Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: Smart Phones & Energy Usage

Smart phones are everywhere. This past year the iPhone 5 was launched and within three days over 5 million units had been sold. Apparently I wasn’t the only curious one wondering how much energy these and other smart phones use. This posting by Barry Fischer explains that the costs to charge the iPhone are really very minimal – about $0.41 per year for the new iPhone 5. Other smart devices cost about the same, more in the case of those with a larger battery. Literally pennies a year. Not too shabby for each individual; however, with estimates saying by 2016 over 1 billion individuals will own and operate a smart phone, that’s a lot of pennies and a lot of energy! Fischer’s post says that the iPhone 5 sales are projected to reach 170 million within a year. Those 170 million devices will have collective electricity consumption equal to the same usage of about 54,000 U.S. households. Not only do the devices use energy while charging, but they also put a strain on data centers because of the Internet usage. On the flip side, Fischer does add that smart devices will really decrease energy usage over time because they actually divert usage from larger, less efficient devices (i.e. using your phone to check your email as opposed to using your desktop computer).

It’s amazing to watch and be part of a culture immersed in technology. So much has changed just within the past five years. Even children know how to operate smart devices. But how much is too much when it comes to smart phone and technology use? I already mentioned how the cumulative effect of use has a big impact, but a guide on WebMD discusses smart phone addiction and the negative consequences on one’s health. The constant distraction can diminish the ability to concentrate and has the potential to disrupt your work life and interpersonal relationships. 

Organizations such as the ‘Digital Detox’ offer entire weekend retreats to escape technology and immerse participants in days of healthy foods, meditation, yoga, hiking, guest speakers, good company, and a little R&R. My favorite idea is the concept of ‘Device-Free Drinks’, a happy hour sans any technology. No sharing of Facebook photos, texting, checking email, or taking calls. Instead, you show up, drop off your devices, and enjoy conversation, board games, massage lounges, music, and more.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in Apps, playing games, keeping in touch with your friends or whatever you like to do with your smart device; however, what would be really smart would be to power down a little more frequently for a little bit longer. If not for the sake of the power grid, then do it for the sake of your own sanity and well-being. 

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mystery unveiled, California and how it trades its caps.

"Let the Hunger Compliance Games begin!"

What is California’s Cap and Trade and what makes California believe it can achieve something the nation could not?  For starters, you may be asking, what is all the hoopla about cap and trade? Well, the basics of cap and trade are simple; it uses the power of the marketplace to reduce pollution, in theory doing so at the lowest possible cost. In the Golden State system, government regulators set an annual limit (cap) on the GHG emissions produced by the state’s factories, power plants and oil refineries. The cap will decline about a percentage point for the first two years and three percent each year after that.

The basic premise of cap-and-trade is that government doesn't tell polluters how to clean up their act. Instead, it simply imposes a cap on emissions. Each company starts the year with a certain number of tons allowed—a so-called right to pollute. The company decides how to use its allowance; it might restrict output, or switch to a cleaner fuel, or buy a scrubber to cut emissions. If it doesn't use up its allowance, it might then sell what it no longer needs. Then again, it might have to buy extra allowances on the open market. Each year, the cap ratchets down, and the shrinking pool of allowances gets costlier. As in a game of musical chairs, polluters must scramble to match allowances to emissions.

Companies will buy and sell allowances to emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases (GHG). Now, each allowance represents one ton of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The minimum price starts at $10 per allowance (ton of Co2) and will slowly increase over time. The number of allowances that a company must hold is determined based on the standard emission from their type of business or facility. Companies that cut their emissions quickly will have spare allowances they can sell to other businesses that are having a hard time making reductions. This is easy to see if we look at emissions through an industry specific looking glass, as it would be difficult to conceive of a cap and trade program working without allowances being industry specific.

In the beginning were the electric utilities. The utility companies will be getting all the allowances they need for free (for a while anyhow).  The utilities will be required to sell allowances at state-organized auctions that occur four times each year. The money the utilities make must be used to benefit their ratepayers, possibly through a credit on customers’ bills or maintenance on equipment and transmission lines that would offset rate hikes much like the one the CPUC just approved. Most manufacturers will receive 90 percent of their allowances for free in the first two years, dropping to 75 percent in 2015.

The first auction happened last November and had 23,126,110 tons of 2013 vintage Co2 allowances up for sale on an electronic trading platform. Companies and traders who registered in advance submitted sealed bids specifying how many allowances they wanted to buy, and at what price. The bids were ranked from highest price to lowest until all the allowances have been allocated. The lowest price at which allowances were allocated became the price that all participants paid, regardless of their original bids. In November’s auction, the allowances sold for $10.09 with the reserve price set at $10 and the maximum price submitted was at $91.13 mean price was $15.60 and the Median price was $12.95. Where is Effie Trinket when you need her? Now, as far as the secondary market, companies and traders can continue trading outside the auctions, but each allowance has a serial number, and all transactions must be recorded in a central tracking system.

There was also an advance auction of 2015 vintage allowances that sold 5,576,000 of 39,450,000 available allowances for sale at the price of $10.00 with a maximum bid of $17.25 and the mean of $11.07 and Median price being $10.59, the maximum price submitted was $17.25 and the minimum was $10.00 and therefore all 2015 vintage allowances were sold at $10.00. The drawback of buying vintage 2015 allowances is that your funding source is tied up two years in advance; the benefit is that you pay a much cheaper price for allowances purchased today that will be used in 2015, when the number of allowances will be dropping to 75 percent. In layman’s terms, if you know your company will need allowances in 2015 and it has the capital to purchase allowances today, the price will be rock bottom today ( hence the $10 price tag) vs. purchasing them in 2015 when every industry will need them and the price is much higher. How about this for a business venture, buy up all the 2015 allowances you can and sell them when 2015 comes around for three to four times the price they were originally purchased for.  Sounds like a great way to make it rich to me.

See the air resource board for a complete list of qualified bidders and a more detailed account of the November 2012 auction. Below is a sampling of what you can expect to find:

Companies can also buy offsets, credits generated by forestry projects and other endeavors that either remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere or reduce emissions. But the offsets must be generated in the United States and can account for no more than 8 percent of all the allowances that a company needs. To me, offsets should be limited to the state of California (for this specific situation) as other states and federal entities are not participating and thus, should not be allowed to participate in an offset program?

Market manipulation?
The Air Resources Board has set limits on the percentage of available allowances that any individual company or trader can hold, to prevent anyone from cornering the market. Consultants will also monitor the auctions, looking for unusual trading behavior. We can all see this one happening or at least someone trying to make this happen.

Where does the money go?
Amazingly enough, this hasn't been decided; by law, money the state raises by selling allowances must be used to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cannot simply be dumped into California's general fund as if it were tax revenue. But the Legislature has not yet hammered out the details.

Important information
Hirschman-Herfindahl index (HHI):  The HHI is a measure of the concentration of allowances purchased by winning bidders relative to the total sale of current vintage allowances in the auction.  The percentage of allowances purchased by each winning bidder is squared and then summed across all winning bidders.  The HHI can range up to 10,000, representing 100% of the current vintage allowances purchased by a single bidder (i.e., 100x100=10,000).

Read more:

Photo Credit: Jacobsen, Nina and Kilik, Jon (Producers) & Ross, Gary (Director). 2012. The Hunger Games [Motion picture]/ United Sates. Lionsgate, Color Force. 

Photo Credit:

Friday, January 25, 2013

VIEW: Top 12 of 2012

The SJVCEO has served as the implementing partner for the Valley Innovative Energy Watch (VIEW), a local government energy efficiency partnership in Tulare and Kings counties, since it began in 2010. As we close out the first cycle of the partnership and the year we have much to reflect on and much to be thankful for. Here, in no particular order, are the top twelve accomplishments of the VIEW Partnership for 2012. Drum roll, please…


Top 12 of 2012

  1. Tirelessly benchmarked utility accounts for all partner jurisdictions using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager
  2. Completed Energy Action Plans for six participating jurisdictions
  3. Creation of ‘EE and Your GP: A VIEW Users Guide for incorporating Energy Efficiency in your General Plan’
  4. Updated the partnership brochure to better reflect partner leadership and efforts within the VIEW communities
  5. Participation in implementer Peer to Peer meetings in order to collaborate with other partnerships and utility managers, creating needed change to better fit the needs of jurisdictions such as an updated community savings requirements
  6. The 2nd Annual VIEW the Success luncheon was held in Visalia at the Vintage Press  with over 30 attendees including partner energy champions, local elected officials, and representatives for all three partner investor owned utilities
  7. PG&E Kill A Watt library lending program introduced for the counties
  8. For the first time, the partnership and SCE sponsored an LED holiday light display for one city block of downtown Hanford, including signage to promote LEDs to the community
  9. Participation in 8 community outreach events across all partner jurisdictions
  10. Energy Efficiency/Demand Side Management 101 presentations for the City of Woodlake, County of Kings and City of Hanford
  11. Creation of a project tracking database utilizing Microsoft Access
  12. Announcement of the addition of PG&E to VIEW – officially to start in 2013

Thank you to all of the VIEW partners! We look forward to sharing another two years together. 

VIEW is funded by California utility ratepayers and administered by Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Company* under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. *Pacific Gas and Electric Company will also administer the program with the two other utilities come January 2013.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013: Breakthrough Year On Climate?

My first "local" friend, sweetest lady ever!

According to the Sierra Club, 2013 has the potential to be a breakthrough year on climate, and they are calling on the president to use his full executive authority. The Sierra Club believes Mr. Obama was largely silent on climate change during the presidential campaign, much to the dismay of supporters in the environmental movement. After winning reelection, the president promised to make climate change one of his top three priorities. The president, in an interview for TIME's Person of the Year award, said the economy, immigration, climate change and energy would be at the top of his agenda for the next four years.

Sierra Club wants to see those words translate into action, and will pressure the Obama Administration during the first 100 days of his second term with a series of town halls, rallies, reports and letter-writing events. The Sierra Club states that while Mr. Obama “gets” climate change, a “considerable gap” still exists between words and deeds. Further stating that Mr. Obama should use his State of the Union address in February to "talk very clearly about both the threats and the opportunities posed by climate change and clean energy." In Monday's inaugural address he gave what some say may be the primer version of what is yet to come. 
One of my favorite photos from Nepal, Boy fishing .

There is new political backing for action on global warming in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.That storm has sparked debates in Congress about coastal infrastructure and the long-term impact of rising sea levels. 

I would ask, “how much longer can we drag our collective feet on changing our behavior when it comes to climate change?"

Passing a large climate bill during the new Congress would be difficult, given the strong GOP opposition in both chambers. Many Republicans are skeptical that global warming is occurring, while others attribute the trend to non-human factors which leads them to oppose the emissions rules and emphasis on costlier clean-energy technology. While the House is still under GOP control, the Sierra Club argues we should be urging President Obama to take matters into his owns hands; President Obama could bypass Congress by issuing regulations to enhance clean-energy investment and curtail carbon emissions. 

Waterfall that only a year prior was known as a stream.
I wonder how feasible this actually is, but most of all, how likely is it to happen? 

If we don’t do something in 2013 are we past the point of no return?

I’m counting on the California Leadership to pave the way for sensible climate legislation. I realize that climate change is not a fun topic, but it is one that I have witnessed firsthand while in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, leaving NO questions in my mind about the legitimacy of the issue itself.

Photo Credits: Deanna Fernandez

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

JOB OPENING: Energy Industry Fundamentals Adjunct Instructor

The first Clean Energy job under our C6 program?  The instructor for the Energy Industry Fundamentals course!  

West Hills College, as part of a Department of Labor, Trade Adjustment AssistanceCommunity College and Career Training Grant Program known as “C6” will offer an introduction to the energy industry course on the Coalinga Campus.  As a partner, the Clean Energy Organization is assisting West Hills Coalinga in recruiting an instructor for the six week course. *IT IS NOT OKAY TO CONTACT THE CAMPUS REGARDING THIS POSITION*

Desired Qualifications:
  • Industry experience with energy—electrical and gas power, California utilities, generation or other applicable energy subset.
  • AA degree with six years industry experience
  • BA with some industry experience
  • MA with minimal industry experience
  • Engaging personality!
  • Qualified OSHA Train the Trainer

 Position Specifics:
  • Dates: February 19-March 15, 2013
  • 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Monday through Friday
  • $59-61 per hour (DOE)
  • Paid for classroom hours only
  • Hired as a "part time" instructor by West Hills College Coalinga (it is not okay to contact the campus)
  • No benefits
Please email with interest and resume, or respond to our Craiglist posting at:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr and a legacy of service

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama’s national call to service initiative identifies Martin Luther King Day as a National Day of Service.

Throughout his lifetime, Dr. King passionately committed himself to community and service.

On January19, 2013, Americans from all walks of life  honored Dr. King’s legacy through a day of service, a day on, not a day off. The National Day of Service traditionally falls on MLK day, however, the 2013 inaugural events coincided with the holiday, and the National Day of Service was observed on the 19th.

Image by Hulton Archive / Getty Images
At the Clean Energy Organization we are committed to improving the quality of life for all residents in the San Joaquin Valley and we encourage our neighbors and friends to practice Dr. King’s principals of community, volunteerism and service not just on the Day of Service but throughout the year.  Our Organization is committed to a mission of public service through education and outreach on the benefits of a more sustainable and energy efficient life. 

EE Tip from Fig & Olive: Bathroom Lighting

Fig and Olive say 'Don't forget to change out your old, inefficient bathroom light fixtures!' Check out this link for information on some stylish EE lighting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: Wood Burning and Your Health

While the crackling logs of a wood fire are without a doubt gorgeous and cozy, they are, unfortunately, bad for our air quality and our health. I’ll give you a second to wipe the tears or the angry smirk off your face because yes, this is another article about the efforts to reduce fireplace use. I used to be in the same boat and feel that nothing could substitute for the real deal; however, after my parents replaced their wood burning fireplace for a gas insert I was completely converted. I never realized how much soot was being deposited into their home until close inspection of the ceiling above their fireplace. Let me take that back. It wasn’t a ‘close’ inspection – you could simply stand across the room and see the black smudges covering the wall and ceiling. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how bad wood burning was affecting the health of my family, my neighbors, and our Valley (and state, country, world!). 

This article in the Fresno Bee explains that in 2014 a new San Joaquin Valley air plan will be put into place in order to help combat the adverse effects of wood burning fireplaces. Strict restrictions will be set that could even ban all wood burning during winter in the larger Valley cities like Fresno and Bakersfield. I know my wood burning friends will be upset, but can’t we pause and take a look at the bigger picture? I don’t have children but I always like to make my comparisons using kids – I know, I’m purposely tugging on those heart strings. Is having a fire worth watching your child suffer through a breathing treatment? Is having a fire worth taking away outdoor recess on bad air quality days? Is having a fire worth respiratory illness, cancer, or heart problems? Studies have shown that wood smoke is even more damaging that tobacco smoke! This article found on the website for Families for Clean Air says the EPA estimates that an hour of wood burning produces more carcinogenic properties than 30 cigarettes. Let’s put aside our selfish desire to bask in the glow of the wood burning fireplace and think about what we are really doing to ourselves and to future generations. Every effort counts so I urge you to do your part.

If my guilt trip didn’t work, maybe an added financial kicker will change your mind? The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District offers a ‘Burn Cleaner Program’ which will provide a financial incentive (as long as funds are available) to those who swap out their wood burning device for a cleaner burning alternative, such as natural gas. Program guidelines can be found here

I love my natural gas fireplace and we use it as the primary heating source for our home since the majority of the time we spend indoors is in the living room. The lazy girl in me also really enjoys the fact that instead of tending to logs I can simply turn the fire off and on with the ease of a remote control. As you can see, we are all quite content with our fireplace! Sure we may be sacrificing some of the beauty (yea, I admit it), but it makes me happy knowing that I am not sacrificing the health of my family whenever we turn it on – and as Martha Stewart would say ‘it’s a good thing’. 

Photo Sources: