Per Capita Davis: Tour the country for heartening energy-saving news

John Mott-Smith Davis Enterprise
By John Mott-Smith From page A7 | November 01, 2017
Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Still engaged in an internal fight between optimism and pessimism about the climate crisis, I took an online tour around the country to see if We the People are all in on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Examples of what I found are below.

In brief, although the news paints a picture of attitudes toward the issue largely falling along political lines, it appears there’s massive movement at the local level by people, businesses, organizations and institutions. Some are motivated by money — reducing utility bills — but the great majority seem also to be acting out of concern for the planet’s future. Some of these are relatively small actions, others are quite ambitious.

Howard University in Washington, D.C., “completed an exterior LED retrofit project to save money, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve safety on campus.” The project reduced energy use from lighting by more than 50 percent and, in conjunction with other programs to reduce gas and electricity use on campus, will save more than $10 million and reduce CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons.

Similar programs were implemented at two universities named after Davis streets, Bucknell in Pennsylvania and Belmont in Tennessee.

Speaking of Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia is one of many that have taken initiative to implement the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Philly’s Municipal Energy Master Plan includes a commitment to power 100 percent of the city’s properties with renewable energy by 2030.

Speaking of Tennessee, a local school district conducted a comprehensive audit of its facilities and has done what both Davis and Woodland did — contracted with an energy-services company to install energy-efficiency equipment in exchange for a portion of the cost savings. The result was a savings to the district of $500,000. Schools in Hawaii have installed photovoltaic systems that provide electricity to power air-conditioning systems for the classrooms.

The city of New Haven, Conn., plans to save $338,000 in electricity costs by switching from high-pressure sodium streetlights to LED streetlights. The city of Portland, Maine, is similarly replacing old lights with LED streetlights, and Phoenix is going even further by putting in LED lights at its parks as well as in streetlights. Phoenix officials estimate a savings of more than $20 million through 2030.

In Virginia, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, is implementing a multi-faceted program to reduce energy use and couple those efforts with renewable-energy projects such as converting manure from hog farms into 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to power 50,000 homes. A similar effort is producing electricity from the natural gas at a facility in Utah. The company estimates its projects have saved nearly $200 million since 2012.

In Ohio, as part of the Green Cincinnati Plan, the city’s mayor has proposed covering 150 acres worth of city-owned land and facilities with solar PV that would generate enough electricity to run 20 percent of city operations. Cincinnati is modeling its plan on the installation of more than 40,000 solar panels at the Denver International Airport in Colorado.

In Georgia, Georgia Power is implementing a program for its more than 300,000 commercial and industrial electricity customers. The program is designed for “customers with aggressive renewable energy goals” that involves bundling customer demand and implementing power purchase agreements for renewable energy to meet that demand.

Similarly, a startup in Seattle has raised enough money to bundle energy produced from four wind and solar projects, about 400 megawatts, into what amounts to a “renewable energy mutual fund.” Businesses interested in renewable energy for their facilities purchase from this portfolio.

Also in Georgia, the city of Atlanta has set a goal of powering 100 percent of electricity used in government facilities from renewable sources by 2025, and the entire city — including homes and businesses — by 2035.

In addition, Atlanta International Airport, said to be the busiest airport in the world, with more than 100 million passengers coming to or going through each year, has a sustainability plan to reduce energy and water usage by 20 percent by the year 2020.

In New Jersey, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority is implementing a novel program to send a million gallons of treated wastewater to a local power plant, the Covanta Camden Energy Recovery Center, that will use the water to help cool its waste-to-energy system. In return, the Recovery Center will provide the utility with electricity, saving approximately $600,000.

In conjunction with installation of solar panels and biogas digesters, this will permit the utilities authority to be completely off the grid and self-sufficient in the event of another “superstorm” like Sandy.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has slashed its electricity costs by more than $1.2 million since 2010 by installing LED and motion-activated (adaptive) lighting, building temperature control systems for state facilities and geothermal heating systems.

The University of Missouri reduced its reliance on coal for electricity by 73 percent. On the not-so-great side, the university still depends on four coal-fired burners and the Missouri House passed a bill to impose a “grid usage fee” on folks with solar on their rooftops.

— John Mott-Smith lives on Belmont Drive in Davis. This column is published on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Send comments and suggestions to johnmottsmith@comcast.net.

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