Our Cities Lead the Way

The Sierra Club launched the “Ready for 100 Campaign”, with the charge to accelerate the transition of 100 cities to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. They have compiled a list of cities who are leading those pursuits; three have already accomplished this goal! They define renewable as “carbon- and pollution-free energy collected from renewable, sustainably harvested sources, such as wind, solar, hydro, tidal, and geothermal, as well as energy efficiency.”  The definition does not include natural gas, nuclear, or any carbon-based energy source.

Image result for Sierra Club Ready for 100 Campaign logo
Sierra Club Campaign Logo

-Greensburg, KS – Population 785. The first town to go renewable in 2013 is mostly powered by wind energy. After being hit by a major tornado in 2007, they adopted the motto “Rebuilding..Stronger..Better..Greener.”

-Burlington, VT – Population 42,282. The first city to go completely renewable in 2014, uses a mix of hydro-power, landfill methane, wind, solar, and biomass energy.

Aspen, CO – Population 6,658. This small ski-resort town met its 100% renewable goal in 2015, utilizing wind and water.

Georgetown, TX – Population 54,898. By 2017, plans are to be 100% reliant on renewable-energy sources by taking advantage of wind and solar energy.

San Jose, CA – Population 960,000. This city plans to meet their 100% renewable by 2020 through energy reduction and solar capture.

Grand Rapids, MI – Population 192,000. The second-largest city in Michigan is on target for 100% renewable by year 2020, plans are to reduce energy usage and build solar facilities.

East Hampton, NY – Population 21,500. Plans are to build a massive wind farm off their shore and invest in solar energy to reach their 100% renewable goals by year 2020.

San Francisco, CA – Population 864,000. With the goal of 100% renewals by 2030, they are encouraging investment in clean-energy sources and pushing for reductions in energy usage.

Rochester, MN – Population 100,000. 100% renewable by year 2031

San Diego, CA – Population 1.37 million. As the largest city on the list, they are pursuing 100% renewable by year 2035.

More progress beyond their list:

Las Vegas (Population 603,488) just recently reached their 100% renewable energy goal after a ten year effort. They are using a combination of solar panels and hydroelectric turbines including the Hoover Dam.  They report renewable and energy efficiency savings will save the city roughly five million dollars per year.  In the state of California, Governor Jerry Brown is pursuing renewable standards of 50% by 2030 state-wide.

Fortunately, cities around the United State continue to march forward. According to EcoWatch, 96 United States cities are ditching fossil fuels in favor of 100% renewable, all committed to that pursuit with or without federal assistance. Eighty percent of our population lives in urban and suburban areas. As more cities and towns weld their local control and seize the health and economic benefits of renewables, their citizens lives improve. I applaud these cities for joining the world-wide effort.

As for Missouri, years ago the City of Columbia committed to 30% renewables by 2028.  And both Kansas City and St. Louis are pursuing goals that will meet EPA carbon reduction targets years ahead of schedule.  Kansas City Power & Light estimates their investments in wind and energy will save their customers one billion over twenty years. Springfield Utilities too found switching to wind power was 25% cheaper than coal, now at almost 36% wind power.

Likely most Missourians have forgotten, in 2008 we passed the Renewable Energy Standard, called Proposition C, by a three to one margin. This law requires the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities (including Ameren) gradually phase in renewable power, ramping up to 15% by 2021, utilizing 2% solar. Unfortunately, our legislators and officials have grappled with the language of the law so progress has been stifled. Ameren now sits at 4%; US Energy Information Administration reported Missouri utilized 3.7% renewables in 2015, mostly from hydroelectric power and wind. It’s unfortunate our voter’s wishes haven’t prevailed – some estimate Missouri has the solar and wind potential to switch to 100% renewables within ten years! Yet, according to the Sierra Club, Missouri is ranked at 39% for clean energy.



The New Norm – 100% Renewable Energy Part III

All the gains in renewable is so remarkable; I want to share one more perspective from The World Economic Forum. Established in 1971, this not-for-profit international organization for public-private cooperation is committed to improving the state of the world. They engage the “foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” They highlighted the following notable efforts:

Morocco – This country on the edge of the Sahara desert and the Middle East’s top energy-importing country, is building the world’s largest concentrated solar power plants.  They will reduce their countries dependence on fossil fuel by 2.5 million tons of oil, producing enough energy for one million Moroccans.

Bangladesh – This country is becoming the world’s fastest expansion of solar energy. About 3.5 million homes now have solar home systems.

China – They are turning 800 primary and middle schools in Beijing into “sunshine schools”. These efforts will make the air healthier and increase student environmental awareness.

Mexico – The government promoted energy efficient efforts by distributing almost 23 million free energy-saving light bulbs. The families now save up to 18 percent on their electricity bill. This action alone resulted in reducing 1.4 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

Turkey – Many multi-faceted steps have been taken resulting in substantial growth of renewables since 2001. All projects combined are now reducing an estimated 5 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

One other source – EcoWatch is a leading website that reports on environmental news, green living, sustainable business, science and politics. They report Brazil has 15 fully fossil-fuel free cities. Several others are close to 100% with the Brazilian city average being 59%. EcoWatch cites Asian Pacific cities as the most dependent on fossil fuels; Europe the most renewable friendly with North America and Africa falling in the middle.

Per the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 20,000 oil spills are reported each year in the United States alone; 13,000 significant enough to investigate. Toxic waste pollutes our soils and waterways while burning fossil fuels pollute our airways. With damage to our environment comes compromised health and great suffering.

Nature provides us limitless sources of energy without compromising our soils, waterways and air. We are most fortunate scientists and innovators help us capture those varied energy resources. With less pollution comes a healthier populace saving billions in healthcare costs. We only have one Earth; finite resources future generations will need.  As a humble steward of the earth, I will continue to spread the word so we can all conserve, nurture, and preserve our Earth.

I will wrap up the renewable energy series next week, highlighting the cities around the United States who are leading the pursuit of efficiencies and clean renewable energy, followed by an update on Missouri’s progress.

The New Norm – 100% Renewable Energy – Part II

With a combination of efficient technology improvements and a rapid decline in renewable manufacturing costs, the world can easily capture all the energy nature has to offer. As we choose renewables over fossil fuels, we in turn nurture the earth.  A symbiotic relationship at its best!

To date, European countries have taken the lead on per capita installments of solar and wind in particular, but emerging leaders are now coming to the forefront, developing countries. A couple sources indicate developing countries investments in renewables actually surpassed that of developed countries in 2015!

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reports the progress of these Champions. China is the largest investor globally employing the most people in the renewable field in any country. Last year Mexico agreed to double its renewable power generation by 2018, focusing on wind power. India is discussing increasing their goals to 40% renewable by 2030. Morocco’s goals are to pursue energy efficiencies reducing their energy consumption by 12% while growing renewable energy sources to 40% of their needs by 2020.  The Philippines plan to double their renewable power to about 50% by 2030. Indonesia has recently passed legislation aimed to grow their renewable from 5% to 25% by 2023. Based on economic capabilities, the countries that led in renewable energy source investments in 2013 were Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica, South Africa and Nicaragua. And in 2014, the countries with the largest investors per national GDP were Burundi, Kenya, Honduras, Jordan and Uruguay.  South Africa is aggressively pursuing solar, collectors now on almost every third roof in the country. Now those are some amazing statistic!

It’s becoming clear, with the significant cost reductions of renewables, clean energy is now within the reach of poorer countries. WWF explains why this is happening.

  1. Renewables offer three to five more jobs per unit of energy generated than fossil fuels. “Renewables overcome erratic, unpredictable and often high, fuel costs, which is useful for oil and gas-importing nations.”
  2. Renewables consume less water compared to coal, nuclear, and shale gas, making it more conducive to drier and water-stressed nations.
  3. Renewables don’t emit conventional air pollution creating healthier air conditions and there is no toxic waste or ash, such as toxic remains from nuclear and coal. Citizens are healthier and save billions in healthcare costs.
  4. Renewables don’t generate global warming gases. The world is in agreement, renewable are critical component of sustainable development.

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder leaders are pursuing renewables world-wide!

100% Clean Renewable Energy – The New Norm!

World-wide countries are pursuing clean renewable energy, glad to reap the economic and health benefits.  This is proving to be the most exciting emerging industry since the IT boom.  China, alone, plans to create thirteen million renewable jobs by 2020. It’s quite inspiring reviewing all the progress; here is a succinct snapshot provided by the Climate Reality Project.

Sweden – This year, the first country to generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewables. They are committed to eliminating fossil fuel usage and are investing in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids and clean transport.

Costa Rica – 99% of their electricity came from renewables in 2015. They are capitalizing on hydroelectric, geothermal, solar and wind.

Nicaragua – Renewables comprised up to 54 percent of their electricity production in 2015. Their goals are to reach 90 percent by 2020 with an emphasis on wind, solar and geothermal sources.

Scotland – In 2015 wind power met 97 percent of the country’s household electricity needs.

Germany – This country leads the world in solar PV capacity and meets 78 percent of their electricity demand from renewables. An amazing accomplishment, given this country is quite cloudy. When choosing solar panels for our place of business, we chose the best, a German product. That came as no surprise. In 2008 my daughter had the honor of participating in and presenting the Texas A&M project at the world-wide Solar Decathlon competition at our Capitol Mall.  Germany innovation handily won first place.

Uruguay – After less than 10 years of effort, Uruguay now is 95 percent powered by renewables focusing on wind and solar.

Denmark – Given their high winds, they focused on wind turbines, meeting 42% of their electricity needs in 2015.

China – By 2014 China had the most installed wind energy capacity and the second highest installed solar PV capacity. Besides good economics, China knows renewables reduce pollution.  Their citizens will appreciate fewer air quality “red alerts”; perhaps eventually they won’t have to wear face masks. Never to miss a marketing opportunity, they sell face masks in a variety of colors!  While visiting South Korea last year, I found colorful face masks to be quite common. I was told governmental officials frequently alert their citizens when prevailing winds are bringing in toxic Chinese yellow dust.

Morocco – Capitalizing on their sunny skies, they opened the first phase of the largest concentrated solar plant in the world this year.

Kenya – In 2015, geothermal covered 51 percent of their electricity needs. They are currently building one of Africa’s biggest wind farms to cover 20 percent of their electricity needs; combined efforts 71% total.

United States – In 2014, we ranked fifth place on installed solar capacity globally and second place on wind energy capacity. Renewables accounted for about 13 percent of our electricity generation that year. 2015 totals were not listed.

As I’m reviewing the world’s progress, I’m reminded of the wonders of nature and all it has to offer. Windy countries maximize on wind turbines; sunny ones on solar panels.  With the world in agreement we need to phase out fossil fuels, scientists rise to the occasion; clean energy technology improve and products become more affordable!

Winter Energy Savings Tips

Just a few small tweaks in your home can result in tremendous savings in energy.  I highly recommend the California Energy Commission’s comprehensive website which provides tips for all seasons.

Here are a few of their most valuable winter tips and a few of mine:

  • Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-70 degree range, you’ll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. So lower your thermostat, health permitting, and wear warmer clothes. When leaving home for an extended time, set the temperature back to 55 degrees and while sleeping 60-64 degrees (heat pumps should only be set back 2 degrees to prevent unneeded use of backup strip heating). Close vents in bedrooms and other areas when not in use.
  • Replace or clean furnace filters as recommended. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use.
  • Reduce hot water temperature. Set your water heater to the “normal” setting or 120-degrees Fahrenheit. Savings are 7-11 percent of water heating costs. Wrap older water tanks with jacket insulation, leaving the air intake vent uncovered, for an additional 10% savings. Estimated to be 22% more efficient, we installed a tankless on-demand water heater.  When the faucet is turned to hot, water is instantaneously heated by a gas burner or electric element.
  • Seal up the leaks. Those leaks are easy to find on a windy day. Caulk leaks around windows and doors. Look for gaps where pipes, vents or electrical conduits go through the wall, ceiling or floor. Caulk works best on small gaps. Use Great Stuff or weather stripping for larger gaps and install gaskets behind outlet covers.
  • Consider replacing your old gas appliances with an ENERGY STAR® water heater or furnace. Check for possible rebates and incentives.
  • Open your drapes for free heat while the sun is shining; move your sitting furniture to the interior of the room where it is warmer and less drafty; close the damper on traditional fireplaces when not in use; and consider increasing ceiling insulation to R-38 for significant savings and comfort.

Other effective year-round tips –

  • Keep lights turned off in unoccupied rooms.
  • Shorten showers for significant savings on water and heating. Install low flow showerheads.
  • Use appliances efficiently. Fill dishwasher full and skip heat/dry cycle. Fill laundry full, use the cold cycle and keep the dryer lint clean.
  • Put your computer and monitor to sleep.
  • Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights which take 75% less energy or go for even more efficient LED lights.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.

Don’t let this long list overwhelm you.  Just start with a few tips and build on them. In Boonvile, we can review our monthly Ameren usage charts to monitor our progress.  Our most recent bill indicates, so far this year we have used 15.2% less electricity and 27.6% less gas than last year! As you take action and see your energy bill decrease, you will be on your path to energy efficiency.