Efficiency guru says U.S. can learn from California
SAN FRANCISCO |
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The United States needs to take a lesson from California, which over the past 30 years has held average energy usage flat while national consumption soared, according to a leading energy efficiency expert.
Arthur Rosenfeld, a commissioner at the California Energy Commission and pioneering scientist in the field of energy efficiency, said the federal government should launch a renewed national effort to promote energy savings.
"We need to pressure the federal government to adopt all of the tighter California standards and we should also encourage states to go ahead and experiment with even a broader list of standards," Rosenfeld told Reuters in an interview last week.
Since the mid-1970s, per-capita consumption of electricity in California has remained flat at about 7,000 kilowatt hours a year, while energy use for the U.S. overall has increased 50 percent per person to more than 12,000 kilowatt hours.
A national program with rules as strong as those in California would set standards for using less electricity in homes and offices and, coupled with state utility programs to boost the use of renewable power like wind and solar, strengthen the fight against global warming and climate change, Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld, 81, is professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and winner last year of the U.S. Department of Energy's Enrico Fermi Award. He founded a program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1975 to study energy savings.
On the sidelines of an energy conference, with his lunch box by his side, the soft-spoken Rosenfeld took aim at elevators and escalators to illustrate how simple solutions can be.
"Escalators anywhere in the world except the U.S. stop when nobody is on it for five minutes," he said. "When you approach it, it starts. It's a simple control to save energy.
"Elevators going down could be regenerating electricity to move the next elevators going up."
Rosenfeld helped establish the Center for Building Science, which made breakthroughs in fluorescent lighting that led to compact fluorescent lamps, windows that save energy, and computer programs to reduce energy use and make buildings more energy efficient.
Public interest in energy efficiency peaked during the oil crisis in the 1970s and the presidency of Jimmy Carter, only to abate as fuel prices fell back in the 1980s and in the face of resistance to federal standards by President Ronald Reagan.
Since 1975, appliance and building standards have saved $56 billion in energy costs for businesses and individuals in California, according to a state regulatory study.
California also has developed and implemented a three-step plan for new energy resources that puts energy efficiencies first, renewable electricity supplies second, and new fossil-fired power plants last.
Rosenfeld also called for tougher standards for commercial buildings and more building-code inspectors.
"California updates building standards every three years but the state staff is too small, it's only 20 people for the whole state to update them. So to get them out on time we have a long list of things we can never get to," he said.
Rosenfeld also wants more "big box" retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot to emphasize energy efficiency and in-store energy departments "so you can walk in and find trained people who will help you with compact fluorescent lamps and insulation and solar panels and more."
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