SAVINGS EXPO- This Saturday, Oct. 26 9 – 11am@URE

Mark your calendar! A chance to win one of four $100 Lowe’s gift cards raffled to URE  members Expo Agenda 9 a.m. learn about URE’s newest rebate programs. including: weatherization, geothermal, new home construction, etc. 9:45 a.m. Conserve Your Time …

Mark your calendar! A chance to win one of four $100 Lowe’s gift cards raffled to URE  members

Expo Agenda

9 a.m.
learn about URE’s newest
rebate programs. including:
weatherization, geothermal,
new home construction, etc.

9:45 a.m.
Conserve Your Time and Money with Proper Estate Planning
guest speaker:
Kimberly M. Cutler, Attorney
Ohio State Bar Association Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law • Cannizzaro, Bridges, Jillisky & Streng, LLC

10:30 a.m.
discover what ure.com can do to help you save $$

URE & Lowe’s
are teaming up to offer you $$ valuable $$ information

Displays
Home improvement and small energy saving products like lighting, caulking and weather stripping.

Something for everyone!
coffee & light refreshments served.

Kindly RSVP 800.642.1826

Efficiency upgrades can be pricey, with these low-cost project ideas, go green for less than $200.

Sustainable Living: Going Green on the Cheap Sustainable living is generally considered friendlier to the environment than your bank account. For many homeowners, expensive upgrades, such as adding solar panels, require too much green. Going green however, does not have …

Sustainable Living: Going Green on the Cheap

Sustainable living is generally considered friendlier to the environment than your bank account. For many homeowners, expensive upgrades, such as adding solar panels, require too much green. Going green however, does not have to leave you drowning in red ink. The low-cost projects that follow, each about $200 or less, will help you cut energy costs and reduce your impact on the environment without building up a pile of debt.

Source: www.sxc.hu
Maple leaves

Plant shade trees

Planting leafy trees around the south and east side of your home can help cut cooling costs while contributing to the fight against global warming. Why leafy trees? Because those big green leaves provide shade that cools your house in summer and relieves stress on your air conditioning system. In winter, the bare trees allow the warm sun to shine through, saving on heating costs and making your home more comfortable. Trees also gobble up carbon dioxide, the leading contributor to the greenhouse effect. Select fast-growing trees, such as maples, burr oaks and river birches. Find out the size of the tree at full maturity before planting; locate it where it provides maximum shade with plenty of room to grow. The purchase price for shade trees is typically $50 or less.

Build a clothesline

Clothes dryers use a lot of energy, costing as much as $100 per year or more. Why not air-dry your clothes for free? Clotheslines do not require energy, and avoiding the intense heat of the dryer may help to keep your clothes looking new longer. Clotheslines are simple to make, just attach a line between two stationary objects. Clothesline kits are available for purchase at many home and garden stores and online. Retractable clothesline and post sets, which can be moved out of the way when not in use, are also available. The cost is typically less than $50.

Install a programmable thermostat

Few energy-efficiency upgrades pay for themselves as quickly as this one can. A typical seven-day programmable thermostat retails at $100 to $150, while properly setting and maintaining it can save homeowners up to $180 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This makes for a very fast return-on-investment. To optimize savings, follow manufacturer’s guidelines regarding setting up and using the device.

Source: www.epa.gov
Rain barrel

Set up a rain barrel

Lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40 percent of total household water use during the summer. A rain barrel collects water and stores it for watering plants or washing your car. It provides a supply of soft water that is free of chlorine, lime or calcium. A rain barrel can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water during the summer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Water conservation good for the environment and it can save you money, too! Rain barrels also divert water from storm drains, which decreases the impact of runoff to streams. A typical 55-gallon rain barrel costs around $100 or less, although decorative models may cost more.

Start a compost bin

Composting is often thought of as dirty smelly, and wormy. However, modern composting is easy, odor-free and friendly to the environment. It creates a rich soil additive that can improve your lawn and garden without adding chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Composting also helps fight climate change by cutting carbon dioxide and methane emissions when organic waste sits neglected in landfills. Composting bins can be purchased for as little as $50, although larger units with more features may cost $300 or more. Better yet; build your own bin. All you need is a small amount of lumber and plywood, some hardware, plastic sheets and a pound of worms.

LAST DAY TO VOTE! Deadline TODAY May 8@5pm

Use the link below to access our online voting site, BEFORE MAY 8th! It’s Time to VOTE! Time to see who is running for the Board of Trustee elections! Read all about the candidates running in this year’s election. Election …

Use the link below to access our online voting site, BEFORE MAY 8th!

It’s Time to VOTE!

Time to see who is running for the Board of Trustee elections! Read all about the candidates running in this year’s election.

Election Timeline: The Board of Trustee election ballots are mailed out in the month of April. When you receive the envelope make sure you read the bios and VOTE for ONE trustee for EVERY district. In addition to the board elections, there might be changes to the terms & conditions or the code of regulation.

The ballot contains your Member number and Passcode which you will need to be able to vote online. Simple instructions are included. Whether you wish to vote ONLINE or by MAIL. Please follow the instructions and make sure your vote is cast by May 8  by 5:00pm.

Election results will be announced at the MAY 11th Annual Meeting of Members. Registration is 8:30am. Meeting will begin at 9:00am. At the URE office building 15461 US Rt 36 Marysville in the Multi-purpose Room.

Newer homes more energy efficient than older ones

By Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: March 09, 2013 KATHY HAGEDORN / Akron Beacon Journal The benefits of energy efficiency are hitting home. Homes built in the last decade, despite being 30 percent larger than older dwellings, consume only …

By Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: March 09, 2013

KATHY HAGEDORN / Akron Beacon Journal
KATHY HAGEDORN / Akron Beacon Journal

The benefits of energy efficiency are hitting home.

Homes built in the last decade, despite being 30 percent larger than older dwellings, consume only 2 percent more energy on average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The typical home built after 1999 consumed 21 percent less energy for space heating than older homes, according to EIA’s most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

Improvements in the efficiency of heating equipment and better-insulated building shells accounted for much of the reduction, said James “Chip” Berry, manager of the residential survey, outlined Thursday in an EIA online newsletter.

Geography also had a role. More than half the newer homes were built in more temperate Southern states, where residents typically consume less energy heating.

The numbers affirm a long-term energy efficiency trend documented by the Energy Department. For the first time in decades, less than half of household energy use is now devoted to heating and cooling.

“The general trend over time has been that a decreasing share of household energy is used for heating and cooling,” said Berry, whose detailed survey is compiled every four years.

Heating and cooling declined as a share of household energy consumption from 58 percent in 1993 to 48 percent in 2009. Energy consumed on appliances, lighting and electronics – all those flat-screen TVs – has increased from 24 percent to 34 percent.

Households devote about 18 percent of their energy to water heating. That portion has remained steady in the last 20 years.

The EIA’s numbers are national averages. There are significant regional differences in energy consumption – residents in Northeastern states consume about 47 percent more on average than a household in the West.

The average U.S. household spent $2,024 on domestic energy expenses in 2009. The numbers were highest in cold states: Residents in the Northeast spent $2,595 a year, $1,027 more than residents in Western states.

New Jersey households, which tend to occupy more space than average, consume more energy (127.4 million Btus) than any state other than Illinois.

New Jersey households also consume the most energy among the 16 largest states, whose numbers were broken out separately: $3,065.

The shift in how energy is consumed in homes has occurred even as per-household energy consumption has steadily declined. But electricity has grown as a share of the total household pie.

Electricity and natural gas now account for equal amounts of the energy consumed on site in U.S. households. But it takes nearly three units of energy from primary fuels such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel to generate one unit of electricity, so increased electricity use has a disproportionate impact on the amount of total energy consumed.

The typical U.S. household consumed 11,320 kilowatt hours of electricity in 2009, about two-thirds of which was used for appliances, electronics, and lighting.

 


Contact Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947, @Maykuth or amaykuth@phillynews.com.

Member Meetings! Mark your April calendars

Happy Valentines Day! Save Energy Save Date Night

Happy Valentines Day! Save Energy Save Date Night http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/save-energy-save-date-night

Happy Valentines Day! Save Energy Save Date Night http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/save-energy-save-date-night

Want to save energy and money? We’ve got an app for that!

http://www.togetherwesave.com/Energy-Saving-App-Smartphones

http://www.togetherwesave.com/Energy-Saving-App-Smartphones

MEMBER NOTICE! e-Bill & Pay-by-Phone will not available Saturday Jan. 19th

Due computer maintenance & upgrades, e-Bill & Pay-By-Phone options will not be available for taking payments Saturday, January 19th. The system will be updated and running within 24 hours.

Due computer maintenance & upgrades, e-Bill & Pay-By-Phone options will not be available for taking payments Saturday, January 19th. The system will be updated and running within 24 hours.

This Butter Sculpture Could Power A Farm For 3 Days

For more than a week, it was the belle of the ball, the butter with no better: a giant 1,000-pound dairy sculpture that occupied the place of honor at the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa. But after the indoor …

For more than a week, it was the belle of the ball, the butter with no better: a giant 1,000-pound dairy sculpture that occupied the place of honor at the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa.

But after the indoor state fair shutters this Saturday, all that beautiful butter will leave its refrigerated display case and be unceremoniously dumped into a stinking pit of manure. That’s because the sculpture will soon be converted into methane gas — enough to power a Pennsylvania dairy farm for three days.

The farm in question is located in Mifflintown, Pa., about 45 minutes from the state capital. It’s powered entirely by the energy produced from a methane digester — essentially, a 16-foot-deep, covered pit of cow manure that turns waste into energy.

“It runs our whole entire farm,” says farmer Brett Reinford, “and [creates] enough [power] for about 80 houses. So there’s a lot of excess we sell back to the grid.”

The butter sculpture will be dumped into this pit of rotting fruit and vegetables on the Reinford family’s farm. Then, all that food will get ground up and put into the farm’s methane digester.

Here’s how it works. First, the butter will be thrown into a pile of rotting fruits and vegetables and other food waste. Then the food will be ground up and dumped into the digester.

The digester’s grunt work is carried out by bacteria, which feast on the food and manure inside the pit. It’s heated to 100 degrees, in order to provide a friendlier climate for the microbes. As the bacteria breaks down molecules, the food and manure let off methane gas. The gas is piped away from the pit to a generator that powers the farm.

Since butter is essentially fat and fat contains a lot of concentrated energy, the sculpture will be a powerful fuel for the digester. Last year’s sculpture provided the Reinford farm with about three days’ worth of electricity.

“They brought it down here in one of our trucks,” says Reinford. “And then we sent it through the grinder, turned it into mush. And then, eventually, it went into the digester. And of course it’s 100 degrees in there, so it just turns into a nice liquid.”

Methane digesters are expensive — about $1 million. But in between the free electricity generated and the income from selling power back to utilities, Brett Reinford says, his family farm will earn back its investment within three years.

That’s why a growing number of farmers are installing methane digesters on their farms, and why Reinford and his father, Steve, spend so much time promoting the machine to other farmers. The only downside, Reinford says, is the risk of being pegged as “those methane people.”

But he said he doesn’t let that bother him too much. “It’s such a good thing. We’re not too concerned about that.”

HS SENIORS….THE COUNTDOWN IS ON! U COULD WIN: $1,500 OREC OR $750 TSE Scholarship

DUE DATE: Feb. 11! Apply @ http://ure.com/community/youth-programs/college-scholarship-competitions

DUE DATE: Feb. 11!

Apply @ http://ure.com/community/youth-programs/college-scholarship-competitions

Control Costs. Conserve Resources.

Check out our new Energy Advise page! Complete with new calculators and HomeEnergySuite! http://ure.com/residential/energy-advisor

Check out our new Energy Advise page!

Complete with new calculators and HomeEnergySuite!
http://ure.com/residential/energy-advisor

Smartphone apps bringing energy management home

By Aaron Tilley Published December 27, 2012 More Stories On: Computers & Gadgets, Energy Efficiency, More… As smartphones continue to take over almost every part of our lives, managing our energy use at home may be the next thing coming. …

Published December 27, 2012
Smartphone apps bringing energy management home

As smartphones continue to take over almost every part of our lives, managing our energy use at home may be the next thing coming.

At least that’s what four Canadian academics are projecting. A paper recently published in the International Journal of Sustainable Energy looks at how smartphones could significantly accelerate home energy audits for greater energy conservation over traditional methods, like having trained energy auditors driving from house to house to look at heating and cooling systems once every year.

Their study analyzed 157,000 homes in Southeastern Ontario and found it would take 55 years to complete an energy audit of every house using the tremendously inefficient traditional method. With smartphones at every house, however, this same task could be completed all at once.

The usefulness of smartphones may come as no surprise, but energy management gadgets have yet to catch on in homes at the same rate as commercial real estate. It seems energy savings, while great if you’re a business with high-energy needs, aren’t as compelling for homeowners. Most energy management systems are too complicated, and the savings aren’t big enough to justify effort on the part of the homeowner.

Nevertheless, there are lots of startups and big companies out there trying to solve this problem — and crack this market. Technology research firm ON World predicts that by 2016, global revenue for home energy management will surpass $4 billion. Market researcher Pike Research makes a more conservative estimate with $2 billion in global revenue by 2020. Either way, there’s lots of money to go around.

So the interest — and opportunity — is there, but the question remains, how do you make energy management more accessible for the homeowner? Smartphones may be the answer. After all, according to research from 2011 by IT consulting firm Accenture, 50 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 44 percent of 25 to 34 years old were interested in smartphone apps that allow them to measure their energy consumption.

Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at market research firm ABI Research, said smartphone apps are one major factor behind the current growth in home automation — 1.5 million home automation systems were installed this year, and many include energy management.

“Mobile devices increase awareness, as they [make it] easy to share with someone that you have home automation,” he said.

Image of assorted smartphones provided by ALT1040 from Blogosfera via Wikimedia Commons

Attention High $chool $eniors ~ scholarship deadline fast approaching!

The February deadline will be here before you know it. College $cholarships available to members! Don’t miss your chance at $1,500. With a chance to WIN even more at the statewide level. check it out: http://ure.com/community/youth-programs/college-scholarship-competitions

The February deadline will be here before you know it. College $cholarships available to members!

Don’t miss your chance at $1,500. With a chance to WIN even more at the statewide level.

check it out: http://ure.com/community/youth-programs/college-scholarship-competitions

SAVE UP TO 50% on HVAC FILTERS ONLINE NOW!

Savings Energy is Easy! order your filters online from FilterChange.coop (click on the graphic) receive email reminders when it’s time to change save up to 15% on heating & cooling costs!

Savings Energy is Easy!

  • order your filters online from FilterChange.coop (click on the graphic)
  • receive email reminders when it’s time to change
  • save up to 15% on heating & cooling costs!

What do the results of the November 6 election mean for electric cooperatives?

It’s complicated, according to John Cassady of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Read all about it!

It’s complicated, according to John Cassady of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Read all about it!

Attention High $chool $eniors… Need cash for college?

The February deadline will be here before you know it. College $cholarships available to members! check it out: http://ure.com/community/youth-programs/college-scholarship-competitions

The February deadline will be here before you know it. College $cholarships available to members! check it out: http://ure.com/community/youth-programs/college-scholarship-competitions

Saving Energy One Room at a Time.

When it comes to reducing energy costs, homeowners tend to focus on the big picture, such as the heating and cooling system or lighting. In reality, each part of your home uses energy differently, and offers unique opportunities for energy …

When it comes to reducing energy costs, homeowners tend to focus on the big picture, such as the heating and cooling system or lighting. In reality, each part of your home uses energy differently, and offers unique opportunities for energy savings.

http://members.questline.com/article.aspx?articleid=23402&accountid=3598

October is Cooperative Month

Every October since 1930, not-for-profit cooperatives of all stripes have celebrated Cooperative Month. During this time, it makes sense to highlight the qualities that make electric cooperatives different from other types of utilities and businesses. For starters, electric co-ops are …

Every October since 1930, not-for-profit cooperatives of all stripes have celebrated Cooperative Month. During this time, it makes sense to highlight the qualities that make electric cooperatives different from other types of utilities and businesses.

For starters, electric co-ops are owned by those they serve. That’s why those who receive electric service from us are called members, not customers. Without members, there would be no Union Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Members maintain democratic control of our co-op, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the board of directors/trustees every May at our annual meeting. As a bonus, co-op members receive special benefits through programs like the Co-op Connections® Card discount program. We also return profits to our members  in the form of capital credits.

One principle that sets us apart from other businesses is our concern for community. As a cooperative, we have a special responsibility to support the areas in which our members live and work. From sponsoring local high school scholarships to supporting new jobs and industry through our economic development efforts, we stand as a driving force in our community

Of course, co-ops span all industries, including credit unions, dairy operations, health care, housing, and much more. There are more than 29,000 co-ops across the nation. And not all are small or rural. Just look at nationally known co-ops like Associated Press, Knouse Foods, Musselman’s, PSECU, Shurfine, Sunkist, Ace Hardware, and Land O’ Lakes.

Overall, co-ops are more accessible than other types of businesses. We give our members a voice, and we are local — living and working alongside those we serve.

That’s the cooperative difference.

NRECA Election Center – VOTE 2012

If we want public officials who understand what makes cooperatives different, we must engage in the political process. The first step is to register to vote. More importantly, make sure to vote. Click on above logo to connect to the …


America's Electric Cooperatives Vote

If we want public officials who understand what makes cooperatives different, we must engage in the political process. The first step is to register to vote. More importantly, make sure to vote. Click on above logo to connect to the NRECA VOTE 2012 site.

When elected officials make decisions on energy policy, we want them to know that cooperative members care about the issues and they vote.

Make your voice heard by ensuring you are registered.

 

Capital Credits Ruling Favors Co-op

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 28th, 2012 An electric cooperative acted properly in establishing a policy that allows it to discount deceased members’ capital credits when they are retired early, a state court ruled. A court …

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 28th, 2012

An electric cooperative acted properly in establishing a policy that allows it to discount deceased members’ capital credits when they are retired early, a state court ruled.

A court in North Carolina found for a co-op in an important capital credits retirement case.

The North Carolina Business Court said South River EMC’s board of directors was within its legal authority in 2001 when it amended its bylaws to permit the discount process.

“The court finds that SREMC’s discretionary determination to adopt [the policy] was a lawful exercise of the director’s (sic) business judgment,” it said in an Aug. 8 ruling.

The ruling is limited to North Carolina electric cooperatives. But the trial court noted that legislatures and courts elsewhere have recognized the reasons that co-ops discount the early retirement of patronage capital.

“This is an important decision,” said Tyrus H. Thompson, NRECA chief member counsel. “A lot of electric cooperatives have been watching this case carefully, because the practice at South River EMC is common across the country.”

The Dunn-based co-op had been challenged by the estates of former members in a class action lawsuit filed in February 2011.

Under SREMC’s policy, the estates of deceased members can apply for early retirement of capital credits that accrued while the decedents were alive and members of the co-op.

When it retires those credits, the co-op applies a discount based on an interest rate and the number of years remaining before the scheduled retirement date.

The court noted that the co-op adopted the policy based on the advice of its auditors to guard against unfairly favoring deceased members over members who must wait until the end of the retirement cycle for their capital credits.

In its decision, the court pointed out that SREMC’s discount notification is evident on application forms.

“Clearly, at the time they requested early retirement of capital credits, the estates were well aware that SREMC would implement a discounting program for early retirements,” it said.

The court added that electric co-ops do not owe a fiduciary duty to those members with respect to the timing and procedures for retiring capital credits. Early retirement is purely voluntary, it noted.

Questions about the ruling can be directed to Tyrus H. Thompson at Ty.Thompson@nreca.coop.

Federal appeals court vacates CSAPR

August 24, 2012   A federal court on Tuesday sent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to the drawing board on the regulation of coal-fired power plants through the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The U.S. Court of Appeals for …

August 24, 2012

 

A federal court on Tuesday sent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to the drawing board on the regulation of coal-fired power plants through the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated CSPAR, which it had stayed last December only 48 hours before scheduled implementation.

“Whatever its merits as a policy matter, EPA’s Transport Rule violates the statute.”
— Judge Brett Kavanaugh

EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the court found, by forcing 28 states to make drastic cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in order to ensure that “downwind states” meet federal air pollution attainment status.

In a 2-1 decision, the court said EPA erred by dictating federal implementation plans (FIPs) before the affected states could develop their own implementation guidelines. In addition, EPA linked reductions to per-ton emission cost thresholds that penalized upwind states by making them responsible for greater reductions than required under the law.

This was a violation of the CAA’s “good neighbor” provision on which the regulation of “cross-state” air pollution is based, according to the court ruling.

“EPA has used the good neighbor provision to impose massive emissions reduction requirements on upwind states without regard to the limits imposed by the statutory text. Whatever its merits as a policy matter, EPA’s Transport Rule violates the statute,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the majority.

The rejection of CSAPR is a victory for the coal-fired power industry, which faced massive investment in environmental controls or the alternative of shutting down generation units, and for members of Congress who have accused the agency and White House of regulatory over-reach that puts investment and jobs at risk.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) praised the decision. Evan Tracey, senior vice president for communications, issued the following statement:

“More than a dozen states brought this case forward, and ACCCE commends them for the hard work and commitment they have shown in standing up for balanced environmental policies. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would have led to higher energy prices, job losses and premature coal plant retirements.”

Tracey added, “Through existing law — the EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule — and current and future investments in clean coal technology, air quality will continue to improve. Hopefully, today’s decision will cause the EPA to reevaluate (its) overzealous approach and pursue more balanced environmental and energy policies.”

Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a stern opponent of the EPA’s regulatory attacks on the coal industry, was delighted with the ruling.

“I am especially pleased with this decision in particular because the court explicitly said that the EPA was wrong when it didn’t give states the chance to pass their own rules before the EPA imposed a federal plan. Common sense should tell the EPA that their strategy is wrong and it’s been proven futile. Working with the states will do a lot more to fix the environment and the economy than taking an adversarial stance,” Machin said in a press release.

He noted his support of a bipartisan Congressional Resolution of Disapproval offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), which would have stopped the rule from going into effect.

Paul believes the court ruling vindicates those who think the EPA is going too far.

“I am pleased to see that the court has confirmed that (the EPA) exceeded (its) statutory authority in issuing the Cross-State Air Pollution rule. I offered a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval against this rule last year to protect the rights of states against this attempt by the EPA to raise energy costs and cut jobs at power plants,” stated Paul.

The Five Biggest Myths About Saving Energy in the Summer

Andrew Tarantola This summer has already set temperature records around the nation, and we’re still in the dog days of August. With money tight, and temperatures high, there’s a temptation to test out unconventional ways to beat the the heat. …

This summer has already set temperature records around the nation, and we’re still in the dog days of August. With money tight, and temperatures high, there’s a temptation to test out unconventional ways to beat the the heat. But these odd home remedies can end up wasting energy and costing more money. Here’s how to know what really works when you want to keep cool for cheap.

Myth: Cranking the thermostat lower will make the house cool faster.

Usually not. Trane and Lennox make some nice variable speed air handlers, which can adjust their output to match demand. But most homes’ units have just a single fan speed—on. As such, the house’s temperature will always adjust at a fairly set rate. Cranking the thermostat to 60 to take a shortcut to 70 doesn’t make a difference—the hot air moves at a set rate of speed. By undercutting the desired temperature, you’re simply wasting an extra 10 degrees worth of energy and money.

Myth: Turn off the A/C while you’re out.

If you’re out all day with the A/C off, it takes a lot of work for a central A/C system to bring a hot house down to the desired temperature. Yet it’s even more wasteful to keep it running for eight hours. The answer is to invest in a programmable thermostat, which can let the house warm through the day, then gradually lowering it to the right level before you return. Adjust the temperature up 7-10 degrees F while you’re away, and a programmable thermostat can still save you up to 10 percent on your annual heating bills. Reduce the demand on the system by closing curtains before you leave, to block the afternoon sun while you’re gone.

Myth: Run ceiling fans to keep empty rooms cool.

Ceiling fans work by generating a wind chill effect, not by lowering a room’s temperature. Essentially, they cool people, not rooms. That’s not to say that fans aren’t effective at lowering your cooling bills—in fact, using ceiling fans in conjunction with an A/C will allow you to comfortably raise the air conditioner’s setting by several degrees. But, just like the lights, you should turn your ceiling fans off when you exit a room.

Myth: Closing vents on a central air system will boost efficiency.

This seems logical, but it can actually end up costing you a lot. Some sophisticated, super-efficient homes can effectively divide into zones of HVAC control. But most modern central air systems are balanced to distribute air throughout an entire house. So if you randomly close a register, the system keeps cooling and pumping without delivering the cool air to a usable space. You’re basically paying to keep the inside of your A/C ducts frosty. The compressor/condenser can cycle too frequently, putting additional strain on the system, leading to accelerated wear and tear. And for all the damage, it’s not actually saving any energy. If you have a big house and you only want to keep a single room cool, consider a ductless mini-split air conditioner, or a basic window unit.

Myth: Air conditioning is the only way to keep cool.

We have it nice in America in 2012, but ubiquitous A/C is hardly the worldwide norm. People cope. And their strategies can come in handy. When managing editor Brian Barrett’s A/C went out earlier this summer—in Alabama—he and his wife and dog hunkered down in the basement, a padded layer of carpet separating them from the cool concrete floor. A caveat from Barrett: “That only works if your basement’s not too creepy.” Editor-in-Chief Joe Brown, on a trip to Zambia some years back, received a set of damp sheets as he checked into his evening’s lodgings. “It’s so hot, the water in the sheets evaporates,” Brown says. “By the time you wake up, nothing is wet.” And features editor Harry Sawyers, as a kid at SEC college football games and on sweltering Georgia campouts, learned to grab a piece of ice from the cooler, wrap it in a rag, and move the melting cube from wrist to wrist. “Then you just wring the melted ice water out of the rag, right down your neck. It’s country, but it works.”

How do you optimize your system’s performance—or beat the heat without A/C? Wipe the sweat off the keyboard and let us know.

Cardinal Unit 3 restart going slow and easy this week

August 24, 2012 Cardinal Unit 3 came online this week. While not released to dispatch power, the unit began a series of operational tests aimed at troubleshooting various systems after repairs to the turbine shaft. “We are keeping our fingers …

August 24, 2012

Cardinal Unit 3 came online this week. While not released to dispatch power, the unit began a series of operational tests aimed at troubleshooting various systems after repairs to the turbine shaft.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said Buckeye Power’s Tom Alban, director of power generation. “We are taking the unit up and down through the load range.”

Completion of scrubber installation, cooling tower modifications and replacement of the original control system late last year resulted in a schedule that should have put Unit 3 back in operation during January. However, during start up testing, a series of events led to significant damage to the turbine and its thrust bearing necessitating disassembly of the turbine and repairs.

Earlier this month, the unit was brought up briefly but shut down again.

Operators are taking care to ensure that all system fail-safes are optimum before putting Unit 3 through the series of tests preceding full-scale generation and dispatch.

The work at Unit 3 also included a new digital control system. Gone is the old analog instrumentation. The scrubber and tie-in with the cooling tower for dispersal of flue gas make the power plant a very different — and highly advanced — generator capable of meeting strict emission reduction standards for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury.

“We are extensively tuning and testing, taking it a step at a time,” said Alban.

BALLONFEST THIS WEEKEND- WIN A RIDE ON THE TOUCHSTONE ENERGY BALLOON!

Last call for energy tips. Anyone interested in winning a ride on the TSE Balloon this weekend @the Balloonfest.? Submit your energy savings tip today!

Last call for energy tips. Anyone interested in winning a ride on the TSE Balloon this weekend @the Balloonfest.? Submit your energy savings tip today!

WARNING!! Utility payment scam

Nationwide criminal effort to bilk money and identity information from consumers through a fraudulent utility bill payment assistance program supposedly sponsored by the federal government. The “President Obama-will pay- your-utility-bill” scam has spread across the nation, quickly becoming one of …

Nationwide criminal effort to bilk money and identity information from consumers through a fraudulent utility bill payment assistance program supposedly sponsored by the federal government.

The “President Obama-will pay- your-utility-bill” scam has spread across the nation, quickly becoming one of the most widespread con games aimed at utility customers.

The scam artists claim the government is offering a bill credit or to directly pay utility bills. They target customers through text messages, flyers, e-mails and phone calls, hoping to collect personal information, including Social Security, bank account and routing numbers, for the alleged payment.

No such utility payment assistance program exists. Electric co-ops are advised to warn members of the new scam and advise them about how to avoid becoming a victim of this and other schemes:

  • If members receive a phone call from a person claiming to be a co-op employee and they suspect it is a scam, they should hang up. They should not give the caller any personal information.
  • They should be especially protective of Social Security, bank, credit card and driver’s license numbers

 

  • Legitimate companies will not call or e-mail asking for account numbers or passwords.

 

  • Members should not trust caller ID. Because scammers may use Internet-calling technology, the area code seen may not reflect where the call originates.

 

  • Members should jot down the person’s name, hang up and call the co-op office to verify the call.

 

  • If someone appears at their door claiming to represent the co-op and wanting to check electrical wiring, pipes or appliances, members should call the office to verify the visit.

 

  • Members should never let anyone into their home unless they have scheduled an appointment or the person has proper identification. Explain that the co-op’s logo should appear on hardhats, shirts and vehicles.

 

  • If members suspect someone is impersonating a co-op employee, they should call local law enforcement immediately.

 

  • Members should warn neighbors, friends and relatives who may be susceptible to these types of scams.

POSSIBLE LOAD CONTROL TODAY, JULY 26 from 1-6 pm

POSSIBLE LOAD CONTROL TODAY, JULY 26 from 1-6 pm though times and control may vary per storm activity.

POSSIBLE LOAD CONTROL TODAY, JULY 26 from 1-6 pm though times and control may vary per storm activity.

Linemen Pole Top Rescue training today.

Check out the pictures from this morning’s pole top rescue. Every year all our line crew goes through this re-certification process.  

Check out the pictures from this morning’s pole top rescue.

Every year all our line crew goes through this re-certification process.

 

ENERGY TIP OF THE DAY!

Energy Tip of the Day – Have a professional tune up and inspect your furnace one a year. Always keep the area around the furnace clean. Check out this site: howstuffworks

Energy Tip of the Day – Have a professional tune up and inspect your furnace one a year. Always keep the area around the furnace clean.

Check out this site: howstuffworks

PEAK ALERT ENDED @3:25 TODAY!

Due to this storm – wind and rain have cooled the overall system enough to reduce the need for Load Control.

Due to this storm – wind and rain have cooled the overall system enough to reduce the need for Load Control.

PEAK ALERT TODAY! JULY 17 from 2pm – 6pm

Buckeye expects to implement full load control today between 2 PM and 6 PM due to high temperatures and loads across the region. The most recent forecast indicates that today’s load will be the highest seen so far this year. …

Buckeye expects to implement full load control today between 2 PM and 6 PM due to high temperatures and loads across the region.

The most recent forecast indicates that today’s load will be the highest seen so far this year. Please note that control hours may be altered depending on conditions. We will provide updates if conditions change.

YOU can reduce your energy use this $ummer Know-How to $AVE

Ceiling Fans Make sure ceiling fans are spinning in the direction that pulls warm air from the floor to the ceiling. In many fans, that is clockwise. Turn them off when you leave a room. Dehumidifiers Close off areas where …

Ceiling Fans Make sure ceiling fans are spinning in the direction that pulls warm air from the floor to the ceiling. In many fans, that is clockwise. Turn them off when you leave a room.

Dehumidifiers Close off areas where dehumidifiers are working so they only use energy to dry the air where needed. Don’t open the windows to help out.

Whole-house Fans Run whole-house fans when the AC is not in use to avoid pulling cool, conditioned air out of your home. Only run them when it is cool outside.

Read more about how to reduce your energy use this summer: energytips summer

 

Energy Tip of the Day

Did you know…Energy Star-labeled refrigerators are more energy-efficient. Remember that refrigerators with freezers on top are generally more energy-efficient than side-by-side refrigerators.

Did you know…Energy Star-labeled refrigerators are more energy-efficient. Remember that refrigerators with freezers on top are generally more energy-efficient than side-by-side refrigerators.

OUTAGE UPDATES!

UPDATE: We’re working on the last of our outages. We appreciate all the kind words. We are working hard for our members. UPDATE: another storm rolling in! We are at 168 outages. Please call our 800-642-1826 number to report any …

UPDATE: We’re working on the last of our outages. We appreciate all the kind words. We are working hard for our members.

UPDATE: another storm rolling in! We are at 168 outages. Please call our 800-642-1826 number to report any new issues.

UPDATE: as of 8:30 Sunday morning we only have ONE member without of service. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked through these outages.

UPDATE: As of noon, we still have 49 members without power.

The remaining outages will take a while to restore, because they are very scattered.  Also, if  a secondary wire from a transformer to a home that was knocked down by a tree limb, this is a time consuming task to safely restore power.
If you are still without power, please call  (800) 642-1826 to make sure you have been entered into our database.

As of this morning, we still have 55 members without power.

Please call 800.642.1826 to report your power outage. We appreciate your patience. With the severe weather and numerous phone calls, we have experienced a large number of overflow calls.
We do have a 24 hour after hours phone service.  They will be able to answer your questions.

PEAK ALERT TODAY June 29th from 2 – 6 p.m.

PEAK ALERT – Due to the current hot and humid weather conditions, URE is issuing a Peak Alert between the hours of 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm today. Updates to follow as more information becomes available.

PEAK ALERT -

Due to the current hot and humid weather conditions, URE is issuing a Peak Alert between the hours of 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm today.

Updates to follow as more information becomes available.

JOB OPENING – PART TIME Plant Accountant apply today!

This position open for immediate hire! Click on link below for full position description. Plant Accountant – Part Time (Approx. 20 hours/week) Essential duties include processing work orders, maintaining accurate property records, and performing monthly closing of the work order …

This position open for immediate hire!

Click on link below for full position description.

Plant Accountant – Part Time (Approx. 20 hours/week)
Essential duties include processing work orders, maintaining accurate property records, and performing monthly closing of the work order system.  Candidates must have excellent oral and written communication skills as well as experience using the Microsoft Office Suite.  An Associate’s degree and experience in Accounting is required.
Competitive wage.  Flexible hours.
Please mail resumes to:

Plant Accountant c/o URE • P.O. Box 393 • Marysville, Ohio 43040.

E-mail resumes as an attachment to: HR@ure.com

Resumes and cover letters must be postmarked by July 7, 2012.

PEAK ALERT TODAY from 3-7 p.m.

PEAK ALERT – load control today, due to high temperatures and loads.  Forecasts indicate that control may start later than usual at approximately 3 PM and possibly lasting until 7 PM. Updates to follow as more information becomes available.

PEAK ALERT – load control today, due to high temperatures and loads.  Forecasts indicate that control may start later than usual at approximately 3 PM and possibly lasting until 7 PM.

Updates to follow as more information becomes available.

Aggregation- what you should know.

You may have seen some Aggregation articles in the Marysville Journal Tribune and Marysville This Week. • To purchase electricity at a “bulk” rate, you have to “aggregate” or in other words, gather a bunch of people together to buy …

You may have seen some Aggregation articles in the Marysville Journal Tribune and Marysville This Week.
• To purchase electricity at a “bulk” rate, you have to “aggregate” or in other words, gather a bunch of people together to buy from the same company.  Cities and townships across Ohio are being targeted for “aggregation” by IOU companies.

• As a member of URE- we in a sense, already do this. URE and other cooperatives generate & purchase power from our own Cardinal plant.

• Only residents supplied by an IOU will be eligible to participate in the new negotiated rate.  The negotiated rates often have “fine print” that includes transferring fees and “default provider clauses”, meaning if a situation is determined to not be in the best financial interest of the IOU then they have the ability to “drop” customers.  The dropped customers would return to the default provider in their area.  It is important that residents understand the fine print.

• IF the city or township puts this as a ballot issue  – URE members who live in that city or township ARE able to Vote on this issue – but it’s only purpose would be to help out neighbors and friends on IOU lines.

• Any questions? Please call the office 937.642.1826 and we’ll be glad to answer any questions about this topic.

PERK ALERT SCHEDULED FOR Thursday, June 21!

PEAK ALERT! Buckeye anticipates full load control today between the hours of 2 PM and 6 PM. Full load control will include A/C’s, water-heaters, IBT and backup generators.

PEAK ALERT! Buckeye anticipates full load control today between the hours of 2 PM and 6 PM. Full load control will include A/C’s, water-heaters, IBT and backup generators.

A number of LEED-certified homes is on the rise.

What are you doing to make your home more energy efficient?

What are you doing to make your home more energy efficient?

Looking to upgrade your TV, fridge or HVAC to something more energy efficient?

Energy Star has you covered with its Most Efficient 2012 list.

Energy Star has you covered with its Most Efficient 2012 list.

Check out the latest Healthy $aving$ discount for members!

INTRODUCING THE PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNTS AND HEALTHY SAVINGS DISCOUNTS OF THE CO-OP CONNECTIONS® PROGRAM   Discounts on Dental, Vision, Hearing and much more…Discover how you can $ave big with your Co-op Connections® Card here: Healthy $aving$!

INTRODUCING THE PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNTS AND HEALTHY SAVINGS DISCOUNTS OF THE CO-OP CONNECTIONS® PROGRAM

 

Discounts on Dental, Vision, Hearing and much more…Discover how you can $ave big with your Co-op Connections® Card here: Healthy $aving$!

We’ve all seen the Energy Star label, but do you know how a product earns it?

How a Product Earns the ENERGY STAR Label What is ENERGY STAR? ENERGY STAR is the trusted, government-backed symbol for energy efficiency helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. The ENERGY STAR label …

How a Product Earns the ENERGY STAR Label

What is ENERGY STAR?

ENERGY STAR is the trusted, government-backed symbol for energy efficiency helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.

The ENERGY STAR label was established to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy; and
  • Make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.

How Does EPA Choose which Products Earn the Label?

Products can earn the ENERGY STAR label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in ENERGY STAR product specifications. EPA establishes these specifications based on the following set of key guiding principles:

  • Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
  • Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
  • If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
  • Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
  • Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
  • Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

How Does EPA decide when to Revise Specifications?

Generally, a market share of ENERGY STAR qualified products in a particular category of 50 percent or higher will prompt consideration for a specification revision. However, there are other factors that weigh into the decision, such as:

  • A change in the Federal minimum efficiency standards.
  • Technological changes with advances in energy efficiency which allow a revised ENERGY STAR specification to capture additional savings.
  • Product availability
  • Significant issues with consumers realizing expected energy savings
  • Performance or quality issues
  • Issues with Test Procedures

Have you visited Together We Save lately?

A great resource to help members save money! Check it out: www.togetherwesave.com

A great resource to help members save money! Check it out: www.togetherwesave.com

Need tips on how to create a cleaner and more energy efficient household? How about 57?

  Making The Environment A Household Word Environmental issues often seem too big and too distant to do anything about. But there is plenty you can do when you bring the focus closer to home. 57 Ways to Protect Your …

 

Making The Environment A Household Word

Environmental issues often seem too big and too distant to do anything about. But there is plenty you can do when you bring the focus closer to home. 57 Ways to Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself) describes a variety of practical steps you can take to protect your health, your family’s health, and the small piece of the planet that you call home.

Find ways to…

  • Create a landscape that is beautiful and diverse
  • Cut back or eliminate pesticide use in the home, yard, and garden
  • Recycle and dispose of household waste, yard waste, and hazardous chemicals
  • Reduce the risk of indoor contaminants, such as dust, radon, lead, asbestos, and formaldehyde
  • Save money by conserving energy and water

“One of the most practical publications an Extension group has ever produced.” (Agricultural Communicators in Education)

http://www.thisland.illinois.edu/57ways/57ways.html

2012 Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program

URE received notification from Community Action of Delaware, Madison & Union counties of their 2012 Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program.  This program is from June 1, 2012 – August 31, 2012 and assists individuals with a disconnection notice, individuals with …

URE received notification from Community Action of Delaware, Madison & Union counties of their 2012 Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program.  This program is from June 1, 2012 – August 31, 2012 and assists individuals with a disconnection notice, individuals with a documented medical condition, and seniors age 60 and over.  Contact 1-800-858-4452 for program specifics and for more information.

TAKE ACTION! Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives supports NRECA’s efforts to activate the Take Action Network!

Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives supports NRECA’s efforts to activate the Take Action Network to contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and express our opposition in their proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation that would eliminate coal as a fuel source for …

Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives supports NRECA’s efforts to activate the Take Action Network to contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and express our opposition in their proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation that would eliminate coal as a fuel source for power plants. Public comments are being accepted by the EPA on the proposed greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standard (NSPS), for new power plants.

Ohio Statewide and NRECA are requesting participation by all Cooperative members to combat this effort by the EPA. Some environmental organizations at public hearings held by EPA have estimated there were already 2,000,000 comments in to EPA in support of the proposed regulation, or asking EPA to go further and regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants.

All members are urged to use the Take Action Network, affiliated organization: Union REC:  https://ssl.capwiz.com/nreca/home/

Additional information, from the Fast Facts from the Grassroots Summit/Legislative Conference: http://www.nreca.coop/issues/ClimateChange/Documents/FastFactsProposedCO2EmissionLimitsforNewPowerPlants.pdf

Save Energy! What can you do? Take it one step at a time.

Choose an energy savings practice to see how the little changes add UP! http://www.togetherwesave.com/

Choose an energy savings practice to see how the little changes add UP! http://www.togetherwesave.com/

Check this out! Figure out where you can SAVE the most on your home energy use!

Congratulations to our newly elected board members.

District 1 – Steve Patton District 4 – David Thornton District 5 – Dan Westlake Swearing in the newly elected trustees. From left to right: Steve Patton, Dan Westlake, David Thornton and Kim Cutler, attorney with Cannizzaro, Bridges, Jillisky & …

District 1 – Steve Patton
District 4 – David Thornton
District 5 – Dan Westlake

Swearing in the newly elected trustees. From left to right: Steve Patton, Dan Westlake, David Thornton and Kim Cutler, attorney with Cannizzaro, Bridges, Jillisky & Streng, LLC

Election Results are IN! Congratulations to our newest board of trustees!

District #1 – Mr. Steve Patton District #4 – Mr. David Thornton District #5 – Mr. Dan Westlake Also, the changes to the Code of Regulation was approved.  

District #1 – Mr. Steve Patton

District #4 – Mr. David Thornton

District #5 – Mr. Dan Westlake

Also, the changes to the Code of Regulation was approved.

 

2012 VOTING IS NOW CLOSED. COME TO THE ANNUAL MEETING OF MEMBERS THIS SATURDAY MAY 19 FOR THE RESULTS!

BALLOTS have arrived! You should have received your Board of Trustee election ballot. When you open the envelope make sure you read the bios and VOTE for ONE trustee in EVERY district. In addition to the board elections, there is …

BALLOTS have arrived!

You should have received your Board of Trustee election ballot. When you open the envelope make sure you read the bios and VOTE for ONE trustee in EVERY district. In addition to the board elections, there is a code of regulations change up for a vote. It’s an all or nothing change. So either vote FOR or AGAINST.

ELECTION LINK: USE THIS LINK TO VOTE ONLINE! you will need your member number and passcode on your ballot!

The ballot contains your Member number and Passcode which you will need to be able to vote online. Simple instructions are included. Whether you wish to vote ONLINE or by MAIL. Please follow the instructions and make sure your vote is cast by MAY 16, 2012 by 5:00pm.

Election results will be announced at the MAY 19th Annual Meeting of Members. Registration is 8:30am. Meeting will begin at 9:00am. At the URE office building 15461 US Rt 36 Marysville in the Multi-purpose Room.

Annual Meeting of Members May 19th Registration 8:30am Meeting begins 9:00am

$10 energy credit for each membership represented. Members are invited to hear about the state of the cooperative and learn about its future at this business meeting.

$10 energy credit for each membership represented.

Members are invited to hear about the state of the cooperative and learn about its future at this business meeting.

Electrical Safety during and after storms

Severe storms and natural disasters can cause a variety of electrical safety hazards in and around our homes. Lightning, downed power lines, and floods are just a few of the serious safety concerns associated with storms. Unfortunately, many of these …

Severe storms and natural disasters can cause a variety of electrical safety hazards in and around our homes. Lightning, downed power lines, and floods are just a few of the serious safety concerns associated with storms. Unfortunately, many of these electrical safety hazards remain long after the storm itself has passed.

 

To help protect you from storm-related electrical hazards, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and [co-op name] are providing answers to common storm safety questions about:

  • Lightning
  • Power Lines
  • Flooded Areas
  • Wet Electrical Equipment
  • Portable Generators
  • Post-Evacuation Procedures

 

 

Lightning

What should I do if I am caught outside during a lightning storm?

  • Move to a low point. Lightning hits the tallest available object, so get down low in a crouched position if you are in an exposed area.
  • Stay away from trees.
  • Avoid metal. Don’t hold onto metal items like bats, golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets, or tools. Stay away from metal sheds, clotheslines, poles, and fences.
  • Stay away from water, including pools, lakes, puddles, and anything damp—like grass.
  • Don’t stand close to other people. Spread out.

Is there any sort of warning before lightning strikes?

Not necessarily, but sometimes. If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, lightning may be about to strike. Do not lie down. Instead, crouch down, tuck your head, and cover your ears.

What should I do if I encounter a lightning storm while driving in my car?

Slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area.

Am I safer in or out of my car?

Do not leave your vehicle during a thunderstorm. A vehicle is considered safe during a thunderstorm if it is fully enclosed with a metal top such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. While inside a safe vehicle do not use electronic devices, such as radio communications.

The storm is still raging outside. Are we safe from lightning if we stay inside the house?

Follow these indoor lightning safety tips to help keep your family safe inside while it’s storming outside:

  • To avoid lightning strikes, stay away from windows and doors.
  • If possible, unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives. Avoid contact with electrical equipment and cords during storms.
  • Avoid contact with water and plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.

Can I talk on the telephone during an electrical storm?

Use corded telephones only for emergencies. You can use cordless or cellular phones.

I have an outside dog. Is it okay to leave him out there during a lightning storm?

Doghouses are not lightning-safe, and chained animals can easily become victims of lightning strikes. You should bring your pets inside to protect them.

 

Power Lines

 

What should I do if I encounter a downed power line?

If you see a downed power line, move at least 10 feet away from the line and anything touching it. The human body is a ready conductor of electricity.

The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the potential for a strong electric shock. Electricity wants to move from a high voltage zone to a low voltage zone—and it could do that through your body.

What can I do to help someone who has come in contact with a downed power line?

If you see someone who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person. You could become the next victim. Call 911 instead.

Can I use something that is not metal to try to move a downed power line myself?

Do not attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with the line by using another object such as a broom or stick. Even non-conductive materials like wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity and then electrocute you.

What should I do if I see a downed power line in the street while I am driving my car?

Do not drive over downed power lines.

What if a power line comes down onto my car or I didn’t see it until I’ve driven into it?

If you are in your car and it is in contact with the downed line, stay in your car. Tell others to stay away from your vehicle.

If you must leave your car because it’s on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with the live car and the ground at the same time. This way you avoid being the path of electricity from the car to the earth. Shuffle away from the car.

Is a downed power line still dangerous if it has come down in water, like a pool or pond?

Water is a good conductor of electricity. Any amount of water—even a puddle—could become energized. Be careful not to touch water—or anything in contact with the water—near where there is a downed power line.

 

Flooded Areas

My basement has flooded and there is standing water. Is it safe to go down there?

Use extreme care when stepping into flooded areas. Submerged outlets or electrical cords can energize water, posing a lethal trap.

My washer, dryer, and a few other appliances got really wet during the flood. Can I start using them again after they dry out?

Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been examined by a qualified service repair dealer. Electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely dangerous if re-energized without proper reconditioning or replacement.


Does a flood affect my home’s electrical system, too, or just the appliances?

Electrical items, such as circuit breakers, fuses, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), receptacles, plugs, and switches, can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard them if they have been submerged. Have a licensed, qualified professional replace them.

Does it make a difference if the flood was caused by storm water or by a leaky water pipe?

Ocean water and salt spray can be particularly damaging to electrical equipment due to the corrosive and conductive nature of the salt water residue. Damage to electrical equipment can also result from exposure to flood waters contaminated with chemicals, sewage, oil, and other debris.

No matter what caused the flood, electrical appliances should be examined by a qualified service repair dealer before being re-energized, and electrical items that were submerged should be discarded and replaced by a licensed, qualified professional.

Can flooded outside areas be dangerous too?

Yes—downed power lines or submerged outlets from adjacent homes could energize the water. Use extreme caution when entering any flooded area.

 

Wet Electrical Equipment

 

My home wasn’t flooded, but some electrical appliances have gotten wet. Do the same safety rules listed above apply to my situation?

Yes—they still apply.  Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet until they have been examined by a qualified service repair dealer. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers.

Where can I find out more about what should be done with water damaged electrical equipment?

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has produced a brochure, Guidelines for Handling Water Damaged Electrical Equipment, for use by suppliers, installers, inspectors, and users of electrical products to provide advice on the safe handling of electrical equipment that has been exposed to water. The NEMA brochure may be downloaded free of charge at: www.nema.org/stds/water-damaged.cfm.

 

Portable Generators

I bought a new generator so that I’d be prepared for the next power outage. Is there anything special I should know about installing it?

ESFI strongly recommends that a licensed electrician install home generators to ensure they meet all local electrical codes.

Also, make sure your generator is properly grounded in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can’t I just plug my generator directly into one of my home’s outlets?

Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring unless an appropriate transfer switch has been installed by a licensed, qualified electrician.

What could happen if I don’t have a transfer switch installed?

Without the proper transfer switch, power provided by the generator can “backfeed” along the power lines, creating a significant electrocution hazard for anyone coming in contact with the lines, including lineworkers making necessary repairs.

I’ve heard that generators should be kept dry. Can I run it in my garage to protect it from the rain?

Never operate a generator inside your home or in any other enclosed—or even partially enclosed—area. Generators very quickly produce carbon monoxide, which can easily enter your home.

Place the generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Do not operate the generator in wet conditions or where there is standing water.

Can’t I just open the garage door to provide ventilation for the carbon monoxide?

Opening windows or doors or using fans does not provide adequate ventilation to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide. Generators must be located outside a safe distance away from your home’s windows, doors, and vents, through which carbon monoxide can enter your home.

How far away from the house is a safe distance?

Preliminary research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) indicates that even 15 feet from the home is too close to operate a generator safely.

Remember your neighbors, too. Keep your generator a safe distance away from their homes as well.

What exactly is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is created when common fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood, or coal burn incompletely. This odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is often called the “silent killer” because it is virtually undetectable without the use of detection technology like a CO alarm. Extremely high levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal within minutes.

How big a problem is carbon monoxide associated with the use of generators?

From 1999-2009, 542 carbon monoxide deaths associated with portable generators were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

More than 80 percent of carbon monoxide deaths related to portable generators occurred in the home, often resulting from operation of a portable generator within the living space of the home, including the basement, closets, and doorways.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include fatigue, shortness of breath, drowsiness, headache, and nausea. Get to fresh air right away if you feel dizzy or weak while running your generator.

Is there anything else I should do to protect my family from carbon monoxide produced by my generator?

Make sure that there is at least one battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide alarm in your home. Test it before using your generator.

Is it safe for my children to play in the area around the generator?

No. Keep children away from portable generators at all times. Also be sure to store generator fuel out of reach of children.

How many appliances can I plug into my generator at one time? Can I use it for my window air conditioner and my refrigerator at the same time?

The capacity of generators varies. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction carefully. Do not overload the generator.

My generator is powering my sump pump, but it is going to need more fuel soon. Can I refuel it while it’s running so I don’t have to turn off the sump pump?

Unplug all appliances from the generator before shutting it down. Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Refueling the generator while it is running is a significant fire hazard.

 

Post-Evacuation

The storm is finally over. Can I go home now?

First and foremost, do NOT return home until instructed by the appropriate local authorities. Once they give the go-ahead:

  • Return home during daylight hours, especially if power has not been restored.
  • If you smell gas, leave the premises and notify emergency authorities immediately. Do not turn on lights, light matches, or engage in any activity that could create a spark.

I’ve been told by my local authorities that I can return home now, but could there still be electrical dangers in and around my home?

Yes. Even if you have been authorized to return home, you should still take precautions to protect yourself from electrical hazards posed by downed power lines, flooded areas, and water-damaged appliances and electrical equipment.

APPLY NOW for YOUTH TOUR – trip to Washington DC

Get An All-Expenses Paid Tour of Washington DC! Every year URE sponsors ONE local high school sophomore or junior on the trip to Washington DC. This year the trip is from June 15 to June 21. Meet hundreds of students …

Get An All-Expenses Paid Tour of Washington DC!

Every year URE sponsors ONE local high school sophomore or junior on the trip to Washington DC. This year the trip is from June 15 to June 21. Meet hundreds of students just like you from across the country, coming together in Washington D.C. to see all the sights. Meet your congressional representative (you’ll be blown away by how serious they are about listening to you!) You could be our representative on the Youth Tour to Washington D.C.

APPLICATION DEADLINE MARCH 30th.

Co-op Wins Tougher Copper Theft Laws

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 21st, 2012 After repeatedly being a victim of copper theft, a Florida electric cooperative successfully fought for tough new ordinances in two counties it serves, and is now taking the …

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 21st, 2012

After repeatedly being a victim of copper theft, a Florida electric cooperative successfully fought for tough new ordinances in two counties it serves, and is now taking the battle to a third.

The arrow points to the missing 4/0 ground wires that copper thieves stole from this Georgia Transmission substation. (Photo By: Georgia Transmission)The arrow points to the missing 4/0 ground wires that copper thieves stole from this Georgia Transmission substation. (Photo By: Georgia Transmission)

“We contacted the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and worked with them in conjunction with the county commission and got the law passed,” said David Lambert, manager, member relations, at Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative.

The Dade City-based co-op has seen the number of copper theft cases—and the resulting bills—pile up. In 2007, Withlacoochee suffered $6,861 in theft and vandalism. Two years later the total reached $108,809. By last year the figure jumped to $266,780.

Florida is just one front in the copper theft war, where battles are also being fought in Georgia and Illinois. But in the Sunshine State, time is of the essence in getting county bills approved.

“There is a bill moving through the state legislature. But if the local bill gets in first, and it’s tougher, the local provision stays in,” Lambert explained.

The Pasco County measure was passed Feb. 7, with Hernando County following a week later. Both require scrap dealers to use the same software program as pawn brokers. The recyclers will have to record all metal purchases and email the list to the sheriff’s office by 10 a.m. the following day.

Lambert said “good, legal recyclers don’t have a problem with” the new law.

Withlacoochee supports similar legislation in Citrus County. “We’re going to hit every county that we can,” Lambert told ECT.coop.

In neighboring Georgia, a handful of copper theft bills are pending in the state legislature.

“We support the legislation,” said Tom Parker, vice president, external affairs and member relations, at Georgia Transmission Corp., which serves 39 distribution co-ops.

“We continue to have a problem with metal theft here. We’re terribly concerned about the safety implications for our employees and our contractors when they go into a substation. It’s the same with the EMC employees and contractors.”

Georgia co-ops have long been at the forefront of the state’s fight against copper theft, helping to get a law passed in 2009. But Parker said thieves are branching out—hitting cemeteries and churches, among other places, and attracting media attention.

“It’s got a lot of legislators energized,” Parker said.

The primary bill, which has already passed a state Senate committee, would create an electronic database of metal sellers and purchasers, and require payments be made by check or electronic transfer, not cash.

Parker called 2011 the “roughest year” Tucker-based Georgia Transmission has had with metal theft, recording 143 incidents, with each incident costing between $3,000 and $5,000.

Illinois is also moving closer to getting a new copper theft law. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill which, among other things, would require recyclers to keep records of all metal purchases, not just those greater than $100. It would also include property damage amounts when tallying the value of the theft for the purpose of determining penalties.

Thanks to all who came to URE Energy Day!

Union Rural Electric Cooperative held its first ever Energy Day on Saturday, March 17th.  Attending members heard “No Cost/Low Cost Energy Efficiency Tips” and “The Home Energy Audit” presentations from Paul Gillespie, URE energy advisor.  These sessions provided members with …

Union Rural Electric Cooperative held its first ever Energy Day on Saturday, March 17th.  Attending members heard “No Cost/Low Cost Energy Efficiency Tips” and “The Home Energy Audit” presentations from Paul Gillespie, URE energy advisor.  These sessions provided members with easy and economical methods to help them lower their electric usage.

 

As a special bonus, Gina Zirkle from the Scotts Miracle-Gro environmental stewardship group presented Backyard Conservation: Lawns and the Environment.  In addition, on hand was Possitivity for e-waste recycling and ShredDirect for secure on-site document shredding.

 

“Having an Energy Day gave us the opportunity to design a program geared towards assisting our members with energy saving tips,” commented Roger Yoder, URE president/CEO.

 

Union Rural Electric Cooperative, based in Marysville, Ohio, is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative serving more than 7,000 electric and 750 natural gas members. URE is a Touchstone Energy® Partner. For more information about URE, visit www.ure.com.

 

Home Energy Audits- Schedule one today!

Home Energy Audits- Your first step to assessing how much energy your home consumes and then evaluating what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. 1) Take a home self assessment of your home: http://www.ure.com/residential/energy-advisor 2) …

Home Energy Audits- Your first step to assessing how much energy your home consumes and then evaluating what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient.

1) Take a home self assessment of your home: http://www.ure.com/residential/energy-advisor

2) Call today to schedule a FREE home energy audit 937-642-1826 or 800-642-1826

Online Payment Center Link Upgrade Complete

Service upgrades have been performed and you may now pay your bill using this link: https://ebill.ure.com

Service upgrades have been performed and you may now pay your bill using this link: https://ebill.ure.com

Introducing… PAY-BY PHONE toll-free number 1-877-999-3413

Before you call  ~ you will need YOUR ACCOUNT Number If you want to make a payment on your bill over the phone using a credit/debit card or check, you MUST call the above number. The system will be automated and …

Before you call  ~ you will need YOUR ACCOUNT Number

If you want to make a payment on your bill over the phone using a credit/debit card or check, you MUST call the above number. The system will be automated and all of your personal information, such as card number and payment amount, will be entered by YOU. You may use a check or debit/credit card
(MasterCard or Visa). NO ADDITIONAL FEE!

URE must move to the automated system in order to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard. These worldwide requirements are designed to help companies that process such payments prevent credit card fraud through increased data controls. Moving to this system ensures our continued ability to accept debit and credit card payments.

Making Energy Investment Decisions: Life-Cycle Cost Analysis

Key Points Life-cycle costs analysis estimates the total financial impact of investment alternatives. Total costs include: purchase, financing, operation, maintenance and repair, as well as disposal. An analysis involves adding these costs and discounting them to their present day value. …

Key Points

  • Life-cycle costs analysis estimates the total financial impact of investment alternatives.
  • Total costs include: purchase, financing, operation, maintenance and repair, as well as disposal.
  • An analysis involves adding these costs and discounting them to their present day value.
Making the decision to invest in energy-efficiency projects is often difficult due to substantial upfront costs. Financial analysis tools such as simple payback and net present value (NPV) provide insight into when you can expect a return on your investment, but neither measures the costs and benefits of a proposed project over its entire useful life. Life-cycle cost (LCC) analysis does just that, helping you estimate the total financial impact associated with each project alternative.

Determining Life-Cycle Costs

Life-cycle cost is the total cost of owning, operating, maintaining and disposing of equipment or building systems over the proposed lifetime of the project. For example, if a boiler retrofit has a projected lifetime of 20 years that would be the analysis period. A number of value categories are incorporated into a life-cycle cost analysis, including:

  • Initial equipment purchase and installation
  • Financing—loan payments and other financing charges
  • Energy costs
  • Non-fuel operating, maintenance, and repair costs
  • Disposal cost or residual value
  • Equipment replacement costs

While the initial purchase price and financing costs are fixed, other costs can be more difficult to estimate. Calculate annual energy costs by multiplying the equipment nameplate (kW or Btu) energy rating, energy efficiency rating, estimated operating hours, and your average electric or gas rate. Estimating operating, maintenance, and repair over the life of equipment can be challenging. A good resource is the Facility Maintenance and Repair Cost Reference from Whitestone Research. Although it is difficult to project how much it will cost to replace equipment in the future, current equipment purchase and installation costs can serve as a useful starting point.

The Changing Value of Money

Money changes value over time. To compare cash flows that occur at different times during the life of a project, they have to be made time-equivalent. An LCC analysis converts future cash flows to their present value by discounting them with an interest rate. The interest rate used for discounting reflects the minimum rate of return that the investor hopes to achieve. The discount factor used in federal energy projects is published annually by the Federal Energy Management Program. This can serve as a base discount factor for a life-cycle cost analysis. If financing is part of the project, the loan interest rate can be used as the discount factor.

Life Cycle Cost Calculation

After identifying all costs by year and discounting them to their present day value, they are added to determine total life-cycle costs:

LCC = I + F + E + OMR + D + R

Where:

LCC = Life-cycle costs
I = Initial costs
F = Financing costs
E = Energy costs
OMR = Operating, maintenance, and repair costs
D = Disposal cost or value
R = Replacement costs

The following table provides a simple example of the concept of LCC analysis. Two retrofit options are considered. Option A is a standard efficiency model, while Option B is a higher efficiency alternative. The initial cost and financing costs of Option B are higher. Both options assume a loan financing rate of 7% and subsequent partial system equipment replacement in five years. The initial costs are given in base value (the time of the initial investment) while future costs are discounted to present value using a discount rate of 8%.

Value Category Option A Option B
Base Value Present Value Base Value Present Value
Initial Cost $5,000 $,5000 $6,000 $6,000
Financing Costs $27,871 $18,701 $33,440 $22,438
Energy Costs $104,000 $69,785 $78,000 $52,339
OMR Costs $15,000 $10,065 $17,000 $11,407
Replacement Cost $5,000 $3,403 $5,000 $3,403
Disposal $1,000 $463 $-1,000 $-463
Life-Cycle Cost $157,687 $107,417 $138,440 $95,124

Since the total present value LCC of Option B ($95,124) is less than that of Option A ($107,417), the energy efficient option would be preferred in this case.

Energy efficiency investments typically involve a great deal of uncertainty about their costs and potential savings. An LCC analysis comparing different investment alternatives can increase the likelihood of choosing the project that saves the most money in the long run.

“This article previously appeared in the Union Rural Electric Cooperative  newsletter, and is used with permission.”

Companies believe they are scapegoats in issuance of penalties for fake green fuel

By DARREN GOODE | 11/15/11 10:07 PM EST Shell Oil, ExxonMobil and Morgan Stanley are among the major oil and financial companies potentially on the hook for millions of dollars in civil fines tied to fraudulent renewable fuel credits — …

By DARREN GOODE | 11/15/11 10:07 PM EST

Shell Oil, ExxonMobil and Morgan Stanley are among the major oil and financial companies potentially on the hook for millions of dollars in civil fines tied to fraudulent renewable fuel credits — and that could be the tip of the iceberg.

The Environmental Protection Agency last week sent out 24 notices of violations to companies linked to the purchase and use of what turned out to be fake “renewable identification numbers” sold by Clean Green Fuel. A RIN is a 38-digit number required by the EPA to document the production of a certain amount of renewable-blended fuel.

The owner of Clean Green Fuel, Rodney Hailey, was charged Oct. 3 with wire fraud, money laundering and a violation of the Clean Air Act for allegedly selling 32 million RINs valued at $9 million and representing 22 million gallons of biodiesel fuel.

But industry officials say the EPA is using the companies as a scapegoat while ineffectively policing the RIN trading market.

Industry representatives are expected to head to Capitol Hill this week to talk with Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Environment and Public Works committees about the matter, said one industry official who requested anonymity and represents a company that received one of the notices.

“This is like Solyndra,” the official said. “This is a government-created freaking mess, and they never policed it.”

Officials from the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and American Petroleum Institute plan to meet with the EPA on Friday.

“We will not be at liberty to discuss the recently issued [notices of violations] themselves, but we believe we can have a productive discussion of the general issues posed by invalid RINs,” wrote Margo Oge, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in a letter to the trade associations last week. Members of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which issued the violations to the companies, will also be attending the meeting.

As of Oct. 4, Clean Green Fuel was included on the EPA’s registry of acceptable biodiesel fuel distributors, which the industry consults before they purchase RINs.

NPRA President Charles Drevna said it is “unjustifiable” for the EPA to issue the notices of violations to companies that were simply purchasing RINs from a seller that was registered by the EPA.

“It’s just frustrating that our folks went out in good faith because they had the full faith and backing of the federal government,” Drevna said. “But apparently, somebody slipped up somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t the refiners and other obligated parties.”

Like a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA’s Renewable Fuels Standard essentially created a market where companies are able to sell their RINs to those that need help to meet the production mandate. A company that produces the fuel may elect to keep the actual physical fuel while allowing a third party to sell the rights to their RIN to another company.

The EPA says Shell Oil and company affiliates used more than 4 million fake RINs from Clean Green Fuel — including more than 2.4 million used by Motiva Enterprises, 1.1 million used by Shell Oil Products and 840,000 used by Shell Trading Co.

Among the other companies the EPA says allegedly purchased and used fake RINs include 2.2 million RINs by Marathon Petroleum Co.; 861,000 by the independent refinery Tesoro Corp.; 613,000 by Sunoco; 138,000 by Exxon; and 42,750 by Morgan Stanley.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68425.html#ixzz1e5FrE1G4

Gas-powered Cruze outsells plug-in Volt 200-to-1

* Avg fuel economy on new cars up 2.5 mpg over four years * 40-mpg+ gas-powered models in U.S. rising sharply By Ben Klayman ANN ARBOR, Mich, Nov 15 (Reuters) – At the Chevrolet dealership here, customers want to see …

* Avg fuel economy on new cars up 2.5 mpg over four years

* 40-mpg+ gas-powered models in U.S. rising sharply

By Ben Klayman

ANN ARBOR, Mich, Nov 15 (Reuters) – At the Chevrolet dealership here, customers want to see and touch the Volt, the gasoline-electric hybrid hailed by enthusiasts as the kind of innovation that could secure the future of General Motors.

But they usually kick the Volt’s tires and move on, often to a Cruze. The compact Chevy gets up to 42 miles per gallon, and you can buy two of them for the cost of one $40,000 Volt.

Call it the revenge of the internal combustion engine.

Major automakers and the Obama administration have bet heavily on hybrids and pure electric vehicles. But new and more efficient gas engines are winning on the showroom floor, an inconvenient truth that could slow the acceptance of electric cars.

“They come in to look at a Cruze. They drive a Volt. They go back to the Cruze. It really helps us with sales of the Cruze,” said Michael Mosser, general manager of Suburban Chevrolet of Ann Arbor.

The plug-in Volt has become General Motors Co’s high-mileage halo car. But the hybrid has also been outsold by its simpler sibling by 200 to 1. Globally, GM has sold about 5,000 Volts versus 1 million Cruzes.

“It’s naive to think that the world is going to switch tomorrow to EVs,” said Larry Nitz, GM’s executive director for vehicle electrification.

Meanwhile, new cars with traditional engines are showing striking fuel efficiency gains thanks to technologies such as turbochargers, direct injection, and engines that shut down when the vehicle stops, then spring back to life when the driver presses the accelerator.

Turbochargers compress the air flowing into engines, allowing more fuel into the cylinders, while direct injection provides improved delivery of the fuel needed in each engine cylinder so it burns cleaner and more efficiently.

The average fuel economy for new vehicles is now 2.5 more miles per gallon than four years ago. And emissions of greenhouse gases per new car are down 14 percent since late 2007, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

At the same time, the number of gas-powered models in U.S. dealer showrooms boasting 40 miles per gallon or better in highway driving has tripled in the last five years.

That has made winners of cars like the Cruze, Ford Motor Co’s Focus and Hyundai Motor Co’s Elantra.

Every automaker is focused on improving fuel efficiency, including BMW , which just reintroduced a four-cylinder engine in the U.S. market for the first time in a dozen years, and Honda Motor Co Ltd , which offers a 41-mpg automatic version of its 2012 Civic.

Increased fuel efficiency also has put pressure on battery makers and possibly the U.S. Department of Energy, which has used $2.5 billion of taxpayer money to help pay for the development of electric car technology.

Having watched rival Toyota Motor Corp seize the mantle as the world’s greenest automaker with its Prius hybrid, GM says it plans to push its advantage with the rechargeable Volt and hopes consumer preferences catch up.

Estimates vary on how fast consumers will accept electric vehicles. At the bullish extreme, Nissan Motor Co Ltd , which sells the all-electric Leaf car, is forecasting that EVs will make up 10 percent of global sales by 2020, compared with virtually nothing now.

But GM and other automakers are also looking to boost the performance of the gas engine.

“You’ve reached the maximum return in the internal combustion engine,” said Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan Americas. “Just the pure physics, there’s a limit.”

Even so, most automakers believe no single approach will solve the fuel economy problem. “There is no silver bullet answer,” Perry said. “It’s more like silver buckshot.”

‘JUST THE LITTLE TOE’ IN THE WATER

One major incentive driving fuel-economy gains is the new federal requirement that an automaker’s fleet average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Ford offers its Ecoboost technology — a combination of fuel injection and turbocharging aimed at giving smaller gas engines more power and greater efficiency. The No. 2 U.S. automaker also is rolling out a Focus EV.

“Until electric does have the ubiquity of plugging, it’s not going to have an appeal to 100 percent of the customers,” Ford Chairman Bill Ford said last month. “While that’s happening, we want to make our other technologies as fuel-efficient as we possibly can.”

Toyota, which will roll out a plug-in version of the Prius next year, remains skeptical of the pure EV push.

“Pure battery electric cars will most likely remain a niche for some time to come,” said Bill Reinert, Toyota’s U.S. national manager for advanced technology. “The market for these products is nearly all regulatory push, not market pull.”

Jack Hollis, head of Toyota’s Scion brand, added, “Everyone is really just putting a toe in the water when it comes to EVs. And for most companies it’s just the little toe in the water.”

Surveys support the view that most consumers do not want to pay extra for electric vehicles. The better fuel economy gets, the less interested in EVs they are.

“At 50 miles per gallon, the majority of consumers around the world lose interest in electric vehicles,” said Joe Vitale, head of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd’s automotive practice

Deloitte found in a survey that global expectations for driving range and charging time for electric vehicles far outpace reality. More than half of respondents were unwilling to pay any price premium for an EV.

Toyota’s Reinert said the industry will likely reach the theoretical maximum efficiency on gas engines over the next decade. But with hybrid technology and next-generation biofuels, gasoline engines could get to 95 percent of the benefits offered by EVs, he said.

In the meantime, improvements will come from dozens of small tweaks, like reduced friction and heat loss, and electrification of parts like the oil, water and power steering pumps. Enhanced transmissions, lighter materials — like stronger steel and alloys — and more aerodynamic designs also will be key.

“As long as the person driving doesn’t feel like the car is struggling, he doesn’t care what’s under the hood,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports.

Even proponents say consumers will need time to get used to electric cars.

“When people switched from the horse, the gas car solved so many problems,” said Chris Paine, whose documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car” looking at EV development at GM, Nissan and Tesla Motors Inc debuted last month.

“What it really was was a new paradigm,” added the filmmaker, who five years ago criticized GM in another documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

“It sometimes takes people a little while to figure out things are changing for the better.”

On the Front Lines of the Power Grid

By MATTHEW L. WALD Max Whittaker for The New York Times THE DRILL Rod Robinson training in a simulated control room at the California Independent System Operator in Folsom, Calif. QUICK! You are on duty in a secret control room …

By MATTHEW L. WALD
Max Whittaker for The New York Times

THE DRILL Rod Robinson training in a simulated control room at the California Independent System Operator in Folsom, Calif.

QUICK! You are on duty in a secret control room in a nondescript, windowless building. The sign out front is so small that people driving by cannot read it, and it may give no clue what goes on inside, anyway. But your task is crucial: you are matching the ever-changing power needs of tens of millions of electricity customers with supply coming from hundreds of electricity generators, deciding which units will run and which ones will be idle, and making quick adjustments for the generators you can’t schedule, like the wind machines and solar panels.

Hardly anybody will ever know you are here, unless you mess up.

All is going smoothly until you get a message from a neighboring electrical entity requesting emergency assistance. A quick glance at your computer screen tells you that you have sufficient spare capacity to help.

Should you:

A. Call your contracts department and ask what price you will charge?

B. Go ahead and raise the generation in your area by the required amount?

C. Review the computer system used by all the generators to see what transmission is available?

D. Set up an emergency schedule with your neighbor?

If you answered D, and you also gave the correct answers to several much more complicated questions, you are on your way to a job in an increasingly tough and essential field: managing the North American power grid.

“The bar is being raised,” said Lourdes Estrada-Salinero, the director of operations compliance and control at the California Independent System Operator, one of the more than 100 “balancing authorities” that are responsible for coordinating supply with demand in some portion of the North American grid. About 40 percent of all the energy used in the United States — all the oil, gas and coal, uranium, wind and falling water — is turned into electricity before it is consumed, and that fraction seems destined to rise, as more air-conditioners, electric cars and yet-to-be invented hand-held gizmos are added to customers’ inventory. But the tolerance for failure is getting lower, and the power mix is getting more complicated. States, led by California, are demanding that an increasing fraction of the electricity come from sources that can turn themselves on or off with very little warning, as the weather changes and the wind and sunlight vary.

Utility companies used to hire and train their own people to operate their systems. As the grid became more interconnected, some utilities organized themselves into power pools, with one control room handling the supply for multiple utilities. The earliest was the entity now known as PJM, which used to stand for Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland but now stretches into all or part of Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and scattered parts of other states. New York had a power pool and so did the six New England states.

The job got exponentially more complicated when the federal government pressed the pools to convert into power markets, where the utilities would sell off their generating stations and third parties would be allowed to build generators. The hour-by-hour decisions about who would generate to serve what load were made mostly by an auction process and turned the pools into “independent system operators.”

The human operator’s job, though, was mostly still unregulated until August 2003, when a series of errors in a control room in Carmel, Ind., at the Midwest Independent System Operator, created the biggest blackout in history. (For future reference, when disabling vital computer systems to install upgrades, kindly do not neglect to warn the system operators and do not leave the systems shut off when you go to lunch.) The lights went out as far away as New York.

After that blackout, a utility that operates in the central United States hired Najmedin Meshkati, an engineering professor and “human factors” specialist at the University of Southern California, to review operations in some of its control centers. (Dr. Meshkati asked that the utility not be named because it did not make the report public.) The report stressed that operators needed “total systems comprehension” to understand what was happening on the grid. But sometimes the job is set up in a way that will overload the operator, he found. And the operations centers can have an “unspoken ‘macho’ culture” in which operators think that asking for help will jeopardize their job performance rating, he discovered.

To improve operations in the control centers and reduce the frequency of blackouts, Congress gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to enforce detailed new rules. But that government agency lacked the expertise to write them; for that, it turned to a voluntary organization, now called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which it designated as a standards-setting and enforcement agency. It is still setting rules, almost a decade after the blackout, and it is requiring licenses for people who hold various jobs in the control centers.

Holding such a certification is a key part of the résumé for a class of workers who are neither white-collar nor blue-collar. They might be called plastic collar, the people whose necks may or may not be girded in a necktie, but are sure to have a lanyard for an ID card that incorporates a computer chip that will get them into the windowless, label-less control rooms. They sit through an exam of approximately three hours, sometimes after sessions on online schools that have sprung up to help applicants cram. They end up with a certificate to frame on the wall.

There are about 6,000 such professionals, although some are management employees and do not work regular shifts. And some staff duplicate control rooms, located miles from the main control room, ready to take over if there is a fire or mechanical failure, or if the villains decipher the sign out front.

They get 200 hours of training every three years, and their continuing education resembles what the airlines give their pilots: extended sessions in full-scale simulators, with a computer playing the role of real hardware so the trainers can set up dire problems and see if the trainees can diagnose the situation and respond fast enough to prevent catastrophe.

The increased training did not come without difficulty. Daniel E. Frank, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in utility issues, said, “It takes time to do it and nobody has a lot of time. The utility industry is no different from anybody else.”

“Any time you have to go in to training means somebody is away from the actual control room operations,” he said. Some centers maintain six teams to keep operations going around the clock; at any given time, one team is in training. On the job, the operators typically work four 12-hour days a week, alternating between days and nights.

And they are paid well. With overtime, they commonly earn six-figure salaries, and they work in rural, low-cost areas.

Recruiting is a challenge, though. Grid entities look for candidates with some background in engineering, but they also need certain personality traits, like the ability to work collaboratively but not to debate endlessly. People with military backgrounds are favored, because they often have appropriate organizational and technical skills.

One aspect that makes the job complicated is that on the grid these days, there is a market not just for electricity, but also for “ancillary services.” These include the ability to ramp up and down quickly, which will be required as the wind and sun vary in intensity; the ability to add or subtract very large amounts of power in tiny fractions of a second, to keep the alternating current system working as closely as possible to 60 alternations per second; the ability to step in to control voltage; the ability to stand by for hours or days at a time, poised to start up if something goes wrong; and the ability, if everything goes wrong, to begin generating with no outside power to help.

Operations are also governed by rules about how much air pollution a generating station is allowed to emit; how much it is permitted to raise the temperature of the lake or river it uses for cooling water; and how much power must be generated within a geographic area, regardless of capacity elsewhere, to ensure reliability. Some of that is built into computer programming, and some of it is drilled into the operators’ heads.

John T. McCain is a former captain in the Marines who recently completed his training at the California I.S.O. as a “real-time scheduler,” coordinating what generation will run from hour to hour. “It reminds me of training that I’ve had in the military,” he said. “It’s fast-paced, and there’s a lot to learn.” In some respects, it is more difficult than military training, he said.

His boss, Stephen Berberich, the president and chief executive of the I.S.O., said, “It’s an interesting mix between physics and policy and economics.”

iPod creator’s next quest: Making thermostats sexy

by Daniel Terdiman The Nest Learning Thermostat is designed to improve home energy efficiency by 20 percent to 30 percent. It was designed by a team of Apple and other Silicon Valley veterans. (Credit: Nest) It’s hard to imagine making thermostats …

by 

The Nest Learning Thermostat is designed to improve home energy efficiency by 20 percent to 30 percent. It was designed by a team of Apple and other Silicon Valley veterans.

(Credit: Nest)

It’s hard to imagine making thermostats sexy, but if anyone could do it, it would be the “father of the iPod.”

In 2008, amid renewed concerns about Steve Jobs’ health, Fortune ranked the probable candidates to someday replace the famed Apple CEO. The first choice? Then COO and eventual successor Tim Cook. The second? Tony Fadell, chief of the iPod division and the man credited with the ideas that resulted in the creation of the iPod and its marriage with the iTunes Music Store.

Around that time, Fadell left Apple, his next move unknown, and since then, he’s been in stealth mode. But today, he re-emerged, announcing Nest, a 100-person startup that’s applying the design and user-experience DNA of Apple and many other top Silicon Valley firms to a humdrum home appliance that just happens to govern the largest share of American households’ energy spending: the thermostat.

With its Learning Thermostat, Nest is going all in and telling the world that a ubiquitous but hard-to-master device that hasn’t had a major redesign in decades is due for a shot of iPod and iPhone design magic. Fadell and his team think they’ve come up with an alternative that’s easy to use and that learns from what we do. Along the way, the company thinks it could cut 20 percent to 30 percent off the average household’s $1,000 or so in annual energy bills.

The new device is small and round and has a bright and simple digital screen and you jog the outer case left or right or push-click the front to make selections. Sound familiar? Plus it works hand in hand with an iOS–and soon an Android–app that lets users control the system from afar.

In recent years companies like Ecobee have popularized smart thermostats that offer diverse programming options, Web-based access, and even weather forecasts. But according to Nest co-founder and vice president of engineering Matt Rogers, even the best such device is essentially a dumb front end to a house’s heating or cooling systems: it can’t be proactive. Even worse, they’re hard to understand and countless dollars are wasted on unnecessary heating or cooling because almost no one knows how to program them.

A 2011 study backs up that contention, as Scientific American reported: Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory “concluded that in many cases, [smart, or programmable] thermostats are making it hard to save energy. The reason is many people don’t know how to use them.”

And that’s precisely what Nest’s Learning Thermostat is all about solving, Rogers, also an early iPod and iPhone team member, told CNET. The $249 device, which will go on sale through Best Buy in mid-November, was designed specifically with a clean and simple, intuitive end-to-end user experience in mind.

Even better, Rogers added, the system was built to learn about a household’s use of cooling or heating, and to autonomously adjust temperatures based on current and forecasted weather conditions, as well as whether anyone is home, their schedules, and their normal usage patterns. Rogers said the Learning Thermostat picks up on those patterns in about a week.

Upending a static industry
Two years ago, Fadell and Rogers came together with the intention of upending an industry that sells 10 million units a year, but which Rogers said hasn’t really innovated in decades.

Part of Nest’s plan is to market the Learning Thermostat directly to consumers. Today, Rogers said, this is a market controlled almost entirely by home installers. But that’s mainly because current-generation thermostats are complicated to hook up.

By contrast, he explained, Nest’s product is meant to be quickly installed by almost anyone and is compatible with 80 percent to 85 percent of American household HVAC systems.

‘Thermostat?’
Nest has clearly captured the imagination of Silicon Valley investors and engineers interested in attacking an extremely widespread energy inefficiency problem. It’s funded by Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Shasta Ventures, Intertrust, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Generation. As Rogers put it, Nest was built with extensive startup and consumer electronics DNA.

Yet Nest, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, has had little trouble hiring talented engineers to build something meant not to play movies or music, but to efficiently heat or cool a home.

“They say, ‘thermostat?’ and we say that 50 percent of home energy” is spent on heating and cooling, Rogers said. In fact, he added, one of the first things the company asks job candidates is whether they program their home thermostats. Most, he explained, say no. It’s too difficult, they say.

For now, Nest is focused entirely on the Learning Thermostat, but there’s little doubt that it has designs on attacking other products in the future. “We’re talking thermostats today,” Rogers said, “but with a team like this, we’re obviously thinking about the future. You don’t hire a crack team to build a product. You hire them to build a company.”

Rogers said that a major part of Nest’s secret sauce is the algorithms it’s designed for intelligently managing home heating and cooling. But he said the plan is for those algorithms to improve as the system learns about people’s usage. “This is year one,” he laughed. “I look forward to how much we can save [people] in year two because of all the learning.”

When the thermostat is heating a house, its digital display is red. When it is cooling, the display is blue.

(Credit: Nest)

Calif poised to finalize ‘cap-and-trade’ plan

California is poised to formally adopt the nation’s most comprehensive so-called “cap-and-trade” system, designed to provide a financial incentive for polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By JASON DEAREN Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO — California is poised to formally adopt the nation’s most …

California is poised to formally adopt the nation’s most comprehensive so-called “cap-and-trade” system, designed to provide a financial incentive for polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By JASON DEAREN Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO —

California is poised to formally adopt the nation’s most comprehensive so-called “cap-and-trade” system, designed to provide a financial incentive for polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

State officials hope other states and Washington D.C. will follow suit with similar plans.

“When Washington considers how to address climate change, as I think it will, California’s climate plan will serve as a role model for the national program,” said Stanley Young, the air board’s spokesman.

The California Air Resources Board on Thursday is expected to approve the final draft of its plan, a key part of the state’s landmark 2006 global warming law, AB 32, which seeks to reduce the emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Some businesses regulated under the program argue it will hurt job creation by raising the cost of doing business in the state, and increase the price of electricity for consumers. But the program’s supporters expect cap and trade to spur economic recovery and innovation, by pushing business to invest in clean technologies.

Starting in 2013, the plan places emissions allowances on power plants and other of the worst polluting facilities, with others joining in 2015. In total, the plan will cover 85 percent of California’s emissions.

In general, the program will require pollution producers like refineries and cement manufacturers to buy permits, called allowances, from the state. Each permit allows for a specified amount of greenhouse gases each year, and will decline over time.

The permits can then be sold in a marketplace by companies who cut emissions and have extra allowances; or bought by greenhouse gas emitters who need to purchase more allowances because they failed to cut emissions.

Polluters could even turn a profit if the marketplace sets a price above the initial cost of the permit.

Also, a company can meet up to 8 percent of its emissions reduction obligations by purchasing carbon “offsets,” or investments in forestry or other projects that reduce greenhouse gases.

To help companies prepare for the program, 90 percent of the allowances would be free in the first years, providing time for equipment upgrades.

Some of the regulated industries see the 10 percent they will have to buy at first as a new tax, and oppose the board’s current plan.

“We are very concerned about the negative impacts the policy may have on the state’s economy, jobs picture and energy costs,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western State Petroleum Association, in a statement. “This policy, if adopted, will amount to a new tax on refiners and other energy intensive industries that could total billions of dollars over several years.”

Any electricity price increases would have to be pre-approved by the state.

The cap-and-trade plan has seen a number of changes since it was first adopted with fanfare in Sacramento last year. Work was briefly halted by a judge after environmental justice groups sued, arguing that cap and trade’s market would allow polluters to buy the right to pollute more by purchasing more allowances. This, they argued, would affect mostly low-income neighborhoods located near governed facilities.

The California Supreme Court in September ruled to allow work to continue on the regulations.

In response to the concerns about localized pollution increases, the board will vote Thursday on whether to adopt a new management plan, under which the air quality near power plants and other regulated facilities will be monitored by the board to see if any more pollution results from cap-and trade.

“If so, we will take action to respond to those changes,” Young said.

Making Energy Investment Decisions: The Time Value of Money

Key Points The principle that the value of money changes over time is important in making investment choices. Net present value and internal rate of return are financial analysis tools that account for the time value of money. The right …

Key Points

  • The principle that the value of money changes over time is important in making investment choices.
  • Net present value and internal rate of return are financial analysis tools that account for the time value of money.
  • The right tool to use depends on the type of financing, and the scope and nature of the project.

When considering energy efficiency investments, how do you decide whether a project is financially sound? Simple payback is a widely used method that answers the simple question “when do I get my money back?” Payback however, treats money only in its present day value, ignoring the fact that money changes value over time. Net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR) are financial analysis tools that account for the time value of money and may provide a more accurate view of the future costs and benefits associated with an energy project.

Net Present Value

NPV measures the financial worth of an energy project over time. It is the difference between the initial cost of the energy project and the present value of the annual savings or cash flows that result from it.

Unlike payback, cash values in NPV are adjusted or discounted so that near-term cash flows have a greater value than those in the more distant future. The discount rate is an interest rate used to adjust future cash flows to present value. The discount factor (DF) is the discount rate compounded annually and is used to calculate the present value based on the number of years. The choice of a discount rate can have a significant impact on an NPV calculation. The interest rate associated with the investment is often used. For example, if an energy project requires financing at 7%, then that could be used as the discount rate.

So, how can you use NPV to help make investment decisions? Let us use a lighting upgrade from T12 fluorescent lamps to more efficient T8 models as an example. You calculate that an initial investment of $12,000 will provide $16,000 in energy savings over four years. As the graphic below shows, the upgrade provides a simple payback in three years and a positive cash flow of $4,000. Using a discount rate of 7% however, the present value of the energy savings is reduced to $13,520, yielding an NPV of $1,520. While the cash flow is still positive, the calculation shows how the changing value of money can influence investments.
Net Present Value

Internal Rate of Return

Internal rate of return (IRR) is closely related to NPV. IRR is a percentage figure that estimates the return on an energy-efficiency investment over time. In contrast to calculating NPV (where the discount rate is selected) an IRR calculation starts with the cash flow streams and finds the discount rate where the net present cash outflows and inflows breakeven—in other words, the NPV equals zero. Determining the IRR of an upgrade involves a tedious process of testing different discount rates until finding one where NPV equals zero. Fortunately, the task can be automated using a spreadsheet program or a financial calculator.

In the following calculation—using the lighting upgrade highlighted above—a discount rate of 12.6% would create an NPV of zero in four years. In a choice between multiple investment options, the one with the higher IRR is the better option. When the IRR is higher than the cost of financing, an energy-efficiency project is a financially sound investment.

Internal rate of return

Internal rate of return is easier to understand the NPV and provides a comparison to the cost of borrowing or the benefits of other investment options. However, IRR calculations are restricted to the initial capital investment and cannot take into account any subsequent financing. Also, IRR is a percentage figure that may provide a limited view of a project’s potential impact on profits.

Which Is the Better Option?

This is a difficult question to answer. The right tool to use depends on the type of financing, and the scope and nature of the project. NPV is useful for comparing projects with a fixed amount of years where multiple cash infusions may be required. It also provides a view of the financial benefits over the entire life of the project. IRR can compare projects with savings that occur over varying time periods. Also, since every investment involves risk, IRR can help compare financial options by establishing a hurdle rate, or the minimum amount of return required on an investment.

Whichever analysis tool you use, understanding the time value of money provides you with the ability to make better financial decisions.

“This article previously appeared in the Union Rural Electric Cooperative newsletter, and is used with permission.”

Rightsizing Your Heating and Cooling System

Key Points Modern heating and cooling systems are more efficient and reliable than older space conditioning systems. Oversizing is the most common mistake when it comes to inadequate heating and cooling. There are many factors to consider in properly size …

Key Points

  • Modern heating and cooling systems are more efficient and reliable than older space conditioning systems.
  • Oversizing is the most common mistake when it comes to inadequate heating and cooling.
  • There are many factors to consider in properly size a heating and cooling system.

Modern heating and cooling systems are more reliable and much more efficient than older space conditioning systems, especially if they are more than ten years old. When the time comes for replacement, choosing a properly sized unit is critical. Both heating and cooling output should be taken into consideration to ensure optimal efficiency, maximum comfort, and lowest maintenance and operating costs during the unit’s life span.

When it comes to inadequate heating and cooling the most common mistake is oversizing the heating and cooling system. Oversizing not only makes the system operate inefficiently, it costs more to operate, has a tendency to break down frequently, and it is more expensive to install. Oversized heating equipment leads to temperature swings in the building, which creates an uncomfortable environment. Oversized air conditioners do not dehumidify a building’s air enough which can promote mold growth and lead to feelings of clamminess by occupants.

Incorrect Sizing Methods

It is very important to perform the correct sizing calculation for the building. However, most contractors only perform a label nameplate check of the existing system and install a similar unit or a larger one. Another method contractors use is to install a system based on the size of the building and charts from the unit’s manufacturer. These methods do provide a good first size estimate, but they should not be used alone to determine the size of the heating and cooling system.

Why Most Older Systems are Oversized

In the past, when homes were not designed and built with the tight construction that is customary today, it was normal to install furnaces and air conditioners that were two to four times larger than necessary. If a building has been updated with new windows, weather-stripping, caulking, and insulation; referring to the nameplate is going to lead to oversizing the system. These types of improvements help reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer and permit the use of a smaller system in the building. Not only will a smaller system maintain comfort levels, it will save large amounts of energy as well.

What to Consider When Sizing a System

In order to correctly size a heating and cooling system a contractor must consider many factors other than just reading the nameplate of the existing system. Factors that should be considered include the following:

  • Local climate conditions
  • Size, shape, and orientation of the building
  • Current insulation levels
  • Location and types of window
  • Air infiltration rates
  • The number of occupants
  • Occupant comfort preferences
  • Lighting and lighting efficiency of the building
  • The types of major appliances that give off heat

Methods of Sizing

Building owners should request that a sizing calculation be used to determine the proper size of a new heating and cooling system.

Manual J—the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA) Residential Load Calculation is the recommended method for use in the United States.

Manual D—the ACCA’s Residential Duct Design should be used if ducts are part of the installation.

Manual S—ACCA also provides a comprehensive guide called the Residential Equipment Selection for choosing home heating and cooling systems.

There are a number of aspects that affect a building’s heating and cooling requirements—or load. In order to determine the correct system size to satisfy the load, walls, ceilings, and floor space should be measured to determine the building’s volume along with assessing the R-value of the building’s insulation, windows, and construction materials. Average outside temperatures and humidity levels affect the demand on the heating and cooling system along with the orientation of the building and overhangs.

Air leakage also has an impact on a building’s load requirement and a blower door test is the most accurate way to measure leakage. Furthermore, an inspection of the location, size, joint seals, and insulation of distribution ducts and placement of supply and return registers of the forced air system is needed. All these factors must be considered in order to properly size the heating and cooling system.

To size a heating and cooling system correctly, the contractor, builder, or developer must consider all aspects of the building. Far too often the current unit’s information is taken from the nameplate and a similar sized unit, or worse, a larger unit is installed. This will not provide the highest efficiency, best comfort level, or the lowest maintenance for the building owner.

“This article previously appeared in the Union Rural Electric Cooperative newsletter, and is used with permission.”

Useless grass could become the next biofuel

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor Wednesday, October 12, 2011 BERKELEY – One day in the not-too-distant future, we might be filling our cars with fuel made from useless grass. A Berkeley biologist has transferred a gene from a variety of corn …

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BERKELEY

One day in the not-too-distant future, we might be filling our cars with fuel made from useless grass.

A Berkeley biologist has transferred a gene from a variety of corn into a widespread, fast-growing species of the grass, and transformed it into what could become an important source of biofuel.

In a world of vanishing oil reserves, farmers have been growing more and more high-energy crops like corn and sugar cane to make ethanol as a replacement for gasoline, while scientists are seeking even higher-energy products from other and better crops.

Now George S. Chuck, a UC Berkeley plant geneticist, reports that his experiments with a species of corn called corngrass1 have yielded genetically altered forms of common switchgrass plants that more than doubles their content of starch.

The starch, in turn, creates sugars that when fermented – as in all biofuel plants – produce the ethanol that goes into more and more cars today.

Chuck and his colleagues are working at the Agriculture Department’s Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany.

In a report published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists say that test plots of the altered switchgrass have shown that the gene experiments have improved the starch yield in the plants by “up to 225 percent.” Also important, they report, the gene transfer blocks the switchgrass plants from flowering.

“They’re forever young,” Chuck said – and that means the plants cannot spread pollen containing the new gene beyond the area where the altered plants grow.

Up to now, the fast-growing switchgrass, because of its tough lignin, an organic polymer, has required heavy chemical treatment before it can be turned to ethanol as biofuel. Chuck’s gene transfer experiments have shown that because the improved switchgrass keeps the plants young, the lignin content of their cells is minimal and would need no chemical treatment, he reported.

Edward M. “(Eddy)” Rubin, an internationally noted geneticist and director of the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, called Chuck’s report “both interesting and important.”

“This is an illustration of how manipulating the genome of a plant can make an incredibly useful change in the plant as a source of energy,” Rubin said.

Chuck’s gene-cloning experiments represent five years of work, Chuck said in an interview Tuesday.

Now, larger field tests of the transformed switchgrass are planned, and Chuck said he is starting a new series of genetics experiments to see how other genes from the corngrass1 plant can be “turned on” in response to light and darkness, and to raise the starch content of switchgrass even higher. The goal is a major new source of biofuel from a wild plant that grows throughout the world.

But drivers will have to be patient.

“It won’t all happen tomorrow,” he said.

E-mail David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com.

October is Cooperative Month

What’s an electric cooperative? OK, we will draw you a picture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tenKnIx4ouY

What’s an electric cooperative? OK, we will draw you a picture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tenKnIx4ouY

Happening this month: The 2011 Solar Decathlon

Students are once again vying to design and build the most cost-effective, energy-efficient and prettiest solar-powered home. Two must-sees in Washington, DC this fall: one, the newly unveiled (though not officially dedicated due to hurricane upset) monument to Dr. Martin Luther …

Students are once again vying to design and build the most cost-effective, energy-efficient and prettiest solar-powered home.

Two must-sees in Washington, DC this fall: one, the newly unveiled (though not officially dedicated due to hurricane upset) monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., designed by Chinese sculptor Master Lei Yixin. The other, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon installation on the National Mall, from September 23-October 2, 2011.

The Decathlon is an award-winning collaborative program that engages teams from colleges across the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and pretty. The winner is the team that does it best, mindfully creating according to affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence. It’s a free biennial event totally open to the public, who get to tour homes fathomed in nearby Maryland and as far imagined as New Zealand.

The purpose of the event is to educate student participants and the public at large about using clean-energy, the cost-effectiveness of energy-efficient construction and appliances, and providing students with training for the clean-energy workforce. Since 2002, the first year of the event, 72 houses have competed. Those houses are now dotted throughout the United States and the world serving educational, conservation, and community-oriented functions.

This year, nineteen teams are competing from the United States, Belgium, Canada, China and New Zealand. Here are a few we’re keeping our eye on.

From Middlebury College, “Self-Reliance.” A two-bedroom, 990-ft2 house designed for a family of four.

“First Light,” from Victoria University of Wellington, inspired by the traditional New Zealand holiday home—the “Kiwi bach.”

From the University of Maryland “WaterShed” proposes solutions to water and energy shortages.

CHIP from SCI-Arc is a design motivated by California’s “soaring land costs and urban sprawl.” It’s meant to be a minimal-footprint, affordable dwelling that offers a solution to the challenges of home ownership.

Out of Belgium, Ghent University’s E-Cube aims for simplicity stripped of nonessential components and finishes.

Visit Solar Decathlon for a full list of the participating teams, and tell us…what’s your favorite?

Wind farm officially open

OAKLAND — A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for Maryland’s first commercial wind farm was punctuated by protesters, who stood holding signs outside the entrance of the $140 million facility. About 50 community members and government officials celebrated the project’s completion with speeches …

OAKLAND — A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for Maryland’s first commercial wind farm was punctuated by protesters, who stood holding signs outside the entrance of the $140 million facility.

About 50 community members and government officials celebrated the project’s completion with speeches and a catered meal Tuesday morning atop Backbone Mountain, where the massive blades of some of the farm’s 28 wind turbines rotated slowly in a steady breeze.

Constructed by Constellation Energy, the facility is expected to produce enough renewable energy to meet the electricity needs of 23,000 households in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, said Dale Linaweaver, a managing director. Commercial operations at the wind farm actually began in December.

“I don’t think there’s an energy source that everyone likes,” said Linaweaver, who, like other participants in Tuesday’s ceremony, had to drive past protesters to get to the event. “Even our solar projects, some people are fighting right now. But (wind) is certainly an important part of the energy mix.”

About a dozen citizens stood along Eagle Rock Road holding signs criticizing the wind project on a variety of points. “Wind Turbines Kill Bats,” one sign said. “Tax Money — In the Wind,” said another.

“These projects would not exist without our money,” said Jeff Conner, who lives on a farm about 20 miles away. He said that the turbines compromise his “million-dollar view.”

“They’re not self-sustaining,” Conner said of industrial wind projects. “They’re using my tax dollars for this.”

Members of Save Western Maryland, which filed a lawsuit against Constellation Energy last year over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act, indicated Tuesday that they have agreed to delay a trial until 2012 to allow the company time to obtain necessary permits. The group claims that wind turbines pose a threat to the endangered Indiana bat.

“Although we continue to hope that Constellation will fulfill its duties in good faith, the history of the Backbone wind plant does little to inspire confidence,” Save Western Maryland said in a press release.

Construction at the wind farm site was temporarily halted in March when the Maryland Department of the Environment found violations related to inadequate or improperly installed erosion and sediment controls.

Constellation addressed the violations and revised its site plans and was allowed to proceed with construction shortly thereafter.

During Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting event, officials pointed to some of the wind farm’s positive impacts on the local community. At the peak of construction last year, about 200 people were employed, with more than half classified as local hires, according to the company. The plant now has nine permanent employees, including manager Don Shilobod, who has bought a home in Oakland.

“Constellation’s been a good community partner, a good corporate citizen, since they’ve been here,” said Garrett County Chamber of Commerce President Nicole Christian, who attended the ribbon-cutting. The company was a sponsor of the annual Oakland Winterfest, the Fourth of July fireworks, and Deep Creek Lake Art & Wine festival, Linaweaver said.

“We hope that they’ll continue to be a good corporate citizen,” Christian said.

“It’s a little bit noisy, but we’ve gotten used to it,” said Martha White, who lives on Bethlehem Road and has four wind turbines on her property. “We’re both on disability, and we were having trouble paying our bills, so this has been a good thing for us.”

But another area resident, Eric Robison, said Constellation Energy hasn’t been a good neighbor. Robison, a member of Save Western Maryland, organized a sign-making event early Tuesday morning to protest.

“It’s to not just allow them to have their grand opening and flaunt this in the community’s face, without having somebody at least saying something,” said Robison, who lives just outside the wind farm on Eagle Rock Road, in regard to the demonstration. “And we’ve been saying something all along.”

Maryland Delegate Wendell Beitzel acknowledged the protesters during brief remarks at the ribbon-cutting celebration, saying he “understands the concerns of those who are for it and against it.”

“The windmills are here now,” Beitzel said. “They’re in place and they’re operating, whether you like them or don’t like them. We’re going to live with them.”

Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at kbarkley@times-news.com.

Can one idea be energy’s holy grail?

By Thom Patterson, CNN June 27, 2011 7:38 a.m. EDT | Filed under: Innovation CNN) – Michel Laberge quit his job to invent a “glorified jackhammer” that he hoped would save the planet. That was 10 years ago. Now, investors are betting …

By Thom Patterson, CNN
June 27, 2011 7:38 a.m. EDT | Filed under: Innovation

CNN) – Michel Laberge quit his job to invent a “glorified jackhammer” that he hoped would save the planet. That was 10 years ago.

Now, investors are betting more than $30 million on that jackhammer idea, which may yield a holy grail of energy — a safe, clean and unlimited power source called hot fusion.

Laberge is trying to do something that no one has ever done: create a controlled “net gain” fusion reaction that creates more energy than is required to produce it. It’s the same process that powers our sun. If it works, it could solve huge problems like climate change, the energy crunch and reliance on foreign oil.

But the competition to get there first is stiff. Thousands of scientists backed by the world’s most powerful governments are racing against Laberge and his 50 colleagues working at an office park lab near Vancouver, British Columbia.

“This is a bit crazy — the small guy trying to win the same thing as the big guys,” admits the 49-year-old physicist. Some observers in the physics community wonder if upstarts like Laberge are being strangled by giant multibillion-dollar research projects.

Laberge says he’s never wanted to rub shoulders with the cool kids at top-shelf facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Livermore, California. “It’s very boring to work on the big projects,” says Laberge. They’re “too big, too expensive, too complicated.”

But don’t call him a rebel. “I like to do some things differently,” Laberge says. “I’m nonconventional, but I’m not a rebel.”

He fears the next generation, including his own two children, are threatened by a world that’s running out of fuel. “If we don’t do something about energy we’re going to be living in little huts with windmills on top,” says Laberge. “For food, you’re going to be growing tomatoes on the backside.”

A decade ago, it was Laberge’s self-described mid-life crisis that brought him to a career crossroads. Despite success designing technology for printing direct mail materials, he remained unsatisfied. “I was cutting the forest and burying you under junk mail,” he remembers. “I said, ‘What am I doing here?’”

Laberge took a chance and left Creo to chase his longtime fascination with fusion.

“I had fusion on the brain,” he recalls.

“I sat at home on my couch for about six months, to the great despair of my wife, calculating all sorts of fusion schemes.” Eventually, Laberge had his “aha” moment: a precision controlled piston that hammers giant shock waves into a magnetized sphere — slamming atoms together hard enough to fuse and create energy.

The idea triggered investments in Laberge’s young company, first from family and friends, then from venture capitalists including Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. So far, funding has totaled $32.5 million.

That sounds like a lot until you consider that the world’s biggest fusion research facility — under construction in France — is expected to cost $20 billion. That’s billion with a “b.”

Named ITER — the Latin word for “journey” — the project is funded and staffed by the United States, European Union and five other nations.

Laberge designed this giant piston -- or "glorified jackhammer" -- as part of a planned fusion reactor.
Laberge designed this giant piston — or “glorified jackhammer” — as part of a planned fusion reactor.

Beijing “is going gung ho on this,” says Glen Wurden, a top fusion scientist at the cradle of the atom bomb: New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. The facility has joined Laberge’s company, General Fusion, in a cooperative research agreement.

Does Laberge have a shot? His idea is “definitely worth studying,” Wurden says.

Even Ned Sauthoff, ITER’s U.S. project manager, is cheering for smaller fusion researchers.

“I would love to see that fusion can be done so economically, and so I hope they succeed,” Sauthoff says. “ITER is the way that you go if you really want high confidence. But you have to pay more for high confidence.”

The ITER facility won’t be complete until 2017. Best case, ITER’s first net gain fusion reaction would take place sometime after 2019.

Another giant fusion project, the National Ignition Facility at California’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, is using the world’s largest lasers to attempt a fusion breakthrough by 2012 at a cost of about $5 billion.

Can world’s largest laser zap our energy woes?

“ITER and NIF are expensive and they take lots of energy,” says Wurden. “We think there is a cheaper solution between the two.”

“Basically, glorified jackhammers are cheaper than lasers,” Laberge says with a laugh.

General Fusion aims to achieve net gain fusion experimentally in 2012. By 2018, it plans to complete a power plant prototype that would generate 100 megawatts, enough to power about 100,000 homes.

“We would like to be in a commercial stage of being able to take orders and build power plants by the end of the decade,” said Michael Delage, General Fusion VP of business development.

Could fusion change the way powerful governments behave on the world stage?

Cutting dependence on foreign oil could prompt nations to shift attention away from oil-rich regions. The U.S. military already spends at least $50 billion yearly on “expenditures related to oil,” according to the American Security Project, a bipartisan Washington think tank.

The fuel for fusion reactors is relatively cheap and accessible. Fusion reactors would run on fuel made up of two types of hydrogen: deuterium, which can be extracted from sea water, and tritium, which could be produced by the fusion reactors themselves.

If fusion sounds familiar it’s because science has been promising it for decades.

A historic fusion breakthrough is “really close,” Wurden says, but developing a successful commercial fusion power plant is further off.

“So, if somebody tells you they’re going to solve global warming with nuclear fusion three years from now just laugh them out of the street. OK? It’s not going to happen.”

“Fusion physicists are probably some of the worst people in the world at predicting the future in terms of how easy it’s going to be for the next step,” says Mike Dunne, Livermore’s program director of laser fusion energy.

Fusion differs from conventional nuclear power because it makes energy by smashing atoms together to create new atoms instead of splitting them apart.

This year, Japan’s nuclear plant crisis after an earthquake and tsunami showed the hazards posed by deadly radioactive fuel rods, which eventually must be disposed of safely.

In fusion, there is no threat of a meltdown and no waste from the fuel. Although the reactor and its components will become radioactive after years of exposure to the process, this radioactivity disappears after a few decades. Conventional nuclear fuel rods need thousands of years to lose radioactivity.

But anti-nuclear groups have expressed concern about whether fusion research opens a door to nuclear weapons proliferation. Tritium can be used to boost the power of nuclear weapons. Fusion research, they say, could contribute to development of a so-called pure fusion weapon.

“The government did look at this in some detail,” said Dunne, who added that there are always fringe groups who are suspicious of “nefarious activities” when it comes to nuclear research.

Washington is comfortable that this technology provides no opportunities “for nuclear proliferation or advancement of other country’s weapons capability,” said Dunne. The development of commercial fusion, he says, has no defense applications.

Giant sucking sound?

The current budget-slashing climate on Capitol Hill doesn’t bode well for fusion research. The 2012 federal budget is expected to provide about $400 million total.

But now that Congress is taking a hard look at budget cuts, lawmakers want more than ever to see encouraging results. The pressure is on to either produce results or re-think spending priorities.

With less research money available, will high-profile projects like ITER and NIF snatch government money from smaller private firms like Laberge’s?

An intensified scramble for cash could hurt other small players, such as Seattle-based Helion Energy and a secretive outfit with ties to the University of California called TriAlpha Energy.

“I hope that ITER and NIF — these two giant elephants in the room — won’t absorb all the resources in the world just to do fusion a particular way,” says Wurden.

Whatever the case, China and India’s huge populations will need more and more energy each year and climatologists fear the worst from continued reliance on fossil fuels.

“We’re burning the candle at both ends,” Laberge says. “The standard of living is increasing rapidly due to technology and we’re burning resources faster than they’re being replenished. Sooner or later it’s all going to come crashing down.”

If that scenario comes to pass, will science be ready to tackle the challenge?

Latest in cutting-edge energy efficiency: furnace-free homes

By RENEE SCHOOF McClatchy Newspapers Everyone needs a home, but not every home, it seems, needs a furnace – even in Cleveland. A house built for a new museum exhibit shows how walls more than a foot thick, big triple-pane …

By RENEE SCHOOF McClatchy Newspapers

Everyone needs a home, but not every home, it seems, needs a furnace – even in Cleveland.

A house built for a new museum exhibit shows how walls more than a foot thick, big triple-pane windows, doors like bank vaults and clever engineering can cut heating and cooling costs – and pollution – by 90 percent. The house keeps a comfortable temperature year-round. No need for heavy sweaters, no drafts, no noise.

Thousands of furnace-free homes in Germany have been built to this cutting-edge efficiency standard, but in the U.S. there are only 15 buildings certified to the same level of extremely low energy use. Until now, none has been open to the public.

The people in Cleveland who made the exhibit happen are enthusiastic about the idea, known as a “passive house.” It costs more than conventional housing does, to be sure, as much as about 20 percent. If the special equipment the house needs becomes locally available, and energy prices rise, the economics improve.

In the meantime, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History decided to give its visitors a peek at this possible future. The house was intended as a can-do complement to a traveling exhibit on climate change that will open here in July.

“We have to get beyond incremental improvements to get a dramatic breakthrough,” said David Beach, the museum’s director of environmentally sound urban practices. This house, he said, is “an example of a new way of living.”

What makes the two-story house special is an insulation system with a sealed air barrier in the walls that makes it work like a thermos. A German-made ventilator transfers heat from the stale, outgoing air to the fresh air coming in, so very little heat is lost. Two ductless air-source heat pumps, which look like white rectangular boxes on the wall, one upstairs and one down, supply all the heating and cooling needed. They run on the energy equivalent of two hair dryers.

Because the house is so well insulated, it can hold heat from sunshine, body heat, lights and appliances.

Amory Lovins, the author of an upcoming book about new ways to get and use energy, “Reinventing Fire,” built a highly efficient house warmed mostly with these heat sources in Colorado in the early 1980s, an early inspiration for passive houses. It’s wrapped around what Lovins calls the jungle, a 900-square-foot indoor garden where bananas, mangos and other tropical fruit grows when temperatures outside are 30 below.

Wolfgang Feist, who founded the movement in Germany, came to visit and discussed the economics before he built his first house, Lovins said.

“He really nailed down how the thing worked, with very fine engineering,” Lovins said.

In the Cleveland house, built to Feist’s specifications, the living room has huge south-facing windows. The first level has an open floor plan with a kitchen and dining area, as well as a mudroom in back and a slate entry in front.

Refinished oak floors salvaged from a torn-down house are used throughout. Furniture pieces are made of recycled materials, such as tables composed of wood from demolished houses. Cabinets, fixtures and appliances are energy-efficient and locally made.

Upstairs, the master bedroom has large windows, much like the living room. The house has two other bedrooms and 21/2 bathrooms. Including the basement, it’s 2,500 square feet.

The big south-facing windows get maximum solar heat in winter, when the sun is low in the sky. A ridge over the windows will block some of the sunlight in summer, when the sun is high.

The house stands on the edge of a grassy circle with big oak trees that anchors a cultural center, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, an orchestra hall and a botanical garden. In October, the house will be moved to a neighborhood a half-mile away and sold.

Cleveland endures cold and cloudy winters, a challenge for a passive house, because the colder and darker the winter, the more insulation is needed. It would be easier to build a passive house in Columbus, Ohio, or even Boston, which has the same cold but more sunshine, Beach said.

“If we can do it and achieve certification, you can do it anywhere,” he said.

The person who does the certifying is Katrin Klingenberg, the director of the Passive House Institute U.S. in Urbana, Ill. A certified passive house must meet the same energy-saving standards as in Germany. This “energy metric” meets the target of an 80 to 90 percent reduction of heat-trapping gases, the amount deemed necessary by midcentury to improve the odds of avoiding dangerous climate shifts.

It also makes economic sense, Klingenberg said. “It’s a return on investment from day one.”

The length of payback for the house depends on energy prices. According to the Department of Energy, it costs more than $900 per year to heat and cool an average house in the region now.

Gene Troiano, the treasurer of Perry Homes, an Ohio builder, said it cost roughly 6 percent more for his company to build a house qualified for the government’s Energy Star rating. That’s not as high-tech as the museum’s model. The Environmental Protection Agency says Energy Star new homes are 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the code of 2004.

Perry builds only Energy Star homes. Troiano estimates the extra cost at about $10,000.

“We try to explain it’s a monthly savings, too, that you still come out positive,” he said. But with the economy the way it is, “people are skeptical.”

The people involved in the Cleveland house want to show what the future might look like.

Mark Hoberecht, who took a course from Klingenberg’s institute, is its consultant for achieving passive house certification. By day, he’s a NASA engineer, managing fuel-cell development for space vehicles at Cleveland’s Glenn Research Center.

“European governments have mandated energy efficiency standards, so manufacturers produce the products,” Hoberecht said. “If more were made here, the cost premium wouldn’t be as great.”

The museum had the windows, doors and ventilation system shipped from Germany. The small heating and cooling system is from Japan. The imports added to the costs, as did the extra building requirements for a house that will be moved.

Architect Chuck Miller, who designed the house, said the 20 percent premium, which doesn’t include the moving-related costs, stemmed from start-up obstacles.

“In time, that 20 percent premium will disappear,” Miller predicted.

He said that when he renovated an old building a decade ago, he paid about 20 percent more to use sustainable products such as formaldehyde-free wood. Now the products are mainstream and don’t cost as much, he said.

Ellen Vaughan, the policy director for high-performance green buildings at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute in Washington, said that passive houses made sense.

“If you take the parts of the building that are going to last the longest and you make them the most energy efficient and durable, that’s going to pay off in the long run,” she said.

The long run could last a long time.

The Cleveland house was built in just two months, but designed with great precision in a way that prevents any water damage and is very low-maintenance, said Chris Kontur, the construction coordinator. “This is a 500-year house.”

Electric Heaters. What are the real costs to operate?

Electric heaters, both infrared and simple electric strip varieties, will have a large impact on your electric usage. Most plug-in electric heaters that use a 115 volt circuit will have a maximum wattage of 1,500. A 1,500 watt heater will …

Electric heaters, both infrared and simple electric strip varieties, will have a large impact on your electric usage. Most plug-in electric heaters that use a 115 volt circuit will have a maximum wattage of 1,500. A 1,500 watt heater will produce about 5,120 BTUs, which has the ability to heat a 12 by 12 insulated room in single digit weather.

A 1,500 watt heater running on the highest setting for an hour will cost about 17 cents at today’s electric rates. If it runs on the highest setting for an entire day, it could cost over $4.00. Over a 30 day billing period that one electric heater could cost you over $120.00. 1,500 watts is equivalent to 1.5 KW or if it runs for an hour it would be 1.5 KWH. This is how URE bills its members, by the amount of KWH used in a billing cycle.

It is important to remember that all electric heaters will produce an amount of heat equivalent to their wattage. Do not get misled by creative advertising. A 1,500 watt electric heater, whether it is infrared, electric, or some sort of ceramic storage, is going to cost the same for the same amount of heat generated.
Advertising that claims one infrared heater can heat an 800 square foot home would only be accurate if you’re living somewhere like Miami, Florida; not here in Ohio during the dead of winter. Many of these heaters have efficiency ratings that approach 100 percent. But don’t be misled, the efficiency is very high, however, the cost to operate this high efficiency heater is more expensive when compared to other heating options.

Additionally, spending $300 to$ 400 to purchase an electric heater, as opposed to a unit that costs only $20 to $40, will not save you any more money in operating costs. Heating an entire home, or even a room for an entire month, with electric strip heaters will be very expensive even though the equipment is very efficient.

Remember, your energy advisor, Paul Gillespie, is always available to help you better understand all of your energy efficiency questions. Feel free to stop by the office, give him a call, or schedule a FREE in home energy audit. URE is committed to helping you make the best use of your energy.

Environmental Protection Agency pulls coal mine permit

By PATRICK REIS | 1/13/11 11:41 AM EST The Obama administration Thursday reversed a Bush-era decision and blocked a bid to build one of the largest mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachian history. For the first time, the Environmental Protection …

By PATRICK REIS | 1/13/11 11:41 AM EST

The Obama administration Thursday reversed a Bush-era decision and blocked a bid to build one of the largest mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachian history.

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency is revoking a permit already issued, taking back its approval for Arch Coal’s Spruce No.1 mine in southern West Virginia. EPA said the mine would cause unacceptable damage to local waterways and public health.

EPA’s decision is a major victory for environmental groups, who have fought against the mine since it was proposed more than a decade and cements agency administrator Lisa Jackson’s status as their environmental hero. The George W. Bush administration had approved the Clean Water Act permit in 2007.

“In sharp contrast to the previous administration’s policies on mountaintop removal coal mining, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is showing a strong commitment to the law, the science and the principles of environmental justice,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said today. “She deserves enormous credit for changing policies to protect Appalachia’s health, land and water.”

But EPA’s critics are vowing to battle the decision in the courts, Congress and the White House.

Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s new Democratic senator, vowed Thursday to do everything in his power to block EPA’s move, calling it a “shocking display of overreach.”

The industry is launching an all-out assault on the agency as well. Arch Coal, which needs the permit to discharge rock waste it generates while mining, says EPA lacks the authority to retract the permit and is fighting the agency in federal court. And a coalition of groups ranging from the National Mining Association to the Farm Bureau wrote to White House Council on Environmental Quality chief Nancy Sutley Wednesday asking her to overrule EPA.

The veto is the latest step in EPA’s crackdown on water pollution from mountaintop removal mining. The agency in 2008 blocked the Army Corps of Engineers from issuing nearly 80 permits for proposed Appalachian mines – saying they needed additional review to comply with the Clean Water Act – and in April, the agency introduced a new, tougher standard for obtaining permits.

The crackdown has been tremendously controversial in Appalachia, where the coal industry wields considerable political and economic clout.

Regional candidates from both parties across the region blasted the agency on the campaign trail, and Republicans picked up a handful of House seats – and nearly knocked off heavy favorite Manchin in a special Senate election – in part by tying Democrats to what they described as the Obama administration’s “anti-coal” agenda.

EPA insists it is not cracking down on coal, it is just enforcing Clean Water Act standards that the previous administration neglected.

“Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter Silva said today. “We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47557.html#ixzz1BajTN62I

Buckeye Power will be testing its load management system on Monday, 9/15, from 1 – 2 PM.

 Buckeye Power will be testing its load management system on Monday, 9/15, from 1 – 2 PM. Buckeye will activate water-heater and air-conditioner load control for this hour and will restore these devices at 2 PM.

 Buckeye Power will be testing its load management system on Monday, 9/15, from 1 – 2 PM.

Buckeye will activate water-heater and air-conditioner load control for this hour and will restore these devices at 2 PM.

Farm Science Review – next week Sept. 16, 17 and 18

Ohio’s electric co-ops have plenty to offer at next week’s Farm Science Review. Come visit us, stop by our building at 910 Wheat Street. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym70pF9WVto  

Ohio’s electric co-ops have plenty to offer at next week’s Farm Science Review.

Come visit us, stop by our building at 910 Wheat Street.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym70pF9WVto

 

These quick energy-saving tips can help you start lowering your utility bills today.

Start Saving Energy Now   Source: www.epa.gov The old saying never put off until tomorrow what you can do today is as true for energy conservation as it is for anything else. While energy-efficiency projects, such as weatherization and furnace upgrades, may …

Start Saving Energy Now

 

Source: www.epa.gov
Family

The old saying never put off until tomorrow what you can do today is as true for energy conservation as it is for anything else. While energy-efficiency projects, such as weatherization and furnace upgrades, may seem time-consuming and expensive, there is no need to worry. These low-cost, energy-saving measures will not take a lot of time, and they will help you reduce energy costs starting today.

  1. Adjust your thermostat. Adjusting temperatures at night or when you are not at home is one of the most effective ways to lower your energy bill. For every degree of temperature change over an eight-hour period, you can save an average of 1 percent on your heating or cooling costs.
  2. Go unplugged. The average American household uses 25 consumer electronic devices. Many of these devices continue to use energy when they are turned off. While some devices must remain plugged in, unplug televisions, stereos, or computers that you do not use very often. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, unplugging those unused electronics can save up to 10 percent on your electric bill.
  3. Change your furnace filter. A dirty furnace filter reduces heating and cooling system efficiency, wasting energy and costing you money. If you have not changed your filter for a while, check it. Filters for most systems can be found at your local hardware or DIY store. Change the filter once per month during the heating and cooling seasons.
  4. Lower the temperature of your hot water heater. Tank water heaters are typically installed at a temperature setting of 140°F. You can save on water heating costs by lowering the thermostat. For most households, a temperature setting of 120°F will optimize savings while providing you with a hot shower.
  5. Air dry your laundry. When doing laundry, why not air dry your clothes? It will save you the cost of running the dryer and air drying may help to keep clothes looking new.
  6. Close the curtain on heat loss. Windows cause a substantial amount of heat loss, but decorative window treatments, such as draperies, shades, and shutters, will help to keep the heat where you want it—inside your house. Hang decorative treatments as close to the window as possible to create a sealed air space. Closing window treatments at night will help to retain heat.
  7. Cook up energy savings. Home cooking is a great way to make healthy meals for your family, but some cooking habits waste energy. Cover pots and pans; food will cook more efficiently and the kitchen will stay cooler in the summer. Match pots and pans to the size of the burner and keep burners clean. Save energy by using a microwave oven to heat food whenever possible.
  8. Turn on ceiling fans. In the summer, ceiling fans increase air circulation, making you feel more comfortable and reducing the need for air conditioning. In the winter, reverse fan direction to bring the warm air that’s near the ceiling down into the living space. To save energy, turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room.

Take a look around, you can probably think of additional ways to save. Are lights left on in unoccupied rooms? Do you wash dishes and laundry with less than a full load? Can you take shorter showers? A few simple lifestyle changes can reduce energy costs and your impact on the environment.