Joe Nyangon


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Why has "green consumption" of sustainable products (e.g. Whole Foods, Toyota Prius) not permeated electricity consumption?

While many consumers have embraced sustainable products (eg. Whole Foods, Toyota Prius), that ethos has not yet permeated electricity consumption. Why do you think this is the case? Will it always be like this? Will renewable energy consumption be driven only by government mandates? Why? Or do you think this will change? If the marketplace were fair and rational, there would be no need for subsidies and mandates for the renewables and a proper carbon tax would suffice—as is starting to happen in Europe through cap-and-trade system. What will drive the change to clean energy consumption?

  • Mar 31 2012: I think part of the problem has to do with a sense of accountability for resources. With products like groceries from Whole Foods and hybrids from Toyota, there doesn't have to be any change in lifestyle to do some perceived good. Lowering electricity consumption does, however, require a change of habits and mindset on how resources are consumed. But the electrical power generation/delivery system has become so abstracted that a number of people could not tell you where their power comes from. They just flip the switch and the lights turn on. Because there is no longer that connection between the source and the usage, there is not as much of an innate need to conserve. Would people use less electricity if the coal being burned came from a big pile down the street from their house, thereby allowing them to see the resources being depleted?
  • Mar 31 2012: I think there is a social element here, it's not just about the 'marketplace' and policy. Think about it; with the organic food movement there is a social element, there is a different vibe in an organic or local foods market, there are those conversations at the farmer's market, and let's not forget that it's better for you and you can feel it. When it comes to clothing, home goods, there is a lot of the same elements, less conversation but it is healthier and you can feel it, but we also move into a sort of public display of our belief system. With cars there are practical reasons that make great sense but they are also moving more into the realm of public display. When hybrids came out they did marginally better than a small ICE from 10-15 years before when cars were smaller yet a new hybrid cost 10 times more, they hardly made sense yet many people bought them. We as humans are inherently social creatures and we care about what people think about us and how we want to be perceived, and electricity, well it's invisible (except for that large array of solar panels on the roof). Switching to a clean energy supplier is a decision that is invisible as well, so there is no social motivator. I've been interested lately in smart meters but I would like to see them somehow tied together or in some way able to provide a comparison metric so people can see how their energy use compares to that of their neighbors, make it competitive and social so that people can know how they are doing. Fair and rational may work for some people but don't overlook our desire to one-up the Jones's.
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    Apr 6 2012: I'll submit a controversial reason... No government, wants its people to be able to provide their own power. Individualism, and sustainability, are in stark contrast to government power. As long as human beings need energy to accomplish tasks, and as long as the government can control and change the prices of energy, they can ensure that no human being will ever be able to live their life, without contributing to government and corporate power.

    Solar energy takes us off their tit... So they hate it. They don't want us to live a healthy, happy, and productive life, because healthy, happy, and productive people don't shut up and do what they're told.
    • Apr 8 2012: I agree with David. Why is so much energy and attention being applied to solar"farms"? It's because people will still be forced to buy the power from the farm and will still be at the mercy of the "farm owners". Why hasn't all that power been distributed amongst people's homes. It actually makes better sense to have it distributed. During a catastrophe interconnection with the farm may be broken and the powers that be might just decide they have more "important" uses for that power and leave you hanging! Distributed power would allow neighbors to share power among a group of homes with some simple switching so that even a modest system could keep refrigeration and lighting on.
      The other thing they don't want you to have is a simple shelter. Right now, you are NOT ALLOWED to live in a tiny, simple shelter. The largest part of the average persons energy and money go to paying for some tuna boat of a "shelter". The powers that be want it that way. Just think how much extra time and money yould have if you lived in a tent. Of course, a lot of people don't want to live in a tent (or a bus, or a shipping container) but the point is that you CAN'T whether you want to or not! The result is that you have no choice BUT to keep that dreary job, or stay in the same place, or be hounded by the authorities.
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        Apr 8 2012: In some ways though, I'm also saying... The money is in the treatment, not the disease. It's not a monolith of conspiracy against green technology, or anything... There's just very little incentive to research a cure, when you make so much money from the treatment.

        It's the same problem in the public private health care debate... The government isn't made up of doctors or engineers, so they waste money, when investing in such things. They buy from snake oil salesman... but, in energy, as well as healthcare, no salesman is going to work on a cure.

        You need university, private charity, and possibly public, pure research money, if you want to solve these problems in real sustainable, individual ways, not because corporations are evil, but because they don't care, there's no real money in curing aids, there is a boat load in treating it. Why would an energy company want to design a device that makes you an energy provider?
        • Apr 9 2012: I agree with you. I used to be a big believer in conspiracies but not anymore. Sure, wealthy grouPs of people wash each others hands and use insider knowledge to get. An advantage, but theyre going to follow the bottom line. Their not going to lose money just to prove a point. I like that "theyre selling the treatment."where to go from here? There are so many competing ideas tho and the peoPle with the money are the ones who get heard. Here is a poem i wrote yrs ago.
          I hereby propose a prize
          To he who finds an ad sans lies
          A million dollars, a billion even
          I gaauurraanntee it!
          Maybe the problem arises when business meets politcs. When money gets politicians to form policy in their favor. Hating the homeless is mainly just bogeyman creation and social control. Make it so horrible and "other" so people will keep nose to grindstone
  • Mar 31 2012: I don't think a carbon tax is enough. What is needed is a reevaluation of what renewable means and an education of the public. People are terrified of nuclear energy for mostly irrational reasons. Education will help reduce the hysteria. If Japan and Germany do not wake up the way that China has they will be in serious economic trouble. China has over 25 reactors under construction. Nuclear is a renewable energy. The earth has an abundance of Thorium. The new designs for nuclear plants have passive safety. The technology is here. It is the only source with dense enough energy to keep up the demand for electricity while shutting down coal plants. Politicians won't back nuclear for many reasons. Two biggies are 1) the fossil fuel lobbyists keep spreading lies and misinformation and 2) politicans want the votes so they support what they think the people want.
    • Mar 31 2012: Although I share many of the opinions posted by Rick, I won't call nuclear energy renewable at all. Radioactive elements are only produced during the explosion of supernova stars, I cannot imagine something less renewable than that!
      • Mar 31 2012: The point you disagree on is my main point. It is renewable when you understand that new reactor designs can reuse nuclear waste. Thorium has a half life of 14 billion years yet you could keep a rock in your pocket without ever causing you any harm. Mammals evolved during a time when natural background radiation was much higher than it is now. That is why we are now able to deal with radiation. Our bodies became used to radiation long before any nuclear plants or bombs existed. The sun has frequent nuclear activity yet we call it renewable. You see how a prejudice has emerged towards nuclear as a result of the cold war and nuclear arms race.
        • Apr 12 2012: Rick M., "if Japan ... do not wake up" - where were you last year? Japan got woken up totally about the results of nuclear power in an earthquake zone. Not an option!
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        Apr 1 2012: Of course nuclear isn't renewable but the estimates of world wide supply of thorium would suggest enough for around a thousand years. That should be enough time for us to find something better.
        • Apr 2 2012: It's not renewable but who says the idea of renewable is perfect. We already know the term has become meaningless since the processes involved in using renewable energy is flawed in many ways. Who cares if nuclear is not renewable if it is a better solution it is a better solution. "Renewable" when it was first coined was supposed to imply there was no waste. We know one fact is that the space used is a waste of space for Solar and Wind. What is more sustainable? A compact plant that is reliable and a high output or hundreds of acres that don't work because the infrastructure is too unreliable. The smart grids are not here yet and distribution would need to stretch great distances to accommodate a semi-reliable steady source of wind or sunlight.
    • Mar 31 2012: I share the points and important qualification by Jose. First, there is no real solution to the nuclear waste problem... We ought to be able to do better than simply extracting a resource (and destroying the lovely beaches in Kerala, India) for Thorium or any other resource, and dumping the waste in a "safely engineered" facility somewhere when we know that the half-life of nuclear waste can be substantially more than any structure constructed by man. Second, there are alternatives for meeting energy needs, and it is better to work instead on the hysteria of generating more and more electricity without exploring even the low-hanging-fruit like energy efficiency to its fullest. That requires a desire to change behavior... so well stated by Justin. Finally, I am not sure that China represents a model of "green consumption" of anything... products or electricity.
      • Mar 31 2012: Nuclear energy is too good to pass over. Just because the current reactors don't burn up all of the "waste" does not mean we should give up. The new designs are on their way and reactors such as the LFTR and Thermal Reactors will burn up nuclear waste. Bill Gates is also pushing for this method of eliminating "waste" fuel. This link will give you some idea.
        • Apr 1 2012: By the same logic, oil is too good to pass over with all the developments there also. I guess we should wait for the research. Meantime finance the no-risk alternatives of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Why finance the risk? And, going back to the original question... it appears that green consumption is ignored in electricity production because investment continues to flow into tapping extractive fuel sources that do not have a green supply chain.
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          Apr 1 2012: Rick is correct about the LFTR design. In the thirty year lifetime of an industrial scale LFTR it produces about a tonne of waste and that is low level waste. If you replace the LFTR with a solar array the amount of environmental radiation would probably go up as the silicon wafers must be doped by neutron bombardment in a nuclear reactor for them to work. It intrigues me that people who are pro-solar are often anti-nuclear even though you can't have one without the other.
    • Apr 3 2012: Where does Carbon Tax figure in the argument??"
  • Apr 4 2012: Some people ernestly believe in conspiracy theories about how the oil industry kills electric cars, or has all the major automobile companies in their pocket producing inefficient that we buy more fuel.This I assume can only arise out of ignorance of history, and the presumption that the age we live in, is somehow more significant to the overall trajectory of human history, than anything that came before us. Electric cars predate gasoline motors. Electric carriages were all over newyork before Henry T. Ford stuck a shovel in the ground. Electric cars broke land speed records before gasoline powered cars. Electric cars came before gasoline cars, end of story. So why didn't the "electric car lobby" crush Ford? It should have been pretty easy right? The problem with electric cars 100 years ago, is the same one that we have today: shitty batteries. Recharge times. Recharge cycles and battery stamina.Capitalism rewards efficiency. It rewards innovation. Companies not matter how large, do not control the market. History has countless examples, I've already given one. Here is another: Edison used his considerable fortune to try and run Westinghouse out of business, including dirty smear campaigns...(and here we thought Edison was a "nice" scientist). However polyphase AC transmission was simply better, and Edison was fighting against the tides of time. Companies that do not adapt, but use bully tactics, always lose. Always. In a capitalist free market economy.

    The point I am trying to make is that the debate is severely poisoned. You cannot have a rational argument with "career protestors" and celebs who use their considerable money and fame to inject politics and nonsense into the debate.
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    Apr 3 2012: The problem with renewables at the moment isn't so much cost as it is effectiveness and convenience. Even if we halve our energy consumption wind and solar will never meet our needs. To replace a single coal fired power station with wind power requires around 2000 turbines each of which takes up an area equal to 4 football fields to avoid wind shadow but at least they are reliable long term. Solar is really only any use if you can store the energy. I'm at work all day and use most energy at night. Solar panels and batteries have an effective life of around ten years. Thats part of the reason why the electric car hasn't taken off. You spend 50 000 on a Prius knowing that it will be worth 5000 in around five years as the battery pack is getting on and costs 15000 to replace.
    The only universally reliable and available renewable is geo-thermal but it gets the least publicity.
    If we did mass produce solar we would need nuclear reactors to provide the neutron bombardment to dope the silicon so we may as well use the nuclear generated electricity.
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    Mar 31 2012: "If the marketplace were fair and rational, there would be no need for subsidies and mandates for the renewables.." - but why then do we have subsidies and mandates for fossil fuels? That is not a fair and rational market. In addition to direct subsidies to the oil companies, oil policy guides our government in acts such as wars in the mideast. If you add up direct and indirect subsidies, as well as environmental and health costs, and infrastructure support, the cost of fossil fuels is heavily subsidized in the marketplace. This is not a level playing field. It would be unreasonable to think that renewables could compete unaided - or at least it puts them at a severe competitive disadvantage to think so. Much of the support given fossil fuels is done so 'in the national interest' - but isn't it also in the national interest to support a better and cleaner energy future?
  • Apr 12 2012: I've read all the comments above. Many seem to focus on expense or convenience. Don't people get it? We have to clean up our planet, clean up our air, our seas, allow other species the apparent privilege of sharing this planet with us, and thus grant our descendants the chance for a life similar in quality to our own. We don't have the luxury of waiting for it to become cheap, easy, or financially profitable. We need to start moving now!
  • Apr 5 2012: Im getting excited about this. An individual could trade her credits to a neighbor with a farm or garden for produce. Electricity surplus to a car charging co-op. you get the idea. Everyone would have their own acct and use a smartphone or credit device to load unload. Empowerment for individuals.
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      Apr 6 2012: LIke a modern day barter system? I like that. Then it could level the playing field by making everyone's skill useable.
  • Apr 5 2012: As long as more and more people want more and more trash the supply curve and demand curve will never meet! As long as people strive to keep up with the advertisers ridiculous presentations their satisfaction will never meet up with reality. Reducing population growth is by far the easiest way to meet our energy needs. Trying to double and triple our "production" should be secondary. I know this is slightly off thread. By the way, cutting back on wars might help too! I know that impoverished people want things but if you spend time with them you'll find they really aren't dying to have it all. Enough is as good as a feast. If we don't curb our appetites it won't matter anyway.
  • Apr 4 2012: If at some point in time any kind of "green" technology proves superior to "dirty" oil, then it will happen. It is not an infrastucture problem, or a funding problem, or evil companies and their CEOs. Use common sense.

    Renewable technology is crap. Refocus the debate. Solar and Wind will never be a mainstream source of power for large cities with high population densities. They have their uses in small marketsand rural communities who can use this technology and be self sufficient.. It is simply not good enough for modern day urban environments.

    Residential Rooftop solar is also crap. It has very low yield per square meter, and will take decades to payback the initial investment. Typically a rooftop solar panel will generate 100-120W per sq.m of panel. Panels cost anywhere from 300-400 dollars per sq.m Here is a good example:

    The above only supplies 2/3 at best of daily power demands. There is no battery bank, so you cant use it at night. Battery banks cost even more, and aren't economical.
  • Apr 4 2012: Infrastructure! Hey nice house that you own. I need you to go ahead and burn it down and build a new on that will be smaller and more expensive. Oh by the way you don't get any compensation for the old one. That is what we would be asking the energy industry to do. Billions or trillions of dollars and millions of jobs. I vote for converting electricity and cars to Natural gas. 50% cleaner burning, Abundant, Cheap, and a great "transition" fuel.
    Money will drive us to alternative energy. or scarcity of resources. Taxing and cap and trade only hurt our industries. Oil is the economic driver of our economy and the world. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" figure out how to change that mindset and you'll figure out how to usher in alternative energy. (it is coming along but it is just an appeasement in my view)
  • Apr 3 2012: Government exists to protect the good of the people. Installing green standards has been successful at a metropolitan level, thus more communities should begin to look at how they can be effective members of a new America. The reason people are not changing electricity habits is because they don't understand the scientific methods that are proving that changes among us. iTunesU has many courses that discuss how to change the mindset of everyday Americans to see that voting for the correct policies is more important for the countries energy problems.
  • Apr 3 2012: Renewable energy is expensive to make. The raw material is very cheap, but the technology is not so cheap for small scale production. That is the reason, only govt agencies are able to tap it.
    (I am talking simple economics here) As the demand increases, the cost of production (per unit) will go down, and that would make the business more profitable and hence more firms will jump into it. The competition will further lower the prices and hence more people will opt for it. That is how this field will grow.
  • Apr 1 2012: My punctuation left my statement misleading. LFTR reactors are rechable within 5 years. They are set to make a comeback when they were first tested successfully back in the 1960s. Currently France and China are planning there own models based on thye original US invention.
  • Mar 31 2012: The problem begins with the fact the US has never had an energy policy/plan, as Mr. Picken's points out during his TED talk. America has grown up using oil, natural gas and coal to power its mighty factories, schools, and homes. People were led to believe that coal was going to be the power source for America for years to come due to its abundance in the US. This is no longer the case, as we have learned more about global warming and the effects of greenhouse gases on the weather patterns of our planet. It is going to take a government mandate and subsidies to force power production to move in the direction of cleaner and more sustainable. The idea of a carbon tax is great except it creates a way for companies to still pollute by diverting carbon credits.(For lack of space I cannot elaborate further on the trading of carbon credits)Rather or not this requires cutting all subsidies to dirty power production or not, I'm not here to say, but what I can say with relative confidence is that we no longer have a choice of when we are going to make the change, but how? TED conferences have seen a large amount of ideas on addressing the power issue. It will be the culmination of these ideas that will help us begin to move towards a more sustainable, cleaner future. As part of this move we must take nuclear power seriously, we need to invest in wind and solar, but also tidal, geo-thermal, hydro, ultraviolet energy transfer. The list goes on and on, and we cannot bank on only one or two types of energy production. We will need a vast, smart, integrated grid that is hyper efficient and is capable of meeting the ever growing power demands of society and the solution to those demands is not 2-dimensional but multi-dimensional.
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      Apr 2 2012: My major concern with cap and trade is the admttedly slight possibility that it turns out we are wrong about global warming, but when we find out the global carbon market will be considered too big to let collapse. Sound familiar
      • Apr 8 2012: I have heard about individuals and corporations buying land where the grasses and other vegitation can be used for carbon offsets. Cap and Trade will create a business out of thin-air, increase the cost of land beyond the average person's income, oppress the majority of citizens and help the rich become richer. Therefore isn't it possible that pursuing saving the world is merely a power play?
  • Mar 29 2012: Great questions! The key driver of renewable energy consumption remains cost. The future price of sources of the renewable resources is known—nothing. The sun is free. Wind is free. Therefore, as mass market develops and technology improves, solar cells, for instance, will get less expensive. However, lack of actual carbon price on fossil fuels keeps the cost of fossil fuels relatively lower and prevents the much anticipated takeoff of renewable energy.
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    Apr 11 2012: This is assuming the products we consume labeled 'GREEN' are 'GREEN' at all. Whole Foods and Toyota Prius are garnering attention because of marketing and playing to the perception of what we believe 'being green' means. Being truly 'green' means living within the means of an ecosystem. As long as we are buying consumed goods that rely on extracting and modifying our natural resources in an unnatural way, and as long as the goods depend on methods of distribution that rely on non-renewable methods, then those products are not truly 'GREEN'. There has yet to be a human-consumed product that is provided naturally on Earth that has not been modified in a non-renewable way, through loss of particle states, through the destruction of nutrients, and through the displacement of the material itself from its local ecosystem. These modifications result in a greater deficit of our natural resources. Agriculture itself has become a method that results in a deficit of soil nutrients, consumption of land, and the diversion of fresh and salt water sources. In order to be truly 'GREEN' we would have to remove ourselves from man-made constructs, depend on harvesting only what nature can provide at its own pace, and abandon the idea of securing resources which has dictated the tenor of our survival since pre-history. Is that likely to be profitable? Not in a monetary sense.
  • Apr 10 2012: It's not like there's no green development in other industries they just don't garner much if any attention. LEDs and OLEDs for example drastically cut energy consumption drastically over conventional forms of lighting yet if I go into a hardware store they're not even available yet.

    There's also a problem of lack of incentive to update. HVAC-R for example is one of the largest industries when it comes to consumption of electricity and knowing this has made remarkable improvements in the equipment it uses. However it's exceedingly difficult to get customers and businesses to upgrade their equipment except in new construction. It's simply too expensive up-front to replace the equipment unless there is no alternative. That's without even getting into the issue that most old structures were not designed around the idea of conservation or in the case of really old homes even the idea of air conditioning, resulting in extra inefficiencies.
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      Apr 11 2012: I agree. In most cases, with the folks I talk to on a daily basis, they would love to go green but simply cannot afford the upgrades needed to make that happen.
    • Apr 11 2012: Most people are too consumed worrying about the "Housewives of .... " and what Kim Kardashian is doing to concern themselves with these issues
      • Apr 11 2012: Funny you should mention that I have an image saved specifically about that, it's difficult at times to care what happens to a planet filled with people like that.
      • Apr 12 2012: "Housewives of ...." - we housewives (or some of us) are the very ones who are worried about living within the "planetary budget" - we do it at home every week, we don't understand why our governments don't do it (financially), and we are the people raising the next generation. We WANT to have green alternatives that help us, help the planet, and help future generations!
  • Apr 9 2012: There is a massive and global push toward green
    For forward views on issues review the World Economic Forum reports
    They are not secretive, nor even distorted, nor hidden, simply go to their website.
    This year Water big in the news, Water big on agenda of WEF 3 to 7 years ago.

    The much discussed advance of the Global Middle Class, not quite on par definitionally with what is currently called the "developed world" will not be ABLE to happen without a movement toward Green.
    Sustainable Business, not Sustainable Competitive Advantage type notions, but movements toward Hawkin's Natural Capitalism are on the way.

    The large, and oft hated MNC's are leading the charge, perhaps not as quick as those who love labels and bandy about terms such as Greenwashing due to some other parochial disagreements but movements are occurring.

    They have to.

    The issue, battery technologies, education, information, scale up for production, material sciences,e tc....etc.....etc....

    Everyone can't have solar power or wind if they can't store it.
    Then, as others, No Energy Policy, evil Carter and Nixon (or perhaps the only sane presidents in the last several decades on this issue) an unlikely pair.

    Even though we can switch the channel on the TV with our remote, we have to realize the time it takes to make such grand, and large fundamental changes to society.

    Reason the electric car was killed, battery technology, no way to replace our fleet of global cars with electric cars when the solution for storage is not there, it will come. Reasons the cars destroyed, we don't want anyone else to get our proprietary technology, not conspiracy, a smart business practice.

    Anyway, we will move, the reason the world hasn't, technology isn't there yet. Is it coming, every day.

    Knowledge is power. Fear, distrust, lack of hope are the play things of autocrats and tyrants. Conspiracy theories, support goals contrary to the intentions of those who circulate them.

    Knowledge without ideology.
  • Apr 9 2012: 16) There may be lower profit margin on green products(fewer products sold, more costly materials and processes, need to change consumer, etc)
    17) manufacturers dont want their other products to appear inferior in comparison.
    18) manufacuries market them as specialty products(not for ordinary people)
    19) people promoting green products are perceived as goofballs.
    20) talk radio
  • Apr 9 2012: 11)there arent any green options(jacuzzi pumps, power tools,toasters,etc
    12) they dont care or believe the green movement is sinister.
    13) they dont believe their actions will make any difference
    14)Theyre tired of being lectured andwant to do what they want at home.
    15)they just buy more products with their savi ngs. "look, imdoing more with same amt")
  • Apr 9 2012: I went and reread the question.
    1) people cant use less, their personal infrastructure is obsolete(homes, appliances,hvac)
    2)they are unable to amortizean investment in energy efficiency.
    3) they do not have RELIABLE information about their choices.
    4) they do not have access to these products. (they are not in stores )
    5) they are always being told newer and bette and cheaper products are on the way.
    6)they have no control over their electricity source.
    7)they may be renting or intend to move and dont think they can recoup.
    8) landlords dont pay for utilities.
    9)more efficient products may not perform identically.(LED bulbs)
    10) people perceive that these products dont perform
    Ill add more later
  • Apr 7 2012: Required Levels of Investment
    Cheaper Alternatives
    Global Realities as to the continued growth of fossil fuel consumption
    the vast reserves of coal, and growing availability of natural gas
    The level of the technology
    Lack of necessary breakthroughs in storage/battery technologies
    Most importantly, TIME....

    We will get there, rather more slowly than is often desired in our remote control, pick up the mobile and order a pizza (rather than milk the cow make the cheese, grow the tomatoes and make the sauce, raise the wheat and mill the flour), nearer toward instant gratification societies that are evolving with the advance of technology and communication tehcnologies.
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    Some very interesting data coming in from current research on household energy consumption in Vietnam shows that houses with solar hot water heaters are actually consuming up to 20% more electricity than those without.

    Whist the data is still being analised, it appears that this is most likely a result of the increased spending power of those who can afford solar
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    Apr 6 2012: I keep hearing a familiar tone in this conversation. "Going Green" is expensive. So, is money dictating the future of sustainably produced energy? I have always marveled at the human race and our dependency on money, not fossils! If it all came down to a collapse of the almighty dollar, and it could, what will the majority do to survive? What if eventually all manufacturing grinds to a halt because of costs? How long can we keep tacking more zeros to the end of price tags? The situation I believe lies in our unwillingness to give up or sacrifice anything. We are becoming a society of intellectuals that appear to be unable or unwilling to do physically what may be necessary to contribute to global health. Maybe it will be the undereducated whose only knowledge is happily surviving on very little who will teach the overly educated masses how to grow a turnip! Or we could just be talking heads in a jar.
    • Apr 8 2012: I just bought 2 tiny (8 gauge) copper lugs at napa for my new (hallelujah!) 400 watt solar system and they cost 4 dollars EACH! The hardware store wanted FIVE. In the future I will just cut pieces of scrap copper tubing, compress one end and drill a hole in it. I'll be the copper lug king of the road!
  • Apr 5 2012: It occurs to me thhat individual cap and trad could also be applied to general purchases in the marketplace with a kind of "VAT" based upon the relative"greeness" of similar products and services. A cheaper product that uses a lot of water or energy would cost more credits and would be deducted from your credits. An expensive green product would have its cost reduced immediately and directly, not after being massaged through a long and amorphous and opaque system. Immediate reinforcement and reward for green choices
  • Apr 5 2012: How about "cap and trade" on an individual basis. Each individual is allocated one 320 millioneth of all residential usage of electricity, water, gasoline, sewage and they could sell their own unused portions (the rights to that portion). Talk about individual resPonsibilty. Might be able to live a "comfortable" life off your rights. Provide real incentive to innovate and conserve.
  • Apr 5 2012: Whole foods,etc taste good. Electricity is a mysterious thing. I've lived off grid or without for 20years so every "draw" must be carefully analyzed for its relative utility. The choice between different tools is determined largely by the amt And cost oenergy available. This requires some knowledge of amps,volts,watts. On grid energy is cheap and enormous quantities can be drawn at any time. I think it's too much to ask people to make these decisions and to ask that new products be cheaper, consume less, and provide a similar seems to be a depressing political battle to charge a true price for power, counteract the advertisers and nurture green products. Witness the lightbulb wars.
  • Apr 5 2012: I agree with you Peter that this could well be a possibility and is just another reason to avoid cap and trade. Business is going to take a hit as well as the people, but it is our responsibility to change our actions or accept the implications of society's shortsightedness.
  • Apr 4 2012: I think an effective blue-print for change would be as follows:-
    Have a widespread local public transport system using electrically powered hop/on hop/off trams. This would go a long way towards eliminating the need for car based personal transport. Use local tax rather than fares to fund this.
    Turn every house/factory into a power station with solar panels on the roof or a wind turbine. We're already using that space for human habitation/industry so rather than have to build extra powerstations to supply energy it could be made on site. OK energy intensive industry and the local transport network would need extra input but i'm coming to that.
    On a regional/national level have nuclear power stations preferably small decentralised thorium powered ones to provide electricity for energy intensive industry and regional transport, electrical trains.
    Provide subsidies to the oil and gas industries to convert their excellent drilling technolgy into drilling for geo-thermal energy to supplement the nuclear power stations. They could also turn off shore platform technologies into off-shore wind farms where applicable/appropriate.
    Bare in mind that when I say nuclear power this is just a transition technology towards more effective renewables and eventually fusion nuclear technology.
    The goal being to end the use of fossil fuels.
    Is there anything I've left out here? Constructive critisism and plain shooting me down in flames welcome :)
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      Apr 4 2012: Forget about the rooftop solar unless the industry is hand made wooden toys. The total light energy falling on the roof of a building is just enough to provide lighting. (thats what it normally does afterall) Ditch the solar panels and install a polycarbonate roof. That way you get 80% transmission of available light. Using solar to convert light to electricity and then lights to convert the electricity back to light would only be around 20% efficient. I work in an open plan office that is 6x20 metres thats 120 sq metres. That covered in solar would produce about 12kw of power on a good day. The office has 1200watts of lighting so all good if its sunny. But then on sunny days you could just open the blinds. What about when its raining or in winter when the sun goes down while we're still in the office. A 1.5kw wind turbine has a three metre blade diameter and requires a 10m mast. I'm not sure the neighbours would approve.
      • Apr 5 2012: Even so some energy produced is better than nothing and I like your idea of having a polycarbonate roof instead of lightbulbs. Using a lot less power is the better idea for industry, though you can supply certain industries with renewables only. I live in the UK so my examples come from here. The Co-op, which as the name suggests is a co-operative, in this case a network of grocery stores, meeting the demands of their members, of which I am one, power all 4,500 of their grocery stores in the UK through having built their own windfarm.
        On household level, the UK government based it's assumption for an initiative of solar panels on rooftops that the household would use only HALF the energy thus supplied and offered a feed-in-tariff scheme. This was to avoid the added cost of installing smart meters, which is where they blundered, the scheme was so wildly successful that they abandoned it in the end as they realised that it will be costing the government a fortune. I guess people loved the idea of not only having free energy but the government paying them to produce it. So it was economic reasons in the end that ended the initiative. And don't forget that even on a rainy day you still get some power it's light not sunny days that power solar panels.
        In the end I think the solution lies in using/powering a lot less stuff and having much cleaner and efficient methods of production. After all what industry wouldn't like to cut costs to a minimum? But if in econmoic terms they can get away with using the current 'dirty methods' because they can still turn a decent profit and benefit the shareholders then that's what they will continue to do.

        So many thanks Peter for your constructive critisism and I do genuinly mean that. Do you have any other thoughts?
      • Apr 8 2012: By definition, handmade wooden toys are just that-handmade. They have no electrical input. I use hand tools now considered obsolete yet I can drill a hole in most materials, even steel as fast as someone else can stretch out the cord and hook it up. The polycarbonate roof sounds good except you really need the light at night. The main problem though is heat gain through the roof and lack of insulation. To construct a movable insulated cover would really be expensive. In the northern hemisphere roof lighting should only come through clerestory windows with overhangs designed to prevent summer sun and permit winter sun. Maybe your open plan space needs more efficient lighting system . 1.2 kw, wow! Solar doesn't require batteries if grid-tied. Rooftop solar actually eases cooling load because it shades the roof. Most electricity is used during the day anyway. Solar is just one part. Most offices and workspaces are closed loop systems that are required to be sealed.
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    Apr 3 2012: I believe that as we start wrestling with the waste products of fossil fuels, we will need to find ways to tap into renewable energy to avoid polluting ourselves to extintion. I was shocked when I read a few years back that coal ash is more radioactive than most nuclear waste produced ( It took decades to move from wood to coal. It may take substantially less time to move from coal/oil/nuclear to renewables.

    An intermediate step may be using natural gas, especially for long-haul trucking and rail transportation. While natural gas still produces greenhouse gases, it is less damaging than current oil-based systems.

    Like most concepts, as demand increases, prices will drop. Eventually, as we create more power efficient, batteries, lighting, computing and entertainment, even home solar panels will become more popular.
  • Apr 2 2012: In trying to add something to the points already raised I would like to say something about the situation in the UK, simply because that is the country I am most familiar with.
    It is possible to choose your energy supplier in the UK, however the largest suppliers rely mainly on fossil fuels for their electricity production. These big companies are very competative but it all seems to be about price not green energy production. Furthermore these big companies can afford to have people go door to door and ask if you would like to change your supplier and often they have representatives in the town centre where I live with big flashy displays promising you a better deal. Those companies that provide ONLY green energy are much smaller and just don't have that advertising power, you have to go and find them. Coupled with this is the existing national gas supply infrastructure, a legacy from the days of nationalised gas production from the North Sea fields and others, (although a lot of this nowadays is piped from abroad) Virtually every house still relies on natural gas for heating and cooking, once again fossil fuel.
    Therefore I do think that government mandate has a very important role to play. In fact the government incentives for householders to adopt solar panels has lead to them becoming a common sight in the UK these days. However there was no incentive for landlords to fit them to buildings for their tenants or for industry to adopt them. Government mandate should really focus and proiritise green energy production given the very real concerns of how critical this is in terms of anthropomorphic climate change. I also think a fee and dividend system is far better than cap and trade.
  • Mar 31 2012: The state of Vermont was the first in the nation to include an "energy efficiency utility" to everybody's electric bill. The result is that businesses and homeowners receive free consultation about lighting, and heating/cooling, which allows some companies to save a lot of money both in expertise and in rebates for efficiency renovations. The 2010 Savings Claim states that the program has already saved over $115 million dollars in total resource benefits. The fee depends on electric usage, whether it's residential/commercial, and some businesses and electric companies have adapted programs of their own. Future plans are to address heating and industrial processes. Other states (Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon) have since started their own energy efficiency utility programs. Vermont also has incentive programs for installation of most forms of renewable energy, including allowing homeowners to lease solar PV panels and pay an alternative, cheaper, "electric bill" to the owner of the panel.

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  • Mar 31 2012: People tend to be willing to do the right thing when it is a real option, I.e. compact flourescents, LEDs. However, current green leadership point to costly items (smart grid, photovoltaics, electric cars, etc.) or advancements in science (which are unreliable) as the way forward. Lofty stuff, often uncompelling to anyone who has ever failed to properly plug in their phone, and thoroughly removed from everyday choices. When green energy stops being some massively complex undertaking and starts being simple, readily availabe options, it will stop opening itself up for attack as an unprofitable, illusory, house of cards. I, personally, bought an electric mower, and use the battery to power a trike to get my groceries. This saves gas, increases the likelihood that I will purchase gas at a good price, and demonstrates green that is affordable, profitable, and most significantly -- available.
  • Mar 31 2012: The lack of permeation is due to our economy which is dependent upon inefficient products and services in order to persist. Many businesses depend on oil and natural gas to preserve the jobs that their employees depend on to survive. Though there are some employees and businesses that can adapt to changes in the energy market, a majority can't adapt or don't want to take the risk of adapting due to their dependency on their current position in this economy. By diminishing/eliminating the need for a job in this world to survive, businesses and, in general, people can work together more towards implementing these effective changes in energy consumption without worrying about potential risks.