electricity

Saving Energy and Money: Go Team Go!

Cross-posted from “It’s All Starts with Science”

Introduction By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

We know that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. That’s why, today, we announced that 21 small businesses in 14 states are receiving funding from the EPA to develop and commercialize innovative, sustainable technologies to address current environmental issues. Read more about one recipient, also a former winner of our agency’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet award, whose company is challenging kids to get involved and spurring competition to lower energy consumption in schools.

By Lek Kadeli

Spirited competition between local schools is a time honored tradition. From the football and soccer teams to the debate club, nothing beats taking on your arch rival to spark school spirit, get the neighbors talking, and build community pride.

That spirit of competition has helped schools here in the District of Columbia save more than 76,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, thanks to Lucid—an EPA-supported small business started by previous winners of the agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award.

The schools vied to see which could most dramatically reduce their energy consumption as part of the three-week “Sprint to Savings” competition. The DC Green Schools Challenge set up the competition to help schools conserve energy and save money while “engaging students in real-world learning opportunities.”

To monitor their progress and take action, students used Lucid’s “Building Dashboard,” a software program that monitors a building’s energy and water consumption in real time and presents that information in easy-to-understand graphic displays on computer screens or other devices.

Students were able to use Building Dashboard installed at their schools to gauge their progress in 15-minute intervals and help the school take corrective action, such as switching lights off when not needed, shutting down unused computers and monitors, and turning the heat down after hours. A District-wide leader board helped them keep an eye on the competition.

The idea for a data monitoring display system begin when the now principal partners of Lucid were students at Oberlin College. In 2005, their prototype won an EPA P3 Award. The P3 program is an annual student design competition that supports undergraduate and graduate student teams to research and design innovative, sustainable methods and products that solve complex environmental problems. Since then, there’s been no looking back!

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Lucid is among 20 other small businesses—including two other former P3 winners—selected to receive funding as part of the EPA’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. The program was designed to support small businesses in the commercialization as well as the research and development of technologies that encourage sustainability, protect human health and the environment, and foster a healthy future. Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, and SimpleWater, LLC are the other two former P3 winning teams.

Thanks to Lucid, Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, SimpleWater, LLC and the other innovative small businesses we are supporting today, winning ideas are bringing products to the marketplace that protect our environment while sparking economic growth. I’ll bet that even arch rivals can agree that’s a win for everyone.

About the Author: Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator in the Agency’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Earth Month Tip: Plug electronics into a power strip

Even when turned off, electronic and IT equipment often use a small amount of electricity. U.S. households spend approximately $100 per year to power devices while they are in a low power mode — roughly 8 percent of household electricity costs.

Nationwide, it is estimated that standby power accounts for more than $11 billion in annual U.S. energy costs! Using a power strip for your computer and all peripheral equipment allows you to completely disconnect the power supply from the power source, eliminating standby power consumption and cutting carbon pollution.


More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Month Tip: Power down


Did you know U.S. households spend approximately $100 per year to power devices not in use? That’s roughly 8 percent of household electricity costs.

Nationwide, the total electricity consumed by electronics while idle equals the annual output of 12 power plants. Powering down electronics not in use will help save you money and prevent carbon pollution.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reliable and Affordable Energy

With the severe winter of 2014 as a backdrop, there have been questions about the future affordability and reliability of electricity. But what’s so often missing from this discussion is the reality that technological and economic transitions in the power sector are modernizing our nation’s electricity system. The result?  Clean, affordable energy for generations to come.

As part of this change-over, older coal-burning plants are already being phased out. Some people still wonder whether EPA is to blame for these closures. But the reality is that power plant retirements are business decisions to move away from investing in aging facilities, many of which are more than 50 years old, do not control pollution, and are almost never run anywhere near full capacity. Other factors like low natural gas prices relative to other fuels and slow growth in demand for electricity also contribute to these market-driven business decisions.

We have seen significant progress in the power sector — all while keeping our businesses and homes powered up and our economy growing. For example, new and improved technologies — including more efficient and responsive natural gas plants, lower renewable energy costs, energy efficiency advances, and smart grid growth — are creating innovative ways to generate, transmit, and use electricity.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Going Off The Grid

By Lina Younes

The other night, I was flipping channels when I stumbled upon a reality show that piqued my interest. It featured a family that had decided to go completely off the grid.

I was intrigued as to why people in the 21st century would purposely choose to live like the early pioneers. No electricity. No running water. Sewing their own clothes or buying second hand clothes at thrift shops, making their own candles and the like. The father basically made a living performing with his family at community events. They had no special equipment – just a guitar and their voices, of course.

Personally, I can’t imagine living without electric power and running water. I’ve seen how living without electricity for several hours during a blackout basically paralyzes a family. I’ve also seen how much adults and children have become too dependent on electronics. In my opinion, many times these gadgets interfere with our ability to simply step back, engage in outdoor activities and enjoy our natural surroundings. On a personal level, the show definitely made me think about this issue. I’m not advocating in any way to turn the clock back to the era of the pioneers. Nonetheless, shouldn’t we be more thoughtful and deliberate when buying things?

At EPA, we have several programs to encourage you to be more mindful of the use of natural resources, saving energy, conserving water and the like. Have you heard about EPA’s Energy Star program? Have you heard of our WaterSense Program that helps you to reduce your water use through water efficient products? And how about the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

By going green today, we can all work to have a more sustainable tomorrow. Have you taken a green action today? As always, we would love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Black History: Craig Hooks

As an African American scientist managing the administrative arm of the agency, I am keenly aware of my unusual background, professional journey and the successes of African Americans who have contributed to environmental protection and energy efficiencies and EPA’s progress in sustainability. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida and a Masters degree in Oceanography from the Texas A&M University. I worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a physical scientist prior to joining EPA in the mid 1980s.

At EPA, I worked in a variety of organizations including the enforcement and the water offices. In 2009, then-Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asked me to serve as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Administration and Resources Management. I was honored and excited about this opportunity. OARM provides national leadership, policy, and management of many essential support functions for the agency, including human resources management, acquisition activities, grants management, and management and protection of EPA’s facilities and other critical assets nationwide. I also serve as the agency’s Senior Sustainability Officer, providing leadership in implementing Executive Order 13514 which is aimed at improving Federal environmental, energy and economic performance.

It is EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. Environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive. African Americans with noteworthy accomplishments in environmental protection helped pave the way for EPA’s progress. For example, George Carruthers invented the far ultraviolet camera/spectrograph in 1969. It was plated in gold and carried aboard the Apollo 16 mission, where it was placed on the moon’s surface. The camera used ultraviolet light, invisible to the naked eye, to capture high-quality images of Earth. Carruthers’ invention helped scientists see how air pollution forms, allowing them to develop new ways to control air pollution. Clarence L. Elder, head of his own research and development firm in Baltimore, was awarded a patent in 1976 for a monitoring and control energy conservation system. His “Occustat” is designed to reduce energy waste in temporarily vacant homes and other buildings, and especially useful for hotels and school rooms.

I am especially proud to share the many successes EPA has achieved in the sustainability area. EPA scored green in every category for the 2011 and 2012 OMB Sustainability/Energy scorecards, demonstrating the success of the agency’s long-term, comprehensive approach to sustainability. EPA is a leading agency in sustainability in the federal government and only one of two (GSA being the other) agency to achieve green in all categories for two years in a row. Additionally, EPA is again leading the government by being green in 2013.

Through increased video conferencing, EPA was able to reduce green house gas emissions associated with air travel by 46 percent in FY 2012 compared to FY 2008. And employees increased their average telework hours per pay period by 35.3 percent compared to the previous year and by 136.4 percent compared to FY 2009. Due to several major energy projects and mechanical system upgrades, EPA reduced its FY 2012 energy intensity by 23.7 percent compared to its FY 2003 baseline. In FY 2012, EPA achieved a non-hazardous solid waste diversion rate of 63 percent, far exceeding the EO 13514 target of a 50 percent diversion rate by FY 2015.

And EPA continues lead federal agencies by purchasing green power and renewable energy certificates equal to 100 percent of its annual electricity use.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Vacation: Culture, Architecture, and Saving Electricity

Jessica in Segovia, Spain

By Jessica Orquina

I recently returned from a trip to Spain. It is a beautiful country with varied landscapes and strong traditions. In addition to enjoying the country’s culture, architecture, and different regional foods, I was intrigued by the ways hotels and businesses in that country save energy. Since beginning to work for the EPA last winter, I have become more aware of how people and organizations around me protect the environment.

During our trip, my husband and I visited a few different regions of Spain. Of course, all of the hotels we stayed at encouraged guests to reuse towels for multiple days to not waste water. But some of the hotels also had a cool way to reduce the amount of electricity being wasted at their properties. In these hotel rooms, we needed to put the room keycard in a slot in the wall to turn on the electricity to the room. When we took the keycard out of the slot to leave the room, it automatically turned the lights and all other electrical devices off, therefore, not wasting electricity when no one was there.

This seemingly small feature made me wonder how many people don’t bother turning lights and televisions off in hotel rooms when they go out. (It’s not their electric bill, so why worry, right?) In addition to creating unnecessary monetary costs, this also creates an avoidable cost on the environment. I wonder why more hotels around the world don’t use this type of technology.

In addition, this experience reminded me how important it is to be conscious that all our actions affect the environment. Even small things – like remembering to always turn the lights and other electronic devices off when we walk out of a room – make a difference.

What technologies or practices that help protect the environment have you seen when you travel?

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a public affairs specialist at another federal agency and is a former military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Looking For Ideas On How To Celebrate Earth Day?

By Shanshan Lin

Looking for ways to demonstrate your commitment to protecting the environment this Earth Day? There are plenty of ways you can help save energy, reduce the pollution in our air, and protect our climate for decades to come. Here are some of my favorite tips that my EPA colleagues recommend for making a difference at home, school, or work.

  • Change a Light! The average home has approximately 30 light fixtures. By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $70 each year. If every American home did this, we would save $8 billion each year in energy costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 10 million cars!
  • Reduce your carbon footprint! Leaving your car at home twice a week can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1,600 pounds per year. Save up errands and shopping trips so you need to drive fewer times. If you commute to work, ask if you can work from home at least some days, and you’ll reduce air pollution and traffic congestion – and save money.
  • It’s electric! You can check how much of your electricity comes from clean, renewable sources, such as wind or solar. Green power produces less carbon emissions, reduces air pollution, and helps protect against future costs or scarcity of fossil fuels. If green power is a consumer option, check price differences from suppliers before you buy.
  • Breathe easy! On unhealthy air pollution “action alert” days, wait to mow your lawn until it’s cooler in the evening or early the next morning. You help reduce air pollution for everyone near you if you run gas-powered equipment, like lawn mowers, when it’s cooler. You also protect your health by avoiding ground-level ozone during the warmest part of the day. Check your air quality now.

You can find more suggestions at Environmental Tips, but don’t limit yourself to these suggestions. If you have a unique way to celebrate Earth Day, share your tip with us!

About the author: Shanshan Lin is an intern for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation communications team. She is also a graduate student at George Washington University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Too Dependent on Electricity

Inspired by my friend and colleague’s blog post, Snowed Under in our Green House, I decided to focus this blog on the main event of the larger Washington metropolitan area this week—the massive snowstorms and blizzards. Due to the inclement weather, the area was virtually paralyzed for days. Many schools systems, businesses, and government agencies remain closed.

While we were snowed in at home, the power went off intermittently. One day we were without power for a span of 15 hours! During that long stretch without electricity, we had no heat and, of course, no functioning appliances. Our only lifeline to the outside world was a battery-operated radio. I must note that thanks to the green repairs we made to our home last year, the temperature in the house stayed relatively stable even without heat during that blackout. While it did cool down after 12 hours without power, it was nothing that an extra layer of clothing couldn’t handle.

While we were snowed in, I realized how dependent we have become on electricity for home entertainment. We take for granted the fact that we cannot use our television sets, computers, the Internet, electronic toys, rechargeable batteries, wireless technology without electricity. As a family we rediscovered some traditional forms of entertainment like board games to pass the time. My youngest even read several books on her own initiative. Not a bad lesson during the blizzard of 2010.

Nonetheless, I would like to leave you with some advice for future snow and ice storms. Try to have the necessary supplies well in advance so you don’t have to venture out unnecessarily during inclement weather. Use generators and other combustion appliances wisely. Stay safe.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Where Does My Electricity Come From?

One of the marvels of the modern age is the availability of reliable electricity. You do not have to go back many generations to find individuals who grew up on farms or communities without electricity. Ask your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents if they remember life before the Rural Electrification Act of 1935 when only 10% of rural residents had electricity. Or maybe you have experienced being without power for a few hours after a thunderstorm or even for days and weeks following a hurricane.

On most days and nights, if you need electricity to read by or use your computer all you have to do is flip a switch or push a button. But do you know where your electricity comes from? What is the fuel source to your power company?

image of electricity transformer towerOf course, almost all power companies rely on a combination of fuel sources: coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, other renewables, or petroleum. In that way, they can shield the consumers and stockholders from large shifts in the prices of commodities and construction for facilities. But a great deal of information on electricity production (residential and industrial) is available from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration .

Twenty states (WV, IN, KY, WY, ND, UT, OH, MO, NM, KS, IO, NE, MI, CO, WI, GA, MN, MD, NC, and TN) generate more than 50% of their electricity from coal. In fact, more than 90% of the power in West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and Wyoming is from coal. Only 5 states (RI, NV, FL, MA, and AK) use natural gas for over 50% of their electrical generation. And of those states, only Alaska is a natural gas production state. The others must depend on natural gas transmission pipelines or liquefied natural gas import terminals.

Nuclear power is generated in the fewest number of states and only 5 states (VT, CT, NJ, SC, and IL) generate over 50% of their electricity from this source. Hydroelectric power generates electricity to some extent in a number of states. Over 50% of the power in WA, ID, OR, SD, and MT is from hydroelectric and it is over 85% in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

Almost all states have some level of electricity generation from renewable fuels other than hydroelectric, including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. While the use of other renewables is not at 50% in any state yet, over 10% of the electricity in Maine, Iowa, Minnesota and California is generated from this fuel source category.

Petroleum-fired power plants produce the smallest amount of America’s electricity. And the only state with greater than 50% of generation in this manner is Hawaii, where over 82% of the electricity comes from petroleum-fired sources.

Depending on where you live and the manner in which electricity in your state is regulated, you may have a choice of electricity provider or fuel source. Contact your state’s Public Service Commission or State Energy Conservation Office to learn more about your power options.

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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