7 Tips to Save Energy and Money During The Holidays

The winter holiday season is underway and with it comes the frenzy of decorating, holiday gatherings, gift buying, and traveling to visit family and friends. Don’t let your energy-saving efforts fall by the wayside during the holidays.

The tips below will help you save energy and money:
  1. Lower your holiday lighting costs by using light-emitting diode -- or "LED" -- holiday light strings to reduce the cost of decorating your home for the winter holidays.
  2. It can be tricky to drive safely during the holidays when more drivers are on the road, some unaccustomed to driving in the dark or during wet or snowy weather, and some who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or smart phones. Studies show you can avoid accidents and save energy by driving no faster than 65 miles per hour and can stay even safer by slowing to 55 miles per hour.
  3. Use appliances efficiently doing only full loads when using your dishwasher and clothes washer.
  4. Don’t open the oven door to take a peek at what's cooking inside. Instead, turn on the oven light and check the cooking status through the oven window. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature inside - by as much as 25 degrees - which increases cooking time and wastes energy.
  5. Look for ENERGY STAR appliances, fans and electronics if you’re taking advantage of holiday deals. Using ENERGY STAR products that incorporate advanced technologies that use 10 to 15 percent less energy and water than standard models throughout your home could save nearly $750 over the lifetime of the products.
  6. Use an electronic power strip for your electronic equipment. Many electronic devices and equipment consume unnecessary energy even when not in use. Often called energy vampires, these devices cost families about $100 a year. Use a power strip for electronic devices and turn it off when not in use to. Remember to unplug your chargers since they draw energy even when they aren’t connected to a device.
  7. Plug your home's leaks. Install weather-stripping or caulk leaky doors and windows and install gaskets behind outlet covers. Doing so can save up to 10 percent on energy costs.
More tips can be found here.

Looking Ahead Toward the Grid of the Future

Clean energy sources that are technologically advanced and generated from a decentralized location are no longer science fiction. California is moving toward that future, challenging the norms of generating electricity with power plants.

Last week’s More Than Smart conference in San Francisco explored the innovation, planning, business opportunities, and data and communications needs available to help build a distributed energy future. The third annual conference drew more than 200 attendees.

California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister spoke on a panel along with representatives from the California Public Utility Commission, the California Independent System Operator, Governor Jerry Brown’s office and The Brattle Group titled “Enabling California’s Distributed Energy Future in 2016.”

Although the conference goal was to communicate an overall state plan to move toward distributed energy, the panel focused on each office’s goals and priorities. McAllister highlighted the importance of forecasting demand on a local level and implementing a benchmarking program to help building owners understand how much energy a building uses compared to other similar buildings.

McAllister emphasized the continuing importance of energy efficiency as a central part of California’s future resource mix. Energy Commission accomplishments in energy efficiency – such as the adoption of the Existing Building Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards –offer a solid foundation for the work ahead after the passage of recent energy-related legislation.

Legislation is also key to the Energy Commission creating a nation-leading, comprehensive benchmarking and disclosure program for commercial and multifamily buildings across California. Benchmarking helps identify the most attractive upgrades for building owners, creating a critical link to investment.

Energy Storage Offers Opportunities

New opportunities will be available as California maps out its route to double the rate of energy efficiency savings in California buildings and generate half of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2030. One of those opportunities was highlighted at the California Energy Commission today.

Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker, California Independent System Operator (ISO) President and CEO Stephen Berberich, and California Public Utilities Commissioner Carla Peterman invited the public to investigate issues concerning bulk energy storage, how to optimize existing projects including the potential barriers for projects to become commercially operational.

Bulk energy storage is an important opportunity that can help manage renewable energy. The California ISO reports that there have been times when more renewable energy is available on the grid than what is needed -- and those times are likely to increase. To maintain grid reliability and operational standards, the California ISO must reduce renewables generation to balance supply with demand. With bulk storage, excess energy would be stored for later use -- say during the evening after the sun goes down -- instead of being curtailed.

Energy storage systems exist. Pumped hydroelectric, compressed air, flywheels and various forms of batteries are already being used. The challenges and opportunities with such systems are making them nimble, larger and commercially viable. Learn more about storage types in this Energy Commission report.

Impact of Land Subsidence on Oil and Gas Infrastructure Discussed at Workshop

California’s lingering drought is having an impact on the state in ways expected and perhaps not so expected. With the lack of surface water supplies, more water has been pumped from underground sources causing land in parts of the state to rapidly subside. In some areas, subsidence may begin to pose a threat to oil and natural gas infrastructure. PG&E recently said about 50 miles of its natural gas pipelines could be affected by sinking land.

This map shows areas of subsidence in California. Areas colored in purple and magenta have seen the greatest amount of subsidence. Natural gases pipelines are in black.

The California Energy Commission held a public workshop with researchers and representatives from utility companies Nov. 10 to examine ways to coordinate research and develop corrective measures to deal with the subsidence issue.

Speakers explained the science behind land subsidence during the workshop. For example, some soils can rebound as water is replenished, while other soil types remain permanently compressed. They also discussed the complicated process for identifying and quantifying areas of accelerated subsidence – primarily through satellites and aircraft equipped with a variety of sophisticated radar technologies – to create time histories, maps and imaging with centimeter-level accuracy.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, groundwater levels are reaching record lows – up to 100 feet lower than previous records. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey are monitoring subsidence rates in the state.

Officials predict that climate change will only increase the state’s reliance on groundwater, meaning land subsidence and its impacts will continue to be an issue requiring the attention of the Energy Commission and others as they work to reduce potential threats from above to the ground below.

Plan Moves Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Forward

A significant step for renewable energy and land conservation was reached this week with the release of the public lands component of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The Proposed Land Use Plan Amendment would implement the DRECP across 10 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the Southern California desert.

The DRECP is an innovative, landscape-scale planning effort covering 22.5 million acres in seven California counties. The plan provides for the protection and conservation of fragile desert ecosystems while identifying focus areas for renewable energy development in support of California’s long-term renewable energy and climate change goals.

“The state of California has worked closely for years with the U.S. Department of the Interior to reach this milestone,” said California’s Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird. “We salute our federal partners for this achievement. This foundational plan allows conservation, recreation and renewable energy development to fit together in a durable, balanced way.”

The BLM public lands component is the first phase of the DRECP. The second and final phase centers on private lands and aligning federal, state and county planning efforts for renewable energy and conservation.

“Having the federal component of the DRECP in place will be tremendously valuable as we continue to work with the counties and our state and federal agency partners on Phase II,” said California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas. “By providing certainty for development and conservation across approximately 10 million acres of public land, the BLM has set a strong foundation for achieving the broader vision of the DRECP.”

Phase II will shift to working with counties in the plan area. Counties are critical to the DRECP goals since they have primary land use and permitting authority on private lands. The outreach to the counties builds off an effort funded in part by Energy Commission grants .

The release of the proposed plan starts a 30-day review period. A webinar is scheduled for November 19 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. to present DRECP concepts and changes between the draft and final plans.

More information is at www.drecp.org.

Winter Gas Formula Means Lower Prices for Consumers

Last week, California began its statewide switch to a winter gasoline formula, which means consumers should anticipate a decline in gas prices. Why is that, you may ask? In the summer, refiners eliminate some of the more volatile blending ingredients in the gasoline because summer heat makes them evaporate and that can stop the engine from running (vapor lock) and increase air pollution. In the winter, when temperatures drop, the volatility isn’t as much of a problem, so additional blending components such as butane can be used again to create more gasoline with higher vapor pressure. The higher vapor pressure helps ensure older vehicles will not experience “cold start” problems when temperatures dip below freezing. Click here to learn more about how gasoline is refined.

The addition of blending components in the winter increases the production of gas from a barrel of oil by 5 to 8 percent. That means there is a slightly higher supply of gasoline. At the same time, people tend to take fewer vacations and drive less in the winter, so the supply of gasoline increases and the demand for it declines, normally causing prices to drop. Demand for gasoline reaches its lowest point in January.

How much will prices drop in California this winter? That depends partly on how much the world’s crude oil continues to drop and how long refineries curtail production for regular maintenance. Refineries tend to conduct more maintenance in the winter time and bigger maintenance projects every four to five years. This year happens to be the five-year point for several refineries in California. Since production is anticipated to decline, there will be less gasoline supply. Also, the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance is still unable to produce gasoline because of its damaged pollution equipment, creating a 10 percent statewide shortfall. The equipment should be fully repaired early next year. With a continuing decline in crude oil prices, consumers should still see lower prices at the pump, just not as much of a decline as last year.

California is not the only state that switches to a winter gasoline formula. All states change to a different formula that depends on the regulations in each state.

Petroleum prices have fluctuated for years. The California Energy Commission is helping to fund advanced technology that will enable Californians to switch to alternative, less polluting fuels and energy that may offer more stable prices.

Schools Go Green Saving Money and Energy

In the face of growing pressure to make budgets stretch to cover more services, schools are looking to reduce costs. Slashing energy and water use can be a significant savings that can guide much needed resources to underfunded classrooms. Last week’s Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit and Expo consisted of sessions for school officials, contractors and consultants to learn and understand about technologies and services that can play a critical role in planning, design and execution of green projects in schools.

The state’s initiative to help schools with energy efficiency, voter approved Proposition 39, reallocates funding to our children by closing a tax loophole that rewarded businesses for moving jobs out of the state. Recognizing that schools can benefit in so many ways from this funding, a specialty track at the summit focused on Proposition 39.

The California Energy Commission and the Division of the State Architect presented program accomplishments, new program features and potential revisions to the Guidelines. In the presentation, Energy Commission staff announced the launch of a new reporting system. Participating K-12 schools can now use the online system to both apply for funds and report yearly progress and project completion metrics. As part of the report, schools will provide energy use, savings and costs. Instructions, a recorded training and a PowerPoint presentation are available on the Energy Commission’s Proposition 39 (K-12) webpage.

Additional questions may be directed to Prop39@energy.ca.gov, or the Proposition 39 (K-12) Hotline toll-free at 855-380-8722, or for those out-of-state at 916-653-0392.

Three Mexican States Join Global Pact to Limit Climate Change

The international effort to limit the impact of climate change gained more support over the weekend. Three Mexican states joined California and other cities, states and nations by signing the Under 2 MOU, an agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The milestone was reached at the Summit of North American Governors and Premiers in Colorado Springs, bringing the number of jurisdictions that have signed or endorsed the agreement to 52. The Mexican states that signed on were Estado de Mexico, Hidalgo and Yucatán.

Leaders gather for Summit of North American Governors and Premiers
Lic. Rolando Rodrigo Zapata Bello, Governor of the State of Yucatán with Emilio Camacho of the California Energy Commission after signing the Under 2 MOU.
”The voices of California and others continue to grow stronger as we demand the world's attention to address climate change," said California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. "Greenhouse gas emissions pose real threats and it is our duty to lead the response."

The Under 2 MOU’s 52 participants come from 17 countries and five continents, collectively representing more than $14.8 trillion in GDP and more than 520 million people. If the signatories represented a single country, it would be the world’s second largest economy behind only the United States.

The Under 2 MOU, launched in May by California and 11 other founding signatories, provides a template for nations to follow and encourages greater ambition as countries negotiate an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Signatories to the Under 2 MOU commit to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieve a per capita annual emission target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050.

Visit www.under2mou.org for more information on the agreement.