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Power Plug » Institutional The Flex Your Power Energy Blog Thu, 27 Jan 2011 18:29:08 +0000 en Lights Out for Earth Hour This Saturday Fri, 26 Mar 2010 19:57:27 +0000 Megan Toth

Join individuals around the world in celebrating Earth Hour by turning off lights, appliances and other electronics for at least one hour this Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. Started by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the annual event helps to raise awareness about global warming and demonstrate the collective power of simple, energy-saving actions.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, with 2.2 million homes and businesses switching off their lights for one hour. In 2008, participation rose with over 50 million people switching off their lights world-wide, and last year that number sky-rocketted to nearly 1 billion world-wide. Famous landmarks chose to go dark as well including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, the Parthenon and Acropolis in Athens, and more.

In the past, some cities have been able to cut electricity demand by 13% during those peak hours. Help your city make an impact by powering down at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Cities Suffering from Localized CO2 Domes Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:14:55 +0000 Megan Toth Photo: Flickr

A new study recently found that local carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may result in localized health and pollution impacts unrelated to global climate change. It is widely known that CO2 emitted in one city will eventually mix with CO2 emitted across the globe, contributing to an overall increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. As such, it doesn’t much matter where CO2 is emitted in terms of its contribution climate change. In contrast, the new study finds, CO2 may have direct local impacts on health and air pollution related to where CO2 is emitted and where its concentrations are highest.

While older research has found that local “domes” of high CO2 levels often form over cities, little was known about the health impacts of these domes. The study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” by Mark Jacobson of Stanford finds that local CO2 emissions may increase local ozone and particulate matter that contribute to respiratory ailments. The study also estimates that local CO2 emissions may increase premature mortality by 50-100 people per year in California and 300-1000 per year in the United States.

The study carries significant implications for cities where high amounts of CO2 and other pollutants are emitted, and bolsters the already compelling case for local action.

Governor Schwarzenegger Announces New Green Building Standards Code Fri, 29 Jan 2010 01:40:52 +0000 Megan Toth (Photo: Office of the Governor)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced recently that on January 1, 2011, California will adopt the nation’s first ever mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN) to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact in new California buildings. Under CALGREEN, every new building constructed in California will be required to reduce water consumption by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills and install low pollutant-emitting materials, in addition to other requirements. The regulations also call for mandatory inspections of energy systems such as heating, air conditioning, and mechanical equipment for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure maximum efficiency. The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons by 2020.

CALGREEN also includes more stringent voluntary provisions to encourage local communities to take further action to green their buildings and improve energy efficiency.

Many of the mandatory provisions in the code are already part of the statewide building code, making verification of CALGREEN an easy transition for local building inspectors. Additionally, building owners will enjoy the benefit of being able to label their facilities as CALGREEN compliant upon passing inspection, without using costly third-party certification programs.

ICLEI USA Releases Sustainability Tookit for Cities and Counties Tue, 08 Dec 2009 00:36:21 +0000 Megan Toth

ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability USA, recently released a comprehensive Sustainability Planning Toolkit to provide step-by-step guidance for cities, towns and counties looking to develop a sustainability plan. The toolkit is modeled after New York City’s highly successful PlaNYC guide and contains best practice examples, checklists, templates, and guidelines.

“Our toolkit is a roadmap to guide any local government, big or small, through the process of creating a sustainability plan,” said Don Knapp of ICLEI USA.

The guide is premised on five “milestone” tasks:

  1. Conduct a sustainability assessment
  2. Establish sustainability goals
  3. Develop a local sustainability plan
  4. Implement policies and measures
  5. Evaluate progress and report results

“Our toolkit shows local government staff how to create a plan that won’t just sit on a shelf, but will become an integral part of government operations,” says Knapp.

The complete toolkit is available only to local governments that are ICLEI members.

Promoting Efficiency, Empowering Youth Thu, 12 Nov 2009 22:09:26 +0000 Megan Toth Dedicated to fighting climate change and empowering youth, the Bay Area’s Rising Sun Energy Center recently released a new video about their programs to improve energy efficiency in local communities.

The group provides low-to-no-cost retrofit services to Bay Area households, with a focus on under-resourced communities. To perform the retrofits, Rising Sun trains young people, as well as adults who face barriers to employment, preparing them for jobs in the green market.

Strategic Energy Innovations Receives Award for Energy Saving Progams Fri, 06 Nov 2009 21:21:52 +0000 Megan Toth SEI helps empower schools, businesses and other groups to save energy and promote a healthy environment. (Photo: SEI)

Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI), a nonprofit organization centered in Marin, was recently awarded Marin Economic Commission’s 11th Annual Award of Excellence for Environmental Values and Resources for four of its K-12 programs. The programs, which number among a variety of services offered by SEI, promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while also educating students about environmental issues. Here is a brief description of the winning programs:

Awareness for Communities about the Environment (ACE): SEI’s ACE Program helps local businesses achieve long-term energy savings by providing no-cost energy consultation services and by shuttling businesses into free or reduced-cost retrofits. The program also incorporates an educational component, training local high school students to conduct energy audits, develop energy recommendations, and assist local businesses in accessing retrofits

Dixie School District’s ‘Go Solar’ Initiative: After a presentation by SEI with students to the Dixie School Board, the Dixie School District has decided to pursue their ‘Go Solar’ initiative to solarize the District’s four schools and administrative building. SEI and partners will help rollout the Go Solar effort across the District.

High-School Energy Efficiency Certificate: In conjunction with several partners, SEI has designed a high-school certificate in energy efficiency and renewable energy, giving students the tools to understand climate change and address the crisis. The goal of the program is to help interested students pursue green careers while instilling environmental values and knowledge.

Protect Your Climate (PYC) Curriculum: PYC, a 16-unit program designed for 4th and 5th graders, encourages students to inquire into why we need to protect our environment, and how to do so. The program has not only helped youth understand climate change, but has also helped Marin residences realize substantial money and energy savings through PYC’s school campaigns.

e-Newswire Sign-Up Contest Continues, Congratulations to First 6 Winners Tue, 25 Aug 2009 22:30:07 +0000 Megan Toth

Congratulations to our first six winners! Flex Your Power is holding an e-Newswire sign-up drive and contest, and we have already given away six of our ten no-cost tickets to West Coast Green. That means there are still four tickets left, so stake your claim! Sign up three friends for e-Newswire and you will receive a no-cost floor pass to the 2009 West Coast Green conference in San Francisco this October (normally $45 in advance, $50 at the door).

Simply ask your friends to write “Referred by your email address” in the “How did you learn about e-Newswire?” box when they sign up, and we will tally the numbers. Tell your friends to sign up today: and don’t miss out on the chance to see the great exhibits at this year’s West Coast Green.

CPUC Approves $350 Million for Utility Demand Response Programs Tue, 25 Aug 2009 22:28:24 +0000 Megan Toth On hot summer days, utilities may have to resort to using older, dirtier backup plants, demand response programs help avoid this. (Photo: Flickr)

Last Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to give the state’s three largest utilities approval to spend a total of nearly $350 million on energy saving demand-response measures. Edison International’s electric utility will spend around $188.8 million on demand response programs over the next three years, Pacific Gas and Electric around $109 million, and Sempra Energy’s electric utility around $51.6 million.

Demand response programs are a critical step in preventing global warming pollution. California’s peak daily power usage is generally somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 megawatts of electricity a day, but on extremely hot days when air-conditioning use is high, utilities must generate up to 50 percent more electricity. On these occasions, utilities are forced to employ the use of older, dirtier backup plants, known as ‘peaker plants’ that rely on fossil-fuels. The cost of reserving peaker plants for only a few hundred hours of service a summer can be more than one billion dollars annually.

By enrolling in demand response programs and cutting energy use during peak hours, business customers can help avoid the need for peaker plants, prevent rolling blackouts and contribute to cleaning California’s air.

Sempra Energy Holds $1 Million Environmental Contest for Non-Profits Tue, 25 Aug 2009 22:26:23 +0000 Megan Toth Non-profits will be awarded prizes for environmental stewardship in CA including natural resource conservation (Photo: Flickr)

The Sempra Energy Foundation is ready to give away $1 million to environmentally-focused non-profit organizations this fall, with their new Environmental Champions Awards program. Applicants must explain what they would do to ‘green’ Southern California if they were given prize money, and each winner will receive between $25,000 and $100,000.

The program was created as part of an effort to recognize the environmental efforts of Southern California organizations. “There are so many organizations doing valuable, forward-thinking work for our environment, we want to encourage those efforts that are judged to have the most far-reaching positive benefits,” explained Jessie Knight Jr., chairman of the Sempra Energy Foundation.

The deadline to apply is September 4 and non-profits can submit their applications online. Winners will be announced on October 1 and will be chosen in each of three categories: natural resource protection and conservation, environmental education and environmental health.

In addition, from now until September 4, all Sempra Energy employees will have an opportunity to donate funds to a select list of non-profit environmental organizations in Southern California, and the Sempra Energy Foundation will match the contribution dollar-for-dollar, up to $500 each.

Coolerado Air Conditioner Tests 80% More Efficient than Standard Units Tue, 25 Aug 2009 22:23:58 +0000 Megan Toth Image: Coolerado

Recent innovations in air conditioning technology could save customers over 50 percent on their cooling bills. Air conditioner manufacturer Coolerado recently won the Western Cooling Challenge, sponsored by UC Davis, with a unit designed specially for the hot, arid environments of the western U.S. While most air conditioners are actually designed for muggy climates of the East Coast, the Coolerado H-80 system uses a form of indirect evaporative cooling which humidifies outside air and then de-humidifies it through a series of plastic plates.

The innovation could prove to be a major tool in combating climate change in California, where air conditioning typically accounts for 30% of peak summer demand. According to Mark Modera, director of the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center, “…the Coolerado H-80 tests indicate almost 80 percent energy-use savings and over 60 percent peak-demand reduction.”

The H-80 was designed principally for light commercial buildings but Coolerado also offers models suitable for homes and other buildings, each with an EER (energy-efficiency ratio) of 40 or more.