Energy Efficiency Points to Our Best Future

I have annotated and posted a page from the Wisconsin PSC’s 2016 Strategic Energy Assessment below. With an investment of about .75 cents per month, WI reduced its electric energy .6%. This rate should come very close to leveling off our use– that is– offsetting the projected growth rate of .7% forecast for the next 25 years (U.S. Department of Energy).

This result affirms that “aggressive” energy efficiency investment here could be as successful as in Vermont and Massachusetts. If Wisconsin ratepayers are allowed to do what the WIS PSC and the State recommended in 2010 and we invested about $2.50 per month into Focus on Energy with much higher incentives, we’d very significantly lower our dependency on electricity year after year. This exceeds what EPIC has been targeting.

In addition to lowering home, business and farm operation costs, the invested $2.50 to $3 per month would result in about 25 times the number sustained jobs in our communities compared to high voltage transmission building.

We’d be waking up in 2018 to realize that for the same amount of monthly investment as regional transmission expansion that our BEST dreams would be coming true.

Should carbon emission reductions be a top priority in energy planning for you, consider that reducing our use at a sustained rate of .7% per year for 20 years would produce a 24% reduction in carbon emissions compared to a .8% per year increase in use regional utilities predict for us (MTEP11 BAU scenarios).

Note that larger MTEP11 reductions appear to be fully dependent upon adding significant carbon taxes and a 20% national renewable energy law. Maybe these are possible someday if public support grows,.. but in the meanwhile, its time to put the brakes on regional high voltage transmission expansion and put our first, precious dollars towards energy efficiency where we know they will produce results. Then let’s see what happens for 5-10 years and then re-assess our options.

The PSC assessment demonstrates that investment in Energy Efficiency is working in Wisconsin. The approach also gives ratepayers the ability to adjust the investment rate over time depending on results. Any proposal that locks Wisconsin ratepayers into paying around $3 per month for the next 40 years with no performance guarantees has very poor cost and benefit performance in comparison.

Wis PSC Focus On Energy .6% Use Reduction from 2011 SEA Report

Grid Tie Solar: Environmental Gains Are Truly Shared

8kV Solar Production in Wisconsin verses grid tied consumption The lessons from managing our energy use continue. After 4 months, our total 8kV solar production is 3 MWH with 2 tons of CO2 emissions saved. Here’s the newest revelation: the power we use during the day, on average, amounts to 1/3 of what our 8 Kw array produces. This means about 2/3’s of the power we use still comes from the grid. Without battery storage for off-sun requirements, the next improvement is pretty much restricted to more conservation. Now we understand why people observe that “spinning power” from renewable energy (like Art Thelen’s 765kV Manure Digester running 24-7 up the hill) is such a huge local energy asset. His plant could easily generate enough power for all 1150 meters on our co-op grid based on what we use. That would be a very interesting fact to know.

So far, carbon footprint reduction from our efforts has come from reducing household use about 30% with conservation preparing for the array and another 33% percent after it was added. I would think that a 4 Kw array would achieve very similar environmental results for most households taking conservation measures.

With the 8kV array, we’ll probably never pay an electric bill again and the array will probably pay for itself with the critical Focus on Energy refund. We were among the last to receive a renewable energy investment credit in the Wisconsin. That policy has got to change.

Note, however, that had we slacked-off and said, “Well, we put in solar, so that’s done,..” we probably would have slowly returned to the same use habits negating the environmental gain and getting no clues about it, monetarily. That’s a short-coming of grid tie without conservation. Science is no substitute for conscience.

The 2 tons of C02 emissions prevented saved collective utilities about $100. Maybe a good place for the utilities to invest this savings is into another Digester plant or at least a community solar farm.

Our lesson so far is: Conservation. Conservation. Conservation. Our next step is to install LP hot water on demand. They are 93% heat efficient but still use some electricity. LP produces half the carbon emissions of grid purchased electricity. Its the step we can take until there agreement in the household about where a passive solar could be placed.

Energy management is all awareness and process, and like everything, a pleasure when you look at this way.

Efficiency & Solar Array Improvements – case study in progress

We built a new energy efficient house with space for two businesses and noticed that our electric bills/use were much higher than we hoped for, about 1000 kwhrs/month annual average. The average in Wisconsin is about 690. In Spring 2011, we purchased a “kill-a-watt” meter and soon found that my 2004 desktop computer and a dehumidifier in the basement were using over 30% of the total power. I replaced the desktop with a laptop, used a box fan with a timer to control the humidity. We installed timers in other places and control strips to turn off phantom power when not used. These conservation measures dropped our monthly use about 300 khrs.

In December of 2011, we installed a 8kV solar array with net metering which encouraged us to further intensify our conservation awareness. With an electric hot water tank still requiring about 40% of the power we consume, our house/businesses are now about 35% carbon neutral and we’re contributing an average of 17 kwhr to the local grid each day. Installing a propane hot water heater on demand tank will come next.

Thus far, we are generating about twice the power we use during the day on average, but we still consume more power from the grid than we’d like to– especially on very overcast days and. of course, at night. We think we can reduce our night use by operating critical circuits from our 2400 watt back-power system for about 3-6 hours on nights when sun is predicted the next day.

Here is a fuller account thus far.
usage chart

Energy Independence Conference Jan. 26, Gays Mills, WI


100 years ago we were 100% energy independent, today we are 100% energy dependent, within 100 years we will be energy independent again… it’s a lot easier becoming dependent than it is becoming independent… the hard thing is that we built our nation on cheap fuels (homes, buildings, vehicles, roads).. and (as of now) most people don’t want to give up that valuable cheap energy even if it means wars and pollution.. but the price of war and pollution aren’t factored into the cost of oil and coal. Please attend this event so we can begin the transition to Energy Independence in unison.