Southern California environment news and trends

With new work toward energy efficiency in buildings, a reminder of the energy problem that never goes away

With the LEED gold-certified Santa Monica Public Library as its backdrop, Environment California released a new energy efficiency report called "Building a Better America." In it, the group argues the best place to start saving energy is probably the house or office you're sitting in.

The building sector consumes more energy than any other sector of the economy, including transportation and industry. The buildings where we live and work account for about 40 percent of our total energy consumption and nearly three quarters of our electricity use. This level of energy use costs the United States approximately $400 billion every year.

EC says that by following recommendations it lays out in a two-dozen page report, California will cut its greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by "11 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030." 

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LA County offering $2000 for green home upgrades

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Wayne National Forest/Flickr

To commemorate 10,000 homes in California environmentally efficient enough to earn the GreenPoint Rated label, Energy Upgrade California is offering L.A. County residents up to $2,000 in rebates to bring their homes up to the same standard.

For a home to qualify for a GreenPoint Rated label, it has to meet requirements across five categories: energy efficiency, resource conservation, indoor air quality, water conservation and livable community benefits, such as bike accessibility. There is an additional $8,000 in rebates available for extensive and often high-cost energy efficiency upgrades like insulation and duct sealing.

“A green home is good for the planet, healthier for you and your family -- and now, with these new rebates, getting the label that proves your home is green is basically free,” said Howard Choy, GM of the County Office of Sustainability in a press release. “We hope these rebates will encourage more Los Angeles homeowners to consider going green.”

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Song of the Week, for San Onofre, and the summer energy needs ahead: "Can't Smile Without You"

David McNew/Getty Images

Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.

A little over a week ago, steam generator tubes failed during a test at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Since then Edison has been testing about 1% of its 19,000-plus tubes on site. And it would seem that could take a while, based on tweets from Edison's community outreach like this: 

This week, Southern California and the California Independent System Operator began to grapple with what a shutdown at San Onofre could mean to summer energy needs. The ISO, at a meeting this week, discussed contingencies for that circumstance. System operators could consider speeding up Sunrise Powerlink and the Barre Ellis transmission projects. They could keep a power plant on its way to extinction in Huntington Beach open a little longer. They could step up calls for public conservation, and public agencies and the military could impose mandatory restrictions. 

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Is your Xbox a vampire? Energy efficiency in consumer electronics is an epic, gothic fight

shadybird/Flickr

All the vampire metaphors in the world aren't making vampire power consumption less of a problem.

The answer, probably, is yes. Good magazine made an awesome graphic about this a while ago, showing what it might be costing you. According to one Cornell University study, you might have as many as 20 vampires lurking in your house, and your PlayStation or your plasma TV or your computer--they're only the start. That same study found that "your TV with remote control likely uses more energy during the 20 hours a day that it’s turned off and in a 'standby power' state than it does during the hours you watch the tube."  

What to do about that is in dispute, between the California Energy Commission and consumer electronics companies, and their fight just got a little bit bigger. 

If you're worried about vampire power sucking consumer electronics, you don't have a lot of options. You can religiously unplug everything and turn it off, but that won't work for your TiVo, which goes through a lengthy re-boot after being powered down. Investor-owned utilities like PG&E make a moderate-sized deal of recommending Energy Star appliances. But the Federal EnergyStar and EnergyGuide labels aren't required on consumer electronics. So all that useful information EnergyGuide requires, "an estimate of the product's energy consumption or energy efficiency...the highest and lowest energy consumption or efficiency estimates of similar appliance models." Optional for consumer electronics

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Always more work, and more reports, on energy efficiency in California buildings

mollyali/Flickr

The Santa Monica Public Library is a LEED-Gold certified building. And it's 6 years old.

With the LEED-gold certified Santa Monica Public Library as its backdrop, Environment California today released a new energy efficiency report called "Building a Better America." In it, the group argues the best place to start saving energy is probably the house or office you're sitting in.

The building sector consumes more energy than any other sector of the economy, including transportation and industry. The buildings where we live and work account for about 40 percent of our total energy consumption and nearly three quarters of our electricity use. This level of energy use costs the United States approximately $400 billion every year.

EC says that, by following recommendations it lays out in a 2-dozen page report, California will cut its greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by "11 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030." 

Read More...