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Published on March 6th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

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How To Cut Carbon Pollution By 80% In 4 Simple Steps

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March 6th, 2014 by
 

By Daniel Sosland, President of ENE (Environment Northeast), and Jamie Howland, Director of ENE Clean Center

Global warming is real, and it’s wreaking havoc across the country. Especially frigid weather is forcing consumers to burn through fuel fast. Many homeowners and the aid agencies that they turn to are finding themselves in dire need. Winter heating is one of top energy demands that home and business owners face, and while short-term aid can help in emergencies, a long-term, high-level solution is desperately needed.

Image Credit: dclerch.

Finding a long-term solution is less daunting than it may seem. In fact, moving to an energy system of tomorrow can be accomplished by leveraging clean, local resources; putting the consumer at the center; and maximizing efficiency.

The long-term solution is based upon four interdependent areas, which together will help produce a cleaner, lower-cost energy system. This synergistic approach uses policies and technologies that actually are already in place—we just need to more efficiently connect the dots. According to recent analysis, underutilized connections between these four areas hold great potential for dramatic improvements to our energy system, the economy, and the environment:

  1. Electrification: Assume for a magical moment that all of the homes and cars switched from fossil fuels to electric technologies, such as high-efficiency heat pumps and electric cars. Greenhouse gas emissions in areas such as New England from those sources would fall by 50%—immediately. The benefits would be huge to regional businesses and homeowners. For example, taking the simple step of installing heat pumps and electric hot water heat pumps can cut a homeowner’s fuel needs in half and cut costs by an equal amount.
  1. Modernizing the Grid: Efficiency investments have already freed up capacity in the regional power grid, allowing for nearly $500 million in proposed transmission lines to be deferred or cancelled. Those savings show up on customers’ bills. Rethinking and reshaping our grid and planning policies to allow cleaner, localized energy resources will save customers even more, and give them greater control over how they receive and use energy.
  1. Clean Energy Supply: The benefits of electrification will increase as we move toward cleaner sources of power. Current and emerging technology is making this more viable. The cost of solar energy fell by 60% between 2010 and 2012, and recent studies in Massachusetts for example show that there is huge potential to expand solar PV installation in the state.
  1. Maximizing Energy Efficiency: Smarter appliances and controls allow home and business owners to take charge of their energy use, and state policies are pushing huge investments in the direction of efficiency upgrades. For instance, six New England states have invested over $3.3 billion in energy efficiency that will save over 124,000 GWh. These energy savings will deliver $19.5 billion dollars in economic benefits and 51.3 million metric tons of avoided greenhouse gas emissions.

Turning back the dial on climate change is no easy task, especially with the persistent weather challenges such as deep freezes and wild storms that we’re up against. Taken together, the suite of policies and technologies available today can make a real difference in moving us to a secure, affordable, and sustainable energy future. With measures to electrify, modernize, clean up and conserve, we can take control of GHG emissions and make the substantive changes that scientists and leaders have promoted.

About the Authors

Daniel Sosland, President and CEO of ENE

Daniel Sosland is president and CEO of ENE, a regional non-profit research and advocacy organization he co-founded in 1999.  Under his direction, ENE has grown to a staff of 15 professional advocates, one of the largest teams of climate and energy policy specialists in the Northeast, working from offices in Portland and Rockport, Maine, Boston, Providence, Hartford and Ottawa, ON, Canada.  ENE has successfully advanced the adoption of comprehensive energy, climate and clean air policies through legislation, regulatory proceedings, regional initiatives and publications that identify priority policy solutions for adoption, including the Climate Change Roadmap for New England and Eastern Canada and Climate Change Roadmap for Connecticut. Recently ENE released “EnergyVision: A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future,” which provides a framework for adopting a fully integrated and low-carbon energy system based on data from the Northeast that is applicable on a national level. EnergyVision is part of a series of ENE reports that focus on how states and regions can address the challenge of climate while improving economic and consumer benefits.

Jamie Howland, Director, ENE-CLEAN Center

Jamie leads ENE’s Climate & Energy Analysis Center (ENE-CLEAN). His work as a policy analyst focuses on data management on energy markets and emissions trends, buildings and land use issues.  A Connecticut native, Jamie is based in ENE’s Hartford office and brings many years of experience in engineering and consulting to ENE’s energy and emissions data research and reporting.  He previously worked as a design engineer in the medical device industry and as a consultant for Hewlett-Packard.  He also served as an intern at Audubon International.  Jamie holds a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School Forestry and Environmental Studies, a Masters of Engineering from Yale, and an MBA and a BS in engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. (jhowland@env-ne.org)

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  • Tom Gray

    And the cost of wind power has dropped by 43% over the past four years. For more info: http://aweablog.org/blog/post/wall-street-journal-highlights-cost-competitiveness-of-new-wind-projects

  • Matt

    One of the hard issue is how to get NRG efficiency done in older homes. Which are owned either by older people or low income house holds. Both have little free income. These tend to be the ones with the biggest payback. That “deferred or cancelled” grid upgrades could have been much large if you can crack that nut. Same with many multiple family homes/apartments. The landlord owns the equipment (heat/AC/hot water), but does not always pay for running them.

    So while conceptual simple, invest to make existing building efficient, the implement is harder. There are 10-20 year old studies that show the bottom 1/3-2/3 of the carbon reductions save money (likely higher now); but they also point to this being the sticking point. The best spot sometime have the cost and saving/benefit not being the same pocket book. That was really the source of some of the First Fuel Fund proposals.

    • Doug

      The government subsidizes fuel in the northeast for low income housing. Why are taxpayers paying for that rather than efficiency?

  • Rick Kargaard

    Doesn,t seem simple to to me, but mnay be possible with enough time and inestment.

    • Michael B

      It is simple, but not easy.

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