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Less Power to the People
Ten innovations that will reduce the amount of energy we consume

Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal
America is facing a crisis when it comes to electricity. But also a tremendous opportunity.

The forces that put us here look grim. Energy prices are high, supplies are increasingly tight, and anxiety is growing about climate change. But that dark outlook is driving consumers, utilities and public officials to finally take advantage of innovations that could radically reshape the nation’s power consumption without lowering the standard of living.

Some are technological fixes, from more-efficient light bulbs to variable-speed motors that use less energy when the load on them isn’t as heavy. Others involve public policy. States are rewriting their building codes with an eye on conservation, and Washington is trying to lay down efficiency standards for more household appliances and electronic goods. Utilities are joining the effort as well, offering consumers rebates for buying efficient appliances and urging customers to use electricity more wisely.

The good news is, “we haven’t found a major use of electricity for which there aren’t great opportunities for savings,” says David B. Goldstein, director of energy programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation award for his work on appliance-efficiency standards

…Here’s a look at 10 innovations capable of making a big difference immediately and in coming years:

1) LET THE LIGHT SHINE [compact fluorescents and LEDs] 2) MORE-EFFICIENT HARDWARE [for example, electric motors] 3) SMARTER SENSORS [to better control energy use] 4) BETTER MEASURES [for example the Kill-A-Watt meter] 5) SETTING STANDARDS [for energy efficiency in appliances] 6) NEW BUILDING CODES [for energy efficiency] 7) INCENTIVES FOR UTILITIES [to have energy-reduction programs] 8) VARIABLE PRICING [different rates at different seasons, times of day] 9) REBATES [on energy-efficient appliances] 10) CUSTOMER-RESPONSE PROGRAMS [ways to temporarily cut consumption, particularly among big energy users] (16 Oct 2006)
The original article is behind a paywall.

A Power-Grid Report Suggests Some Dark Days Ahead

Matthew L. Wald, NY Times
WASHINGTON – Companies are not building power plants and power lines fast enough to meet growing demand, according to a group recently assigned by the federal government to assure proper operation of the power grid.

The group, the North American Electric Reliability Council, in its annual report, to be released Monday, said the amount of power that could be generated or transmitted would drop below the target levels meant to ensure reliability on peak days in Texas, New England, the Mid-Atlantic area and the Midwest during the next two to three years.

The council was established in 1965 after a blackout across the Northeast, and has since set voluntary standards for the industry. …

For years, the council has produced often-gloomy annual reports, but this is the first to be officially filed with federal agencies, and to recommend specific action.

The report says, for example, that utilities should be encouraged to pursue financial incentives for customers to cut use during peak hours, thereby lowering demand for new power plants and transmission lines. Financial incentives could reward customers’ installation of more efficient equipment or, more drastically, reward a factory for closing on a day when electricity supplies are expected to be tight.
(15 Oct 2006)
From a related article in the Wall Street Journal
U.S. Electricity Demand Is Outpacing New Resources, Report Warns
(behind a paywall):

A report by the North American Electric Reliability Council warns demand for electricity is increasing three times as fast as resources are being added in the U.S., a trend that could shake electric-system reliability in the coming decade.

…the grid organization, known as NERC, said U.S. demand will increase by about 20% from 2006 to 2015, outstripping investment in new electrical supply.

…As the system drifts closer to its physical limits, it is even more important that energy regulators and utilities promote conservation and use of the most energy-efficient equipment, said Rick Sergel, chief executive of the grid reliability organization. He added conservation programs will need to at least double their reach and effectiveness to help close the gap between supply and demand.

Lightbulb giveaway is switched off

Matthew Warren, The Australia
A SCHEME to cut greenhouse gases by giving away millions of low-energy lightbulbs and shower heads has been shut down after households installed less than half of the products.
The independent regulator overseeing the scheme, which earned 11 companies about $20million in profits since its introduction in 2003, became concerned in August when the rate at which the low-energy appliances were being given away started to approach the number of possible fittings in NSW.

More than a million triple-A-rated shower heads and about 10million low-energy lightbulbs have been provided free to NSW households in a novel, low-cost scheme to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme.

In a Newspoll survey of NSW households commissioned by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, it was discovered that about 46 per cent had received at least one free light and shower-head pack, but less than half reported installing either device.

The packs were actively distributed by about 11 companies who received greenhouse abatement certificates that could then be sold to energy retailers who were required to offset their emissions as part of the scheme. ..
(14 Oct 2006)