This is a link to a recent article from a leading energy marketing firm that discusses a multi-year decline in energy-saving improvements:

http://sheltongrp.com/files/2013/04/2013-Utility-Pulse-Release2.pdf

 

It would be interesting to hear members comments and their own view.

 

 

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In present form the number one reason HP is declining is it is way too complicated to get any job done. People do not like paperwrok, and government intervention as it is practiced today is purely paperwork.  

Get public money out of HP PLEASE!!!!   Let the conservatives gain power and make market forces create demand. 

But, at the same time stop subsidizing any energy.  No US Military running interference in the middle east, no politicians trying to pave the way.  Instantly fuel costs will create demand, government budgets get easier to balance, my price structure decreases about 17%, and more consumers get served better.    

 

As long as consumers can get free energy or CHEAP energy and the perception is all energy improvements must make payback, even with cheap energy, this market is doomed.  Adding the boatloads of paperwork only destroys more trees and adds administrative burden, which increases cost and further pollutes the payback calculations. 

Let the conservatives back in office  AND  stop subsidizing energy.....OK lets try to pull that one off.

Amen, make energy show it's true cost instead of subsidizing it.

We have some of the lowest energy costs to the consumer in the world, therefore little incentive to use less. Notice how things such as tankless water heaters, minisplits, and other energy tech has hit other countries decades before we get it here?

Subsidizing energy costs then subsidizing energy retrofits makes for a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. Voting Libertarian will help get the government out of the energy business and a lot of other things as well.

The press report really doesn't give enough information to clearly answer why  they are seeing those numbers.  However for four of the six bullets I can suggest reasonable possibilities.

1. Replacing incandescent lightbulbs with CFL's or LED's

    -> The consumer believes the LED's are still too expensive

    -> They do not like the color of the CFL's, the switches are on dimmers,  they saw high failure rates from TURNING OFF the lightbulbs when they left the rooms

    -> They are using halogen spots -- CFL's would be inadequate replacements,  LED's were not available..

    -> They are waiting for the bulbs to burn out, e.g. the light isn't turned on very often.

    -> The power costs less than the lightbulb.

2. Adding sealing, caulking, weatherstripping....

    ->  They did this already -- just a couple of years ago

    ->  After the last round of improvements they made, they saw improvements and don't think that they will see anymore

    ->  They don't realize they have leaks

3. Purchasing Energystar appliances are down.

    ->  no money

    -> they replaced the appliances in the last go around in 2009

    -> they are not seeing large enough improvements in the current appliances to spend the money.  (If they had replaced them in 2006/2007 the gains may be small)

4. Almost 70% haven't changed their water heater settings to save energy

    ->  Many of the heaters come pre-set at 120,  You DO NOT want to drop lower than this for a hotwater heater without some careful planning.  Read up on legionella and hotwater heaters.  120 is a reasonable temp, lower and you increase odds of having bacteria grow. 

    -> This one is hard to understand, because it sounds like some heaters are being installed at 130 or 140,  I think that is  uncommon -- or if they are set that high - the INSTALLER changed them and told the owner to leave the setting alone.  

The last  "50% of americans don't unplug chargers"  - I am guilty of that -- but I've also measured the chargers with both a kill-a-watt and a more expensive Fluke current transformer - meter combination.  The five or six chargers individually are in the noise level for my energy consumption.  Well below what a kill-a-watt can accurately measure,  combined together they total perhaps three or four watts.  Since there are multiple family members using those same chargers - it is easier to leave them on and in an agreed to location.

40% don't use energy saving thermostats --  for this we need a good definition of energy saving thermostats, what the agreeable settings and times would be.  This depends a lot on the demographics -- location, age, and income levels.... I have had co-workers that set their (heat mode) temperature at 65 degrees - and it sits there day and night.  If they are cold they put on a sweater -- no air conditioning.  I know of seniors that keep their thermostats set at 73 degrees nearly year round because they get cold.    Thermostats are intended to maintain comfort level,  so that must be defined first - and it is subjective. Not enough info in the press release to determine how the survey was done.

The frustration on not seeing reductions in their energy bills is understandable -- but part of the problem is if they are changing/modifying the small energy using items - while leaving the large energy devices untouched - they will not see any change.  Unplugging chargers -- while leaving two refrigerators, a deep freezer, and using base board electric heating - will result in no measurable changes!!

And then finally there is the case that I've seen with our water bills,  we've significantly cut our water consumption over the last five years, to nearly 1/3... so you'd think the bill would be going down correct?  It is staying flat, that is because the water/sewer are on the same bill and we are already in the "super conserve" group.  That means we are basically paying a base rate.  Changes we make in consumption will no longer lower our bill and in fact it will go up with inflation as the base rate increases.

Sometimes you need to look at the energy consumption not from one month to the next, or one year to the next, but comparing the use from six or seven years ago - to the current consumption.  Then the little things that have been accumulating  will show up as larger savings.

You make some valid points, especially with the base rate charges. Increasing the base rate instead of the rate per unit of consumption actually decreases the incentive to save energy. The local corporation commissions should work to reduce/eliminate base rate charges or at least make utilities itemize them on the bill so people can see how much they are paying.

IMHO the next big thing for electric rates is time of use pricing. Rates that vary according to time of day is a game changer as far as energy savings goes. This makes programmable thermostats worth a 2nd look.

I think that most homeowners lack proper education on the proper way to achieve significant reduction in energy cost as a result of upgrades to improve energy efficiency.  They fail to do enough improvments or fail to do the improvements in the right order to see major savings in energy costs.

 

Studies show that homeowners need to make 4 major Home Improvements to See Big Savings in Energy Costs

 

        You need to make at least four energy efficiency home improvements to see a considerable drop in your utility bills, according experts on retrofits that focus on home energy efficiency. While four is the “magic number,” the studies show that most Americans might believe just a couple of home energy improvements will do the trick.     The study found that Americans who completed an average of four major energy-efficient improvements, such as adding insulation, sealing air leaks, or installing new energy efficient equipment, noticed a decrease in their monthly utility bills.

However, the average number of energy-efficient home improvements undertaken by the sample was 2.6 – not enough to make a big difference on utility bills.  Experts say that most Americans who invest in energy efficiency expect to make two or three small changes and see results on their utility bills – when they don’t, they lose motivation to make more energy-efficient improvements.

 Problems that may occur when you address only one thing at a time:

  • Attic insulation seems like a good idea all by itself, but it’s not. Before any insulation is installed, it’s very important to air seal the penetrations and joints in the attic-to-upper floor assembly (the “attic plane”). If the attic plane leaks air during cooler months, moisture and later mold will accumulate in the attic as warm, humid indoor air drifts upward into that space.
  • Changing older HVAC equipment for “higher efficiency” models does not save energy when the air distribution system is poor. There’s not much point in installing “high efficiency” HVAC equipment if the rest of the system throws away 45% of that equipment’s capacity (as documented by the 80-home field measurement project referenced earlier).

So to get big results, one needs to do big projects, redesigning and reinstalling each energy feature of the home in an integrated way and in a logical sequence.

 

 

I agree with a lot of what is written here, but I think too much of the time HP Pro's get so stuck on the pro part they forget the HP trade craft stuff. You don't need a computer model and neutral third party over site to realize a LED saves energy over an incandescent, uninsulated surfaces need insulation, a dryer shouldn't vent into a basement, and air sealing is necessary when insulation is done. All of those and many others are routine items. A blower door before and after is great for reference. Combustion safety testing is a necessary part of jobs to keep clients safe. If we could agree to do those simple things and subject all work to third party inspection, then we would get a lot more done in a lot less time and we all would be more profitable. Use these craftsmen as craftsmen. Don't try to change them into computer geeks and business magnates. AND PAY THEM TO BE CRAFTSMEN. too many of the true Craftsmen in this business move to jobs as administrators or trainers because they realize that is where the money really is.

Pat, I think you and I agree on a LOT of things.  

One thing I don't want to see is more administration costly administrative costs, particularly where creating competition for excellence (by simply tracking and publishing results) may have even better effect.  

Use these results a few times to create "smart trust", sell bigger jobs with less effort because consumers see you can deliver and that you have skin in the game of delivering for them, and it'll very quickly become obvious that past results make future sales monumentally easier.  

Track projected to actual.  Rank according to ability to deliver, and ability to deliver on promise.  

http://bit.ly/febcontractorupdate

How about a program that gives rewards based upon quality of work delivered, not simply number of jobs?  

Anybody think US DoE has some priority confusion in how they define "Outstanding Contributions"?  

http://bit.ly/2013hpwesrewards

The first 2 answers by Tom and Sean jive with my thinking and experience. Thank you Don for expressing the idea that govt has to get out of both subsidizing energy costs and rebating energy improvements. In New England where I work I feel like I am the only energy professional that thinks this way. Many of my colleagues are busy lobbying the govt for more funds and incentives and I want them all dropped. When these incentives were first established in the 1970's it was to promote and encourage new energy saving technologies in a weak market. Over 30 years later it is time to drop the incentives, if the market can't stand on its own now it never will. This long period of incentives has created a cultural expectation that energy services need to be free or heavily subsidized before even being considered. Nobody would ever say " No, I think I can get a a free iphone instead of the one you are offering, I'll wait until the free one comes around." but that is routine when it comes to energy services. The expectation has been set by years of govt programs. Still, there are many organizations that thrive under the current system namely the larger non profits so there will be significant resistance to change. But in terms of good paying green jobs even the large non profits struggle to create more of those under the present system.

I think that government support for good ideas results in major benefits over the long haul.

Please review the lessons of good government investments from USA history.

The USA developed a world class leading railroad system because the USA gave away free land to railroads and towns to build the railroad network across the USA.

The Interstate Highway system in the USA was modeled after the Nazi Germany system.  Major federal funds were invested and continue to be invested so that we can travel freely, at low cost, especially compared to other nations.

Air transportation in the USA is supported by major tax dollars going to support Airports and other air transportation related investments. 

I think the science and public appreciation of energy efficiency in buildings and homes is still in its infancy.  We need to continue to invest in energy efficiency in buildings because this has a major profitable return on investment in terms of energy savings, job creation, and more importantly improvement in health of the occupants.

Most people still do not understand the great value of investing in energy efficiency in buildings.  Remember, they did not understand years ago the value of a good railroad network, a good highway network, or the value of air transportation.

If you ever worked in a sick building owned or leased by a government agency you would better understand the need for the government to invest in energy efficiency.

Many people complain about the increasing cost of health care. However they do not realize that a lot of health care problems are the result of people living in substandard buildings that could be fixed as a result of efforts to improve the buildings to increase home energy efficiency and at the same time improve the environmental health of the building.

Look back at history.  It takes a lot of time for the masses to change behavior.  These things take time. 

If the USA had invested the same amount of money in improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings that we spent fighting the War in Iraq to get lower cost oil, where would we be now?  Only God knows. 

 

 

 

Ben,  the German highway system concept actually started BEFORE Nazi Germany during  the  Weimar Republic.

John,

While ending subsidies and incentives for energy improvements would seem like a simple idea - its worth remembering that we (the government) is still supporting preferential tax treatment for the VERY mature fossil fuel and power industries.  The preferential tax treatment (that's the term the Congressional Budget Office uses) reduces the incentives for many to conserve.  

Stopping both energy production preferential tax incentives and the energy efficiency incentives - puts many homeowners most at risk - in even greater risk.  Census results from 2010 and the analysis - pretty much show that the population is aging - while at the same time the available income (jobs, pensions, etc) for the population over 55 is decreasing.  Very few of us want to see the return of the 1920's in which our parents and grandparents   are living in cold shanties and trying to keep warm anyway they can.

The EIA  (US Energy Information Agency), noted in an April 2013 report this year that home energy costs are the eighth largest budget item for the average home - but the good news is that the share has been steadily dropping since 1973.  When the amount of money spent on the energy needs of the household drop - there is now more money available to spend on other goods and services.  That helps to grow the overall economy.

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=10891

As for the incentives,  if economic stimulus isn't the justification (as in the last round), then the politicians and regulators are generally looking at "avoided costs"    Avoided costs  - include the need for new power generation plants,  new power lines, importing energy from abroad (with the associated military support risks).  If new power plants and lines need to be sited in areas that do not already have right of ways -- avoided costs also means not needing to spend public money for the siting hearings - or the use of imminent domain to acquire the rights to the land.

Finally not all incentives are coming from the government,  some are coming from the investor owned utilities - funded by the avoided costs savings... it's sometimes hard to accept - until you remember that on the spot energy markets the cost for ONE kWhr could run as high as $9!!!!.  Texas for example raised the spot energy cap to $9,000/MWhr -- since the utility may only billing residential customersat $0.50kWhr during those peak shortages - it means the purchase of energy on the spot market really hurts THEIR bottom lines.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-06-28/texas-may-increase-wholes...

http://www.ferc.gov/market-oversight/mkt-electric/texas.asp

http://www.ercot.com/news/press_releases/show/26406    <--  $9000/MWhr wholesale cap!

http://www.ercot.com/content/news/presentations/2013/2012%20Long%20...

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