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October 10, 2013

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And by the way, kill off those vampires this month

It’s October. Nature is into its annual ritual around here as winter approaches. It only makes sense for trees to hunker down when unable to photosynthesize due to freezing temperatures and light availability. One might as well cut off your leaf connections and reduce your energy needs until spring. For us, this is a spectacular colorful show. For the plants, it’s about energy efficiency and survival.

Living more energy efficiently is an important survival tactic for people, too. We often think of it as a way to save money—and that it requires suffering.  However, in a resource-constrained world, it’s much more than that. As Jim Rogers, the former CEO of Duke Energy says,  “Energy efficiency is the fifth fuel after coal, gas, renewables and nuclear.  It should be our first choice in meeting our growing demand for electricity as well as solving the climate challenge.”   

According to TVA, demand for power is down and will continue to go down in the next 10 years.  Yet TVA’s inclusion of energy efficiency as a resource only rises from two percent to five percent by 2023, while gas rises from 24 to 33 percent, nuclear from 20 to 23 percent, and hydro from 11 to 13 percent. Coal goes down from 35 to 21 percent as several of the aging coal units are retired. The remaining six to four percent of power is from purchases. The National Sierra Club, through its Tennessee Healthy Energy Campaign, is urging TVA to quadruple the size of its annual energy efficiency targets.  TVA has stated its commitment to be the Southeast’s leader in increased energy efficiency.  So far, they are behind. As we transition to renewable energy sources, energy efficiency allows us to avoid coal and gas burning and nuclear atom-splitting so deleterious to environmental and human health.  Soon TVA will ask for public input to their Integrated Resource Plan.  Urge them to do better.   

TVA makes power and delivers it to distributors. Energy efficiency is not just about how people use energy in homes and businesses, but how efficiently it is delivered and on that front, our local distributor EPB is top-notch. The established Smart Grid communication systems and substation upgrades allow for less transportation needs (gas energy), more power reliability and quicker turnaround when power goes off.  EPB sees value in energy efficiency and has led the way in reducing their energy use through a renovation of its office building that has dramatically reduced energy consumption.  

So, suffering is not needed to use less energy at home or work. With the arrival of numerous energy-saver gadgets and appliances, we are already doing it. There are programmable thermostats, motion detectors that turn off after someone leaves a room, dimmers, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs, Energy Star-rated refrigerators and air conditioners, and old-fashioned ceiling fans, to name a few.  We are incorporating natural daylighting in our buildings and using better insulation in windows, roofs and walls to control our indoor climates more efficiently.   

If you don’t know where to get started, there is help.  Go to http://www.tva.gov/ee/in_home_eval.htm to learn about an In-Home Evaluation Program, or call EPB for a free energy audit.  You may also be eligible for some federal tax incentives. Find out about those at http://energytaxincentives.org.  

Oh, and in October, watch out for phantoms and vampires. Those are the energy suckers emanating from your continuously glowing appliances, TVs, inkjet printers, and iPod phone chargers that aren’t actually off. They are really on “standby,” secretly stealing money from your pocketbook. Kill these vampires by plugging them into a single power strip that you can turn off. Unplug your rarely used toasters and other small appliances when not in use. The planet will thank you for it!

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October 10, 2013