2016 Get Local Party

Senators’ Clean Energy Summer School: Lesson No. 6

August 24, 2016 |

First, I have to apologize to the entire class. It wasn’t me, it was Principal Peter who canceled the last two sessions—because our air conditioning broke down.

All I gotta say is, back when I went to school, we didn’t even have air conditioning.

But let’s try to learn something from what happened. The A/C unit that went kablooey just couldn’t keep up with how hot it’s been. So, class, should we keep repairing that clunker? Or buy a bigger one, since summers are getting so sticky?

Suzie, your hand’s up. What’chya thinkin’?

That’s right, young lady! Both of those ideas are crazy; we should use efficiency instead. You win the James Brown Be Cool and Stay in School award! So let’s check this out…

Senators’ Clean Energy Summer School Lesson 6:

Efficiency is cool, and lawmakers must keep it that way.

So, efficiency: If we slap some heat-reflecting roof tiles and windows on this place, re-seal and re-insulate the walls, and screw in LED lights, what happens?

Right, Seth—we can then replace that big ol’, clunky unit with a way smaller one because it has less cooling to do. It uses way less juice, too, and is cheaper to buy. Everybody’s cool, the electric bill chills out, and we can give teachers a raise!

But how do we front the cash for projects like that here or for your own house?

Well, it’ll get lots harder if Lansing passes SB 437 and SB 438 with what’s in them right now. They seriously mess with our 2008 “energy optimization” law, which requires power companies to help folks use less juice. They gotta cut demand for their power by 1 percent per year, and so they do things like give away LEDs, rebates on funky old refrigerators, and cash to replace watt-guzzling commercial display lighting. Both the customer and utility chip in.

Our utilities have done great with optimization, according to the MPSC and the utilities. But that’s because state law requires it. MPSC says every buck invested in optimization pays back around four bucks in overall energy savings. Such a deal!

So here’s another filmstrip, this one from the collection of talks by world-class energy guru Amory Lovins that I keep in my locker. He’s all about negawatts—not megawatts. Y’all know what a negawatt is? Amory made up that wonderful word and you can read up on it here. A negawatt is way less expensive than a regular watt.

So, instead of shelling out $150 million on a new gas plant, and even more to keep the thing running, utilities should be required to spend those big bucks on incentives toward your new, ultra-efficient refrigerator, or Acme Industry’s high-efficiency lighting, or a smaller, highly efficient air conditioner for Carl Marks High. It frees up power very cheaply for others to use. That’s right, Johnny—less pollution, too! Extra credit for you, young man.

But Sen. Nofs wants to make this voluntary for utilities. Do you think they’ll do much more, even if Lansing makes their fat bonuses for meeting the required efficiency standard even fatter for a voluntary goal? Whether your guy’s D or R, you need to track ‘em down and send either an email (good) or letter (better). Maybe send some of today’s handouts? Tell them a strong efficiency standard—not some goofy old goal—is good for all Michiganders.

Oooh! There’s the bell. Yikes—I almost forgot. Stay at your desks for just one more second. I’ve got to tell you the answer to our last quiz. Which famous inventor hoped we’d stop burning stuff to generate power and instead use the sun?

Vicky, from Copemish: Come get your gold star, girl. You were the first one to hand in the correct answer: Thomas Edison!

Okay. Class dismissed. I’m going to the cafeteria for that baloney and mashed potatoes special. Who’s with me?

NEXT: Senators’ Energy Summer School FINAL EXAM!