Solar is absolutely part of the solution to climate change, and I’m glad to see Buncombe County and the city of Asheville exploring viable options [“Paths to Power: City, County Debut Results of Renewable Energy Planning,” Aug. 21]. However, instead of asking how to get to 100% renewables, we need to refine the question to how can we reduce our energy demand so that we can get to 100% renewables. Looking at solar as the first option is putting the cart before the horse. Conservation, efficiency, then renewables in that order have the most proven and effective track record.
For example, HVAC accounts for 40%-60% of a building’s energy usage and represents the biggest piece of the energy pie and therefore the biggest opportunity. For larger buildings, optimizing the building automation software that runs that HVAC equipment can result in 20%-25% energy reductions for less than one-tenth of what it would cost in solar panels to generate.
How many miles per gallon does your home or building get? While everyone is familiar with this metric for cars, we are unable to have this discussion for buildings, even though buildings account for 40% of total U.S. energy usage compared to 30% for transportation and 30% for industry /manufacturing.
Take 12 months of utilities and convert them to one unit, an MPG electrical equivalent (MPGe), and now you have a metric that you can add to any existing green building program.
Realtors can add this MPGe to the MLS, which would add the value of efficiency and renewables while also creating demand for home energy audits, weatherization and renewable installers. Imagine this metric on Zillow, where you’re comparing your usage to your neighbors, which creates healthy competition.
There are certainly plenty of opportunities out there, but let’s start by looking at managing our demand instead of just focusing on how to create clean energy.
— David King
CEM (Certified Energy Manager)