Skip to main content

View Diary: Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security (Fourth Draft) (311 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Some thoughts... (none)
    There are just two big ideas that I would recommend some thought on. One is the industrial sector and the other is the nature of the grid itself. There are also a few little suggestions.

    According to ASE and NAM, the industrial sector, which uses 33-37% of the nation's energy, can save up to 20% of its energy usage. Most of the savings in this study were based on currently available technology and had a payback period of 3 years or less, which makes energy investments appealing to owners. This alone can potentially save up to 7% of our entire national fuel bill.


    • Require (or even provide free) energy audits for industrial facilities over 25,000 sf every 10 years.
    • Owners can take advanatage of tax credits as stated under #19, DSM.
    • Documentation and case studies showing lower bills and higher worker productivity should also be provided to owners as an additional incentive.
    • Financing for improvements can be done with Performance Contracting through local utilities, which can then take advantage of these improvements in accordance with #19, DSM.
    • Additional incentives targeted specifically for the industrial sector.

    Our current grid has some long term, major problems. First, the transmission line losses are increasing because of increased demand and congestion; in some areas, the T&D losses are up to 15%. Second, because of plant heat losses and T&D losses, the total conversion efficiency of the system from fuel to end user is around 33%. Third, it is more prone to blackouts because of congestion (which some utilities are trying to address through aiding conservation efforts), insufficient lines to heavily populated areas, problems in maintaining voltage, aging equipment that is prone to failure, poor maintenance practices, poor generation scheduling during stressed conditions, and a generally low level of investment in the grid. These are not necessarily primary causes of blackouts, but they can cause cascading failures that can increase the magnitude of any outage, such as in the 1996 and the 2003 blackouts. Simply adding more centralized power plants, like nuclear or large coal, to this will only increase the chances of congestion, and therefore, cascading failures.

    One alternative (which was briefly discussed in comments) is distributed generation. According to one study, "full reliance on DG for expected U.S. load growth would avoid $326 billion in capital by 2020, reduce incremental power costs by $53 billion, NOx by 58 percent, and SO2 by 94 percent. Full DG lowers carbon dioxide emissions by 49 percent versus total reliance on new central generation." This is due to the increase in efficiency of generation and transmission from a current 33% to a potential 90%.

    Many hospitals and college campuses have a small grid and use cogeneration. In DG, cogeneration, renewable energy and energy from waste, can become valuable contributors. Cogen in this context can be used locally by industrial, commercial, or residential buildings, with excess power being sold back to the grid. If feasible, steam lines can also be extended to include nearby buildings for heat, cooking and other processes.

    One of the advantages of DG is that it would be easier to add more modular capacity as it it needed. The 5 Million Roofs initiative dovetails nicely with distributed generation. Utilities can lease roof space, floor area or land area from owners to provide space for rooftop PV, cogenerators, or windmills. Farmers and local power producers (public or private) can start programs to shift waste biofuels to power production. Industrial plants can also provide and sell excess power to the grid. Energy efficiency would also be held at a higher value.

    Storage systems, such as flywheels and compressed air energy storage, have high energy conversion rates (80% or more) and are needed in a grid with a high percentage of renewables.

    Utilities can and should make contributions to this change. Because of the instability of the grid, it is often not in the production companies' or transmission companies' best interest to generate and sell more power. Several companies that are acting on this fact are Baltimore Gas and Electric, NJ Public Utilities, Princeton, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and Seattle City Light. Companies like these provide incentives for efficient buildings.

    Once the grid is converted, utility companies will still be needed. Reactive power must be provided to maintain voltage through the local grids. Wires and pipes need to be maintained. The grid would need to be controlled and managed.


    • Simplify regulations on both combined heat and power (CHP) and distributed generation (DG), including net metering laws. Each local government should examine every rule that affects power generation and delivery and ask whether the social purpose behind that rule still exists. Then each state or country could enact comprehensive legislation, Energy Regulatory Reform and Tax Act (ERRATA), to correct all of the mistakes in current law. ERRATA would deregulate all electric generation and sales, modernize environmental regulations to induce efficiency, and change taxation to reward efficiency.
    • Write legislation that enables utilities to lease roof space, floor area and ground area from end users for distributed power sources. These sources would be property of the utility company and would be maintained and replaced by them.
    • Encourage efficiency as per #19, DSM.
    • Under #19, DSM, provide credits for displaced generation due to distributed generation and for cogeneration.
    • Initiate a large scale study into how best to accomplish the grid change. Include utilities, renewable energy trade groups, energy professionals trade groups, and efficiency groups in the discussion.
    • Provide appropriate incentives according to the study.

    Strengthen requirements (under EPA 1992) for commissioning of new buildings and give incentives for commissioning of existing commercial buildings. Utilities and owners can take advantage of improvements made to existing buildings after commissioning under section #19, DSM.

    Technology is here today that can reduce energy use in new buildings by 30%, according to the EPA and ASHRAE. Zero net energy residential buildings and commercial buildings are estimated to be commercially feasible by 2020 and 2025, respectively. Currently, the GSA, Chicago, and San Francisco all require new buildings to be LEED Silver or certified, which has a requirement of a 30% energy reduction as compared to standard buildings. Additionally, NY, Chicago and LA are providing monetary incentives to builders who construct efficient buildings.


    • Encourage local increased energy codes for new buildings, starting at 15% reduction and ramping up to 100% reduction in yearly net energy usage by 2030.
    • Energy Star and LEED requirements for efficiency can be increased in parallel with the increasing legislated efficiencies, so that they stay ahead of the curve. Streamline building permitting process for buildings designed to these improved standards.

    Homeowners often are not aware of what a new home will cost each month in utility bills. They are not aware that things like a larger area, higher ceilings and larger windows all contribute to higher bills.


    • Create a national database based on energy modeling of sample homes throughout different climate regions in the country for both new and existing homes.
    • Require that potential homeowners be given information comparing energy usages of the house that they are considering and a typical house in the neighborhood.
    • Provide information to homeowners that certain appliances, such as wide-screen TV's and sub-zero freezers, can have a huge detrimental effect on their energy bills.
    • As part of DSM, utilities can be given incentives to: install GSHP (for homes with electric heat) or small cogen (for homes with gas); seal ducts; weatherize; and paint urban roofs white.

    Funding should be provided for the following topics:
    Nanotech and superconducting cables.
    LED Lighting.
    Residential cogen.
    Smart grid technologies.
    microwind turbines
    Ways for building owners/managers to see how energy is used.
    Specifics of redevelopment of cities and urban centers, such as (but not limited to) potentially higher housing prices, monetary and energy costs involved, and requirements for emergency services per number of people.

    Include: zero net energy home and a small scale model of a distributed grid.

    Collect, document and coordinate local and private organizations promoting efficiency. ASHRAE, AEE, DOE-EIA and ASE are just a few.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

  • Recommended (119)
  • Community (51)
  • Republicans (34)
  • Environment (33)
  • 2016 (31)
  • Memorial Day (30)
  • Culture (30)
  • Bernie Sanders (25)
  • Elections (24)
  • Media (23)
  • Climate Change (21)
  • Spam (21)
  • Labor (20)
  • Education (20)
  • GOP (20)
  • Civil Rights (19)
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (17)
  • Economy (16)
  • Law (16)
  • Science (16)
  • Click here for the mobile view of the site