Saturday, February 26, 2011


Energy efficiency programs in CA, like Energy Upgrade California, could be impacted by funding cuts.

The State Legislature has proposed CUTTING funding for energy efficiency efforts -- including a portion of the dollars that fund programs like Energy Upgrade California rebates.
These cuts, if enacted, could significantly harm the Home Performance industry in California-- and we can't let them pass. Here's what we need:
  1. Click here to send an email to your state legislators opposing the cut
  2. Write your own letter to budget leaders in the legislature (you can view our letter as a guide, and add info about your company). Send it to:
  3. Forward this on to your contact lists and ask them to do the same.
Here's more details: The State Assembly and State Senate have proposed transferring $162 million of natural gas ratepayer surcharge funds intended for energy efficiency and moving them to the state's general fund.
That means $162 million less for programs like Energy Upgrade California. These cuts would:
  • Cut the legs out from under one of the state's key initiatives to drive job creation in the hard-hit construction sector.
  • Minimize the impact of ARRA investments in the state.
  • Reduce the rapid growth that these programs are expected to provide for Home Performance companies.
Help us rally urgent opposition to these proposed cuts.
Click here to tell your legislator to OPPOSE cutting funding for energy efficiency programs.
Brett Knox
Efficiency First California Chapter

Efficiency First is supported by over 1,200 member companies across the country.
To join Efficiency First, visit Member benefits: Efficiency First members have access to special members-only benefits: discounts on tech tools, trainings, conferences, branding and web services, business insurance, debt collection and more.
Take advantage of these deals by visiting

Michael's Comment:
Last week while interviewing Austan Goolsbee, President Obama's Economic Advisor, comedian John Stewart made the analogy that cutting spending upon vital infrastructure and human investments is like -
"trying to loose weight by cutting out spinach and vitamins from your diet."

It is with serious concern that I inform you all that CA is planning on cutting off funding for Energy Upgrade California:

Since 2008 I've been working in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Field. We've been trying to educate people, business and home owners (as well as our representatives), about how they can save money and the environment while creating a truly sustainable future. The key to our future is creating sustainable jobs, the first step is stopping the waste.

They say that our state government is bankrupt, cutting money on everything from redevelopment to public schools. So, why should we, Energy Engineers, be different? The reality is that our state has plenty of money, and our country has all the resources it needs! We live in a land of plenty with an abundance of natural and capital resources, but we don't use them well. There are entrenched interests that do not want our economy to change, they prefer the unsustainable systems of the past. They have created this false economic 'crisis' to keep us from realizing our potential, to impose cuts on the necessary functions of government, the very solutions that could create a SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.

Personally,  would gladly give up these Energy Upgrade California Rebates if they were going to public schools, or libraries, or hospitals. However, these funds were taken directly from every Utility Rate Payer, via state imposed fees on our bills, designed specifically to PROMOTE ENERGY EFFICIENCY, and now they will be redirected to the General Fund, and an unknown pocket.

Fighting for budget cuts on the terms of the people who brought us the present economic context, just to prop up their unsustainable business models, will destroy our future potential.

Michael Russell
Sustainable Future

Sunday, February 20, 2011

ENERGYSTAR - Home Energy Yardstick

Assess Your Home

Getting a handle on your home's energy use is an important first step to improving efficiency. You can do a simple assessment yourself using on-line tools, or have a professional energy auditor perform a more thorough audit. Then, use ENERGY STAR resources to get guidance on home improvement projects to enhance energy efficiency, lower utility bills, and increase comfort.

Start with your Home Energy Yardstick
Most homes use 40%-50% of their energy for heating and cooling air. The next most energy intense use is water-heating (up to 20%), then refrigeration (12%), then major appliances, lighting and other electronics.

If you have five minutes and your last 12 months of utility bills, use the Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home's energy use to similar homes across the country and see how your home measures up. Then, use Home Energy Adviser to get recommendations for energy-saving home improvements for typical homes in your area.

For most homes, you'll have a Loading Order that defines the best steps to take first, which will maximize your energy and financial savings.

1) Seal and Insulate
2) Duct Sealing
3) Replace your Heating and Air-Conditioning Units
4) Solar Water Heater
5) Windows and Doors
6) Replace your Refrigerator
7) Increase Lighting
8) Smart Appliances: Programmable Thermostats, Washer/Dryer, Dish-Washers, etc.

NOTE: Only after you do the Energy Efficiency Work on your home or business should you consider Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Appliances. Anyone who tells you different is a huckster.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is the Future?

I've learned over the last few years that government policy does matter. It began in October 2008 when I heard that the City of San Diego was going to follow Berkley's lead and adopt a mello-roos property tax district. This was an ingenious way to allow individual homeowners to opt-in to a Property Tax District that would allow them essentially to choose to create their own energy (electric, heat, efficiency) or stick with their centralized utilities.

The problem is simple really, we have to switch over from environmentally destructive carbon-fuels to Energy Efficient Renewable Energy (EE/RE) but the cost of this infrastructure is extremely expensive (about 20 years of current energy usage). If we had wisely invested 10% of our money in EE/RE each year, over the last 20 years or so, as Germany is doing, we would be free of carbon-pollution. However, the energy industry would rather that we continue to use their infrastructure, and they hire lobbyists to influence our representatives on every level.

Now we are in a recession, arguably caused by those same corporate powers, and people in houses have no money, because they lost all their equity and their savings, too. With massive credit card debt and high unemployment there is no capital to invest in EE/RE infrastructure.

The genius of Property Assessed Clean Energy programs (PACE) was that they didn't require capital, they used the value of the property and its tenants future energy needs to secure a long term loan that would increase energy efficiency and allow each property to become a net positive energy generator.

The really interesting part was that these programs were designed to get around the necessity of state and federal bureaucracy that usually stops such energy innovation in its tracks. Each municipality could decide if it wanted such a program, and each individual property owner could design their own system and financing terms. This frees up the whole energy delivery system, and creates jobs and industries out of future potential. This could have jump-started the whole economy.

Alas, it was not to happen. The corporate powers stepped in, The Federal National Mortgage Association, nicknamed Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, nicknamed Freddie Mac, two private, for-profit, government-insured corporations (which we had just bailed out using $Trillions in Federal Reserve Emergency Loans and the TARP) went to the Federal Housing Administration and put a stop to PACE programs nationwide. They did so on the grounds that a new primary lean for EE/RE, on the very homes their mortgage loans depended upon for collateral, would put them at further risk, as more and more people default and go into foreclosure (tells you what they think of the future).

Essentially, if you live in a home with a mortgage, you really don't own that home, and your landlord, the lender, decides from whom you can, or can not, buy your energy. Also, this means that municipalities can not choose to create local tax structures to fund local infrastructure improvements. Seems unconstitutional to me, and also to 37 State Attorney Generals who are currently suing the Federal Government to overturn this ruling.

In the mean time, utilities with energy monopolies like Sempra owned SDG&E, have successfully lobbied for Public Bonds to fund their centralized energy infrastructure "improvements" like the $3-billion "Sunrise Powerlink". These bonds will be funded by private capital at interest and repaid with your tax dollars. Sound familiar? The only difference between this and PACE, is that as soon as this expensive and environmentally damaging infrastructure is created, it becomes the private property of the Investor Owned Utility (IOU), not a public asset, not owned by the property owners or the municipalities, but by the middle-men.

The tragedy is that in crushing PACE, the banks have crushed our future economy. They not only failed to see that home-owners would save money by switching from paying "public" utilities to building their own private energy generation, but those individual EE/RE projects would create jobs, industries, and the very kind of productive financing loans that banks need to become profitable again. This is terribly short-sighted.

Now, our future is bleak. As mega-energy corporations and private utilities control our centralized energy infrastructure, only wealthy home-owners have the capital necessary to invest in their own private energy generation equipment. Furthermore, the environment is under greater threat from carbon-pollution as property-owners have little or no financial incentive to be energy efficient or invest in expensive renewable energy generation, leaving them dependent upon utilities and oil companies to power their vehicles.

Germany is 11 years into a plan to free themselves from energy imports by 2050. China is converting to Renewable Energy, even while they build a new Coal Power-plant each week. California, once a new energy economy, is stagnant, while New Jersey converts to solar power.

We have chosen our future through our government policy.