As we start the New Year, trying to put the Pandemic and its disruptions behind us, we’re faced with Putin’s war fueling inflation. The US and others are supplying Europe’s needs which raises prices, so don’t expect much relief from high heating & electricity costs anytime soon.
As an energy efficiency and solar specialist, I see real opportunities to save money and increase our resilience in the face of energy inflation and insecurity. I’ve been harvesting solar energy for decades, the up-front investment is paid back in savings every month and just keeps on providing free, local energy for years. In the face of the mounting threats from a warming planet it is one of the valuable tools to reduce the pollution from burning fossil fuels.
But first, anyone who buys energy should do an assessment of how much energy you are using in your buildings and vehicles. That’s where most of the costs are under our control. You can compare the numbers to comparable buildings (using Energy Star tools) and class of vehicle to prioritize improvements. Clean Energy NH offers a handy Energy Savings Toolkit to help renters, homeowners and business owners respond to high energy prices while ‘NHSaves’ provides incentives.
Consider these savings opportunities:
Get an energy assessment - To understand the energy use of your building, schedule at least a Level 1, walk-through energy audit to identify obvious opportunities. A more thorough, Level 2 audit will provide a detailed analysis and a plan.
Save with no & low-cost energy options - Turn off lights, adjust thermostats (especially when no one’s awake and using the space), keep tires inflated and don’t idle unless it’s essential.
Take advantage of low-cost, high return options - Lighting (switch to LEDs), caulk and weatherstrip gaps and leaks. Consider window insulating treatments - simple interior inserts up to tracked insulating shades.
Insulation - Start with the attic, an investment that pays back very quickly, followed by the basement. Think ABC for insulating priorities - Attic, Basement, Center (walls).
When you’re ready to replace an appliance insist on Energy Star and get off dirty fuels by going electric. Heat pump water heaters, heat pumps and induction stoves save money, are eligible for incentives, and reduce indoor air pollution.
Electric vehicles cost much less to own and operate. As they become more available and affordable, this is better technology that’s three times more energy efficient. Transportation is our largest source of greenhouse gasses so this is a win - win.
Solar electric (or PV) is also becoming more affordable and as community solar emerges, you can access clean PV power that’s not on your property.
The Inflation Reduction Act helps with these investments and includes many made in America clauses. These are exciting and rewarding solutions that you can pursue. Meaningful individual actions are valuable but we need significant collective actions to drawdown carbon pollution because time is running out.
The Pentagon calls climate change a threat multiplier that increases the risks to agriculture, energy, health, security, buildings, infrastructure and countless species. Volatile, fossil fuels make our planet warmer which is increasing sea levels, storms, droughts and migrations.
We have a massive market failure; we’re dumping billions of tons of very dangerous greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere for free! Let’s start by taxing what we burn not what we earn and encourage American entrepreneurs to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy. The bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act puts a price on carbon and gives the cash back to households as dividends. It puts the money collected into every household budget and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This bill is an effective, efficient, equitable and achievable major step. To support it locally, go to carboncashback.org for more information.
Isn’t a safer and more secure world for our children and countless species worth making and keeping resolutions to draw down greenhouse gasses and save money?