Energy Efficiency, Net Zero, Plug-Ins & More Win-Win Opportunities

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With the United States of America’s ever-mounting trade and budget deficits, unemployment above 10 percent (and, dependent on counting, un- and under-employment above 20 percent), looming peak oil and other resource (water, for example) limitations, environmental challenges, and ever-mounting climate chaos , America faces a very serious situation.

In fact, to one degree or another, these same intertwined challenges (with the exception of trade/budget deficits for some countries) are those face by societies and nations throughout the globe in our networked, systems-of-systems global community.

These serious challenges are a networked system-of-systems that interact and reinforce each other. As we strive to stop digging the holes deeper and climb our way out, we can seek to deal with these challenges in a stove-piped manner or address them with W6 solutions that have wins across multiple arenas:

  • Move toward sustainable energy system
  • Create and protect jobs
  • Foster economic activity (cost effectively)
  • Strengthen long-term economic prospects
  • Address negative environmental impacts (from local pollution to acidification of the oceans)
  • Help mitigate climate change

As some are wont to say, crises create opportunities. One good piece of news, amid all the serious concerns that that list above should create for all of us (the US and globally), is the reality that many Win-Win-Win-Win-Win-Win (Win to the Sixth) opportunities lie before us, if we choose to seize them.

Very briefly, here are eight examples that meet these criteria:

Energy Efficiency: The “negawatt” and “negagallon” is the least expensive incremental power source available in the United States (and much of the world). At a cost of less than 4 cents per kilowatt hour, the United States could cut its power demand by over 20 percent over the coming decade (at less than half the cost of the cheapest new power source options).

A serious focus on energy efficiency would improve business competitiveness globally, reduce fossil fuel usage (and health impacts Greening Public Schools represents one of those ‘no-brainer’ actions that we should all embrace as it is potentially the only path to improve educational performance, improve youth health, improve community and global environment, create jobs, and strengthen local government financing (enabling money to spent on true educational costs (teacher salaries, supplies) rather than on over-paying to heat poorly insulated structures.

Financing Net Zero (& Lower Energy Demand) Building : As discussed here, Architecture 2030 developed The 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan that would create roughly nine million (yes, 9,000,000) jobs and several trillion dollars of building activity through a two-year, $192.47 billion program focused on using financial instruments to spark investment in energy efficiency in private buildings throughout the nation. Buildings account for roughly 40 percent of America’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This program would put a serious dent into that figure while skyrocketing the United States in a global leadership position in building energy efficiency.

Rail Electrification: A $100 billion federal commitment over the coming decade could spark a matching private sector investment that would cut perhaps ten percent of America’s oil use, more than paying for the total cost via reduced imported oil costs (without even considering the benefits through reduced pollution, etc …).

Rail electrification is occuring throughout the globe with the notable exception of the United States. More cargo can be moved with less energy and less pollution as a rail system is moved to electricity from diesel.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Buses : Current school buses get about 5.5 mpg of diesel. Conversion to PHESB improves this to about 11 mpg. Diesel fumes from school buses are a top threat to the health of America’s K-12 population. PHESBs cut diesel fume exposure by half or more.

In addition to helping cut America’s oil addiction (by 2020, a decent PHESB program could lead to a 0.5 day reduction in US oil demand (about 11 million barrels, year), PHESBs offer the opportunity for improved disaster services (imagine 5000 mobile generator / storage systems ready to move into the Gulf Coast from surrounding communities post Katrina), improving electricity energy efficiency (through having distributed power storage in PHESB parks).

DESERTEC: One of the most powerful images for a renewable energy future, a burning hot one we might suggest, is TREC, which is a grand vision for connecting solar power in North Africa, wind power from the Eastern Mediterranean to the North Sea, bio-mass, and hydropower with a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) system of power lines to provide assured renewable electricity for the Mediterranean basin and Europe.

This concept, which has seemed ever so Renewable Energy COOL to me from the first time I encountered it, looks to be moving down a path from fantastic innovative concept to potential reality as Europe is beginning investments that might total into the $100s of billions in the coming decades to make this a reality.

This system won’t necessarily just produce clean power, but a ‘waste’ product will be clean water than can support agriculture and local jobs. If connected to a serious bio-char/agro-char program for enriching the soil, this could lead to ever-increasing agricultural productivity in employment and water-starved regions while sequestering serious amounts of carbon. (Thus lowering emissions due to clean energy production and lowering CO2 levels via enhanced-natural sequestion: attacking the GHG problem from two ends.)

Imagine this in employment starved and conflict prone areas like Israel-Palestine or along the US-Mexico border.

Trent (OMEGA) Algae: This a developing OMEGA effort , led by Jonathan Trent of NASA, to make algae biofuel in a renewable energy process that will clean up sewage currently being dumped into the world’s oceans. There is also the potential that electrical power generation could be connected to the fuel production. (OMEGA Algae is still in testing, but is a great example of the looming Win to the Sixth opportunities there for the taking … if we would only choose to seize them.)

Concepts to provide multi-faceted solutions were core to Energize America from its earliest moments. How to ‘make the right choice, the easy and preferred choice’ with paths that would address energy, environmental, and economic challenges in a systems fashion rose to the top above stove-piped concepts. We must, as individuals and as a nation, pursue such Win to the Sixth opportunities or risk stove-piped approaches that seemingly solve one problem while exacerbating others.

Article by A. Siegel appearing courtesy of Celsias

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.