EPA Carbon Rules Create Firestorm

Coal Fired Power Plant

Whether you believe the EPA’s carbon standards will have a positive impact on this country’s economy or a negative one, it’s hard to deny the environmental benefits they will cause.  The EPA announced earlier this month they were investing effort into reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants.  These rules are new, but the laws are not—due to political pressure, the Obama administration has chosen to create the rules and enforce the law.

The new carbon rules, which the EPA unveiled on Monday, June 2nd, are directly modeled after the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a market-based regulatory program in the North East to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.  All New England states participate, along with New York, Delaware and Maryland.  RGGI, the first program of its kind in the United States, auctions carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances, also known as carbon credits.  A carbon credit is a term for a tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one ton of CO2 or other greenhouse gas equivalent to one ton of CO2Proceeds from auctions benefit energy efficiency programs in the region, for example, a great partner of ours, Efficiency Maine.

Last Friday, June 6th, was an important day for Maine’s growing green economy.  Over 200 people gathered with Senator Angus King to celebrate Maine’s Climate progress and the new EPA carbon standards.  Joining Senator King were Maine business and community leaders, the Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bob Perciasepe, Economist Charlie Colgan and others.

Senator King impressed upon attendees that, “Countless scientific reports have sounded the alarm on global warming, and right here in Maine we continue to see the impacts every day.  The facts are simply undeniable: climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and it poses a significant threat to public health and to our state’s and the nation’s economic livelihood.”

Climate change is a severe threat to Maine’s economy, and as Charlie Colgan explained, the EPA regulations are important to Maine for myriad reasons; Colgan states, “[The proposed EPA regulations] would reduce Maine’s electricity price disadvantage compared with other parts of the U.S., enhancing our economy’s competitiveness […] Maine and New England are very well prepared to meet the new regulations quickly and efficiently because we helped design the model for the national policy […] climate change is a clear and present danger for Maine that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.”  As the easternmost state, we’re particularly vulnerable to carbon pollution.  Bar Harbor, for example, has some of the highest recorded concentrations of ozone, due to pollution piggybacking on the jet stream.

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, climate change has been acknowledged by all political parties.  Even the Pentagon recognizes climate change as a national security threat, along with many businesses including General Electric, Wal-Mart, and Nike.  Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream are supporters of reducing greenhouse gases, as they, “know how messy things get when they melt.”  Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the EPA, says of the new standards, “This is not about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps.  It’s about protecting our health and our homes.  This is about protecting local economies and jobs.”

An additional 565 gigatons of CO2 is an approximate 20% increase of current levels, which will result in a 2°C (3.6°F) rise in the average global temperature.  At that point, we’ll have significant and irreversible planetary damage.  Both ice caps will have melted, elevating the sea level and widespread drought will lead to famine, animal extinction and widespread human despair.  Alarmingly, publicly traded global energy companies currently report 2,795 gigatons of CO2 in their balance sheets—five times more than the disaster limit.Fossil Fuels Disaster Limin

Implementation of a national carbon credit system would effectively determine who wants to pay to pollute.  For example, General Motors has recently purchased $500,000.00 worth of carbon credits from the University of Illinois, and since 2010, they have reduced 7.7 million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere.  They purchase the credits so they are no longer on the market and to minimize their carbon footprint as well.

In an effort to burn cleaner fuel and save money, we’ve seen a rush to convert to natural gas over the last year.  Due to limited pipeline availability and demand from Europe, prices and shortages are on the rise.  Though the U. S. does not currently export natural gas, the US Energy Department has begun issuing permits to American companies to export, starting in 2015.  Six out of twenty one applications to build port facilities in the US to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been approved.  Currently US natural gas prices are one-third the cost what they are in Europe.  The “landed” price for LNG in Europe will still be roughly 50% cheaper than Russian gas, improving their economic and political security.

There are a multitude of steps that can be taken to shrink your carbon footprint that won’t significantly impact your daily life, and a lot of them start with your HVAC system.  If you’re unable to completely replace your equipment, make sure the system you currently have in place is maintained by a professional.  In Energy Star’s guide to energy efficient heating and cooling, they express the importance of system maintenance.  They go on to say that the average household spends more than $2,200 annually on energy bills, and the typical commercial building spends 40% of its energy on HVAC, and the other 20% on lighting.

Sadly, we find that less than 1 out of 20 buildings maintain their systems to the minimum industry consensus standards.  Worse is that those non-compliant buildings usually perform less than 25% of the minimum preventive maintenance tasks, and resort to “belts and filters” approach.

Give the Experts a call at 1 (800) 649-4197.  We’ll keep your system running at industry standards, and help reduce your greenhouse emissions.

 

Dan

 

Dan Thayer, P. E.

President, Thayer Corporation

The Importance of Knowing Your Building’s “MPG”

The Importance of Knowing Your Building’s “MPG”

Building Benchmarking is like finding your car's MPG.

Energy usage benchmarking is an invaluable tool that is lowering energy costs and increasing value for thousands of buildings around the country.  The most well-known and utilized program is the Energy Star Program run by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program provides an accurate comparison to both industry averages as well as “best in class” spaces that earn the Energy Star credential.  It works is by entering 13 months of all-energy usage along with other critical details about your building/space into a sophisticated cloud-based computer program.  Your building is then compared to thousands of other buildings that are similar.  The Energy Star Program has been in existence for decades and claims to have a database of over 40% of all commercial spaces in the U.S.  These comparison buildings and spaces are for similar building types and usages in similar climates.  The program yields a report, rich in data that is helpful to review with a trained professional.

According to a recent study conducted by the EPA, modern buildings that were benchmarked consistently reduced their energy use by 2.4 percent per year, and saved an average of 7 percent just by virtue of the comparison alone not accounting for improvements made as a result of the knowledge.  Buildings that started out performing the most poorly saved the most.

A good way to think of benchmarking is like finding your building’s “MPG,” just like you would with a vehicle.  Poor MPG can be indicative of problems with a car, but unless you know what’s normal for that vehicle, then you may not necessarily see that there are any issues.  Managing the energy efficiency of your building is important to its value, longevity and your business performance. You might benefit from knowing how efficiency and/or usage improvements can affect your bottom line. Previously unidentified problems can also be detected just like your doctor taking your blood pressure annually comparing it to your historical norms and other healthy standards.

Credentialing that can come from achieving the Energy Star Certification can significantly improve your core business as well.  This certification is for those “best in class” buildings that are in the top 25% percentile of peer buildings.  Nowhere is this more important than in the hospitality industry and commercially leased spaces.  The Maine Department of Tourism has a Green Lodging Certification Program. Owners have found that this certification consistently leads to higher booking levels and guest loyalty.  Similarly landlords with better bonafide “Green” credentials are able to attract and retain better tenants, have lower vacancy rates and consistently receive higher rents prices.  Given credible means of comparison consumers are able to make more informed decisions just like trading up to autos with a higher MPG.

There are many benefits to benchmarking that include, but are not limited to, identifying potential for reducing owning and operating costs, uncovering possibly undetected issues with HVAC and electrical systems and credentialing such as the Energy Star certification.

If you would like to know how your building(s) compare call us today and ask a trained energy expert about benchmarking. It always the best place to start if you are considering improvements. It is a simple, effective, and advantageous place to start. If your building qualifies, we provide this valued service at no cost to you.

Call In The Experts™ today.   Ask for me if you wish. I’ll let you know what the potential is for benchmarking your building.

 

Dan Thayer, P.E., CEM