Wednesday, December 28, 2011

10 Clean Energy Predictions for 2012

Year-end forecasts are a common staple at newspapers. I don't think there was one year in my three decades as a reporter that I wasn't involved in a story that either looked at the current year in the rear view or predicted what was to come.

So, I continue in that vein, except this time I have help from Michael Kanellos of Here are his top 10 predictions for 2012. I don't think he is too far off, especially when it comes to No. 2 (jobs in renewable energy) and No. 5 (energy efficiency).

Sure, 2011 brought us the implosion of Solyndra, but it also ushered in the first stages of a solar boom in California. Try telling these 700 workers in Southern California's desert that renewable energy jobs are a myth.

And there are more to come. Dozens of solar projects are proposed for Central and Southern California, including where I sit in the farm-rich sun-kissed San Joaquin Valley. Many of the solar projects won't employ large numbers of people when they are operational, but construction workers ought to be kept busy for the next five years.

But I'm more excited about the prospects of a sincere advancement in energy-efficiency programs. Businesses, local governments and individuals are realizing that a modest investment in energy upgrades can yield impressive cost savings and a smaller carbon footprint. And those savings, unlike a tax refund or one-time windfall, continue after the initial payback. Want more evidence: check out this post, which contends "significant" savings occur.

Those savings can be reinvested into business operations, stimulate the economy or go into additional energy-saving programs that cut power bills even more. Efficiency really is the gift that keeps on giving - at least for this scientist who slashed his monthly power bill from $400 to $50.

The Christian Science Monitor has another take on energy efficiency here.

Government mandates are sparking some of the interest in energy efficiency. California, adhering to the the old adage "you can't manage what you can't manage," now requires through AB 1103 that "benchmark" - energy use data - for commercial structures over 50,000 square feet in size be available by July 2012. Here's more.

Critics complain that it is just more government meddling, but benchmarking is already pretty common, with Seattle and other cities mandating it, and thousands of buildings across the U.S. already marked. Energy is a landlord's largest controllable cost, and many property owners who complete benchmarking can qualify for Energy Star certification, which studies show increase the value and sales price of property. It also is used in LEED certification.

Let's see: Higher property values. Lower energy bills. Smaller carbon footprint. What's not to like?

(Photo of Seattle Skyline by Dave Gostisha)

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