prior to the shift to energy efficiency was able to stay in Sacramento, preserving 2000 jobs.

- New businesses around the energy sector cropped up and with them jobs. Sacramento became increasingly more energy independent and an exporter of energy and parts.

- Computer companies such as Apple and Intel, attracted to Sacramento competitive utility rates, set up factories in town.

- Homeowners who installed photovoltaic panels, which have a 30 year lifespan, enjoy free energy after eight to 15 years of use, as well as an increase in the value of their home.

Energy efficiency is key to the success of any energy plan. It is in effect a power source in and of itself – the best investment we can make because it does not require large capital. It is the first order of business. From there, based on money saved, governments and utilities invest in transitional and renewable energy.

Why can’t my town be more like Sacramento!?!

Source: “Boom, Bust and Efficiency,” by L. Hunter Lovins and Wyatt Kind. Fueling the Future, edited by Andrew Heintzman and Evan Soloman

In the News

Where will you be between 7:30 and 8:30pm on March 31st? Hopefully in the dark. Literally. Click here and join Sidney, Australia in making a statement on global warming.

Paper or ? – San Francisco bans plastic bags in grocery stores
The city has already banned children’s toys that contain bisphenol A and certain levels of phthalates. San Fran is on a roll.

House Passes Historic Whistleblower Bill Protecting Federal Scientists
Finally the USA decided that it’s not cool to suppress science, especially science that forewarns a global disaster. After all, who does government represent? The people that elect it (public welfare) or the corporations that fund their campaigns (who’s your daddy)?

Green Bloggers

Ecoshock Radio

Grist Magazine

Tree Hugger

Zerofootprint Blog

BBC – The Greenroom

New York Times – Environment

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