The global warming crisis is a slow-motion train wreck that requires an all hands on deck response. Individuals, businesses and government all need to pull in the same direction to minimize the effect of this crisis. Unfortunately, our federal government continues to focus more on supporting the incumbent fossil fuel industry instead of the clean energy technologies encouraged by the rest of the world.
The good news is that leadership in many state and local governments are stepping up with practical, effective and affordable climate change solutions — and the City of San Jose is clearly a leader when it comes to implementing these solutions. A key component of the City’s efforts is the award-winning Climate Smart San Jose program. This community-wide initiative focuses on reducing pollution and improving the quality of life for San Jose residents. Basically, it’s the city’s plan to align with the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is Ken Davies, Director of Climate Smart San Jose. For over ten years Ken has been at the forefront of Silicon Valley’s environmental efforts. There is no doubt in my mind that the work he and his team are doing in San Jose will exceed our local goals for the Paris Climate Agreement.
Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as Ken discusses some of the key components of Climate Smart San Jose, including electrification rebates, the Climate Smart Challenge, zero net carbon buildings, vehicle electrification, San Jose’s Reach Code, and 100% green electricity.
What started as a trickle of a few Electric Vehicles (EVs) has turned into a flood of models from virtually every single manufacturer. Hats off to Tesla for opening the floodgates, and making GM’s EV1 a crude and distant memory. While the specifications for some of the new cars coming out in 2020 are still getting fined tuned —battery pack capacity, horsepower, range — the 2020 EVs look pretty impressive.
Like all successful new products, EV market adoption goes through phases: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. We are still at the innovators stage in most of the world. California is leading in the U.S., with China clearly on a path to be the leading EV market. For cost, reliability and environmental reasons, EVs are destined to represent the majority of vehicles on roads within a few decades.
Nevertheless, before EVs dominate they must be comparable to gasoline engines in terms of range and cost. Continuing reductions in the cost of batteries solve both problems. Not only are EVs becoming less expensive because batteries are less expensive, but larger batteries are going into EVs — giving these vehicles comparable ranges to gasoline engines.
For more about model specifications, including EPA MPGe ratings, ranges, and costs of 2020 Electric Vehicles, please tune in to this week’s Energy Show.
Buildings consume 40% of our energy, most of that for heating and cooling. Almost all of this energy is supplied by fossil fuels, resulting in tremendous CO2 emissions. Building electrification solves this problem. Instead of burning fossil fuels in homes and businesses, we can heat, cool, wash and cook using electricity generated from clean, renewable sources.
San Jose is one of the first cities to establish building codes that pursue a zero net energy policy by strongly recommending all electric new homes. But what about existing homes? To find out first hand what was involved in getting to a zero net energy home, my wife and I embarked on a project to completely electrify our 50 year old home in San Jose.
I’ve done quite of bit of energy upgrading on homes and businesses over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, I checked in with a few friends who had done some electrification of their homes (thanks to Howard, Jeff and Dick). The steps we took mostly followed conventional wisdom: address the easy and cheap items first (LED lights, controls), extra insulation, solar with battery backup, EV charger, heat pump HVAC, heat pump water heater and induction cooktop.
There were only two real hassles with this electrification project. The first hassle is familiar to anyone doing a renovation or maintenance project: finding the “best” contractor for each individual task. Because building electrification involves so many different types of contractors, there is no one “general contractor” who can do everything both efficiently and cost effectively. We ended up with five different contractors: insulation, pool, solar, electrical and HVAC. Since I’m capable of screwing in a lightbulb, I took care of the LEDs lights and controls. The biggest hassle was on the electrical permitting side and coordinating with our local utility. Nevertheless, when everything was done and connected, we are enjoying a net negative (for the year) electric bill — including all of our heating, cooling, cooking and most of our driving.
Perhaps the most rewarding event was when our local gas utility PG&E sent an inspector to our house to find out why the gas meter almost stopped completely! To learn more about electrifying your home or business, please listen to this week’s Energy Show. And if you are thinking about making the switch from fossil fuel home appliances to electrical appliances run by solar and battery storage solutions, take a look at our 10 steps to whole house electrification.
Will batteries keep your AC cranking and electric vehicle charged up during an extended blackout? Probably not.
We like to believe the myth of whole house battery backup or the notion that our 21st century lifestyle will continue unabated despite fire hell or high water. The reality is different: Typical battery backup systems work best when they are designed to ration battery capacity and minimize the use of major appliances. These systems must also be integrated with rooftop solar so that the battery can be recharged as soon as the sun comes up.
There are two fundamental engineering limits that make it impractical to run a whole house on battery power alone. First, the energy capacity of typical lithium-ion battery systems is insufficient to power an entire house through a nighttime blackout. Second, battery backup inverters are not powerful enough to start and run many large appliances. Adding multiple batteries and inverters can overcome these engineering limits – but at a very high cost.
Nevertheless, a well-designed solar and whole house battery backup system can provide limited power almost indefinitely. To learn more about the reality of backup power in the event of a blackout or Public Safety Power Shutoff, please listen to this week’s Energy Show.