February 5, 2009
There is one source of green energy that is far cheaper than the others, be it solar, wind, geothermal, or condensed camel-burps, and that is the humble negawatt – which had its birth when Amory Lovins’ mother mistyped the word “megawatt”.
A negawatt is a watt of energy saved through efficiency. When utilities invest in measures to help us reduce our use of power, such as rebates for the best appliances, or home retrofit programs, the cost can be as low as 2 - 4 cents per kilowatt hour saved, compared to 6 to 25 cents that people pay around the world, 8-9 cents for new wind power, and 50 cents for new solar PV.
Along with BC, California has the best policies. They have decoupled utility profits from sales, so they no longer lose profit if they persuade people to use less power.
Under the new law, if a utility persuades people to use less power, they keep some of the savings as profit - this should be adopted worldwide. In the US, only California and Idaho have such a rule, although four other states are considering it. Here in BC, we should do this for Terasen, Fortis, and other private utilities.
When it comes to appliances, Japan has the best policy. Their Top Runner Program requires the manufacturers of 21 appliances from TVs to vending machines to develop an overall average appliance efficiency that matches the most efficient product in the market; this has led to a 66% increase in air conditioning efficiency, and an 83% increase in computer efficiency.
For housing, Britain leads the pack, with a requirement that from 2016, all new buildings must be zero carbon, including the use of electricity.
We need a Global Energy Efficiency Agreement that will get all countries working together to realize the potential - which is to reduce our global electricity demand by 50-70%. Locally, BC Hydro is planning to invest $500 million by 2011 in a wide range of initiatives, including higher appliance standards, time of use metering, consumer education, funds for home renovations, rebates for efficient equipment, community engagement, and industry partnerships. The goal is to save 12,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, - 20% of what we consume today - for which they should be applauded.
First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.