A group of Holland residents participates in a discussion of the city’s energy future lead by Don Triezenberg of the Community Energy Advisory Group
At a neighborhood gathering Tuesday, Sustainability Committee Vice-chair Don Triezenberg presented an overview of the energy choices that currently face Holland: spend $300 million on a coal-fired power plant, or spend $150 million on a natural gas plant and use the remaining $150 million to install district heating and create a loan-fund that can spur energy-efficiency city-wide.
The Community Energy Advisory Group is organizing a series of shareholder meetings spanning the next several months, with the goal of educating Holland on the energy choices their City Council is facing. CEAG believes that an investment of this magnitude is a community issue; the group is devoted to informing stakeholders of the decisions Holland faces and the options available to meet the city’s energy needs.
An open meeting will be held next Tuesday, June 19, at 6:30pm at Holland New Tech High School. CEAG also welcomes invitations to present at any local group and has ambitious outreach goals in place for the next several months. In order to meet these goals, CEAG has partnered with DwellTech Solutions to offer a free home energy audit for Holland residents that volunteer to host an energy plan meeting for their friends and neighbors. Email CEAG at HollandCEAG@gmail.com to volunteer!
Last week the nation’s largest public utility approved their 2012-2013 budget–with a huge $128 million devoted to energy efficiency projects. Los Angeles Department of Power and Water set a soft target of 15% cumulative energy savings by 2020, increased from a target of 8.5% set last December.
Among the goals outlined in the new budget are the expansion of whole-house weatherization programs for income-qualified residents as well as investments in building efficiency for schools, City facilities and commerical buildings. The utility’s efficiency expenditure to date has totaled $248.76 million, resulting in a savings of 1,007 gigawatt-hours of electricity.
A $128 million cut of the utility’s budget–and $139 million promised for next year’s budget–may sound like a big investment, but LADPW expects that maintaining energy efficiency programs will actually reduce costs in the long run.
Traverse City residents are getting a hand with rising electricity costs thanks to a partnership between the City and Traverse City Light and Power. TC Saves is a part of a state-wide program called BetterBuildings for Michigan, which provides discounted home energy assessments to homeowners and reduced-rate loans to follow through on the audit recommendations.
The program, launched last October, was designed to save homeowners money on their electric bills and increase the comfort of their home; local weatherization experts are contracted through the program, keeping jobs and investments in the area. The project is administered by the city of Traverse City in partnership with two local non-profits: Michigan Land Use Institute and SEEDs.
“Conserving energy in our homes is an important way to save money, stay more comfortable, and make our community a better place,” said Traverse City Manager R. Ben Bifoss in a press release. “TC Saves connects homeowners to qualified local contractors who will show you exactly how your home wastes energy, figure out how to plug those leaks, and save you money.”
Traverse City Light and Power has been an early adapter among state utilities for many years. The municipally-owned energy provider became the first Michigan municipal utility to install a utility-scale wind turbine in 1996, and in 2010 had the highest percentage of wind-generation to total generation than any other utility in the state.
Have an inefficient refrigerator or old dehumidifier taking up room in the basement? The Holland Board of Public Works has teamed up with Consumers Energy and Zeeland BPW to help you recycle old appliances and get rewarded for it!
Saturday, June 2, the utilities are hosting an appliance recycling drive at two different locations in the area: the Holland Board of Public Works Service Center (625 Hastings Ave, Holland) and the County Parking Lot in Grand Haven (414 Washington). The event runs from 9 am to 12 pm, and if you can’t make it over there during that time, you can arrange to have the appliance picked up by calling 877.270.3519.
Window air conditioners and dehumidifiers in working condition are eligible for a $15 rebate. Old refrigerators and freezers, which must be in working condition as well, are eligible for a $60 rebate. You can receive incentives for up to two appliances in any combination–but you are welcome to drop off more than that.
This month marks the first anniversary of a new addition to Cheri Smith’s house: an array of 11 solar panels, invisible from the street but large enough to generate enough energy to meet her needs during the peak solar season.
On a sunny day in April Smith lead me on a tour of her generation system. Each of the panels on her roof are capable of generating 235 Watts of electricity, which comes off her roof as AC power, then passes through a meter and goes into a power panel in the basement. From there it is distributed throughout the house. Surplus electricity passes through another meter and is sold to Holland Board of Public Works, the result of a mutually beneficial relationship she hopes will catch on with others in the community.
The ingoing and outgoing meters on the side of her house keep a running tally of what is being used versus how much is being produced. Smith points out the small displays on each of the meters, which show that she is currently producing more power than is being used in her home. “Cha-ching, I’m making money right now!”
Tuesday the state of Oklahoma signed a bill into law that will require state agencies to improve their energy efficiency and conservation standards and reach an energy savings target of 20% by 2020.
The legislation came partially in response to Oklahoma being ranked as the fourth-worst state in the nation in energy conservation and efficiency programs.
State Governor Mary Fallin responded to the ranking: “Not only have we been wasting our precious natural resources of energy, but we’ve also been wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in the process,” she said. “That’s money that we could be using for … essential government services, such as education, health and human services, public safety and transportation.”
The new law could potentially reduce energy use by 20 to 30%, which according to Fallin will result in a monetary savings of $300 to $500 million over ten years. The law also requires that implementation costs will be funded by savings generated by the conservation program itself. Read more here.
Earlier this week the Grand Rapids Press ran an opinion piece by Holland resident and friend of CEAG Dan Kuipers, a managing partner at Sustainable Energy Financing, LLC. Kuipers helps clients develop renewable energy projects and sees firsthand how investment in this industry has boosted Michigan’s economy. In the piece Kuipers makes an argument for the continued and increased government support of the renewable energy industry.
“I’m sometimes asked whether it makes sense for government to support clean energy. Some people wonder whether we shouldn’t leave the transition to clean energy to private industry alone, or whether our tax dollars are well spent when they incentivize solar installations and wind farms, energy efficiency and hydroelectric power.”
Read the rest of the piece here. What do you think? Should the government subsidize renewable energy like they do other energy industries?
Johnson Controls, Holland Facility
Milwaukee recently announced a financing program for home energy improvements in partnership with Johnson Controls Inc., the Wisconsin-based company that operates an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland.
The Me2 Clean Energy Financing Program will operate with funds made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–no local public funds will be used. The program connects property owners with contractors and lenders in order to decrease the cost of energy improvements. As the efficiency measures reduce energy consumption, cost of the improvements will be recouped.
“The city of Milwaukee has created a program that will lead the nation and serve as a model for other cities to promote and help enable widespread private-sector energy efficiency,” said Iain Campbell, VP and general manager of Building Efficiency at Johnson Controls. “These projects will bring Milwaukee tremendous benefits at no cost to local taxpayers.”
For more information about the Me2 Clean Energy Financing Program, visit SmartEnergyPays.com/businesses.
The Leonard Street Fire Station will soon be heated and cooled by geothermal energy. Image: City of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids will be installing geothermal heating and cooling units at two of it’s fire stations for a cost of $274,000, at the recommendation of an energy audit the city underwent in 2010, according to an MLive article published recently.
The project will be funded by $200,000 of federal stimulus money, with the remaining funding coming from the fire department. According to MLive, investment in geothermal costs more up front, however after an estimated 7.5 years of use the system pays for itself, and electricity is generated virtually free on site.
Mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids has set an ambitious energy-use goal for the city: 100% of it’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020. The geothermal capacity at the fire stations is a step toward this goal for the city, which is actively working with Consumers Energy to expand their renewable portfolio.
Hope College was recognized in the third annual Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges as one of the nation’s 322 most environmentally responsible schools.
Hope's sustainability efforts are getting national recognition.
The guide is published in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the group responsible for LEED standards and certification. In it, prospective students will find information about each school’s sustainability initiatives as well as typical admissions data on enrollment, tuition, and financial aid. Everything from availability of on-campus recycling to presence of environmental studies programs is included in the guide.
“Green Highlights” for Hope College include President Bultman’s 2010 signing of the Talloires Declaration, campus upgrades to more efficient lighting, an environmentally conscious grounds department, and the LEED-silver requirement for all future college buildings. The scores are based on responses to a 2011 survey. Schools are not ranked within the guide, but must have scored above an 83 (out of 99 possible points) to be included.