Friday, July 22, 2011

"Living Green" lecture recap, part one

I attended the Living Green lecture held at Fulton 55 in downtown Fresno on Monday of this week I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout, with over 50 people in attendance for the two hour event.

The presentation itself began with an official from the city of Fresno to discuss sustainability, water and energy use in Fresno, and how saving energy can help boost the local economy.

The speaker from the city clearly believed what he was talking about. He mentioned that his home has solar power and he drives a prius. But he wasn’t there to preach about green living, he was there to give out facts and let us see why being sustainable simply makes sense for the individual, and for the city as a whole.

He started by saying that if a community is not sustainable, it cannot survive for long. That is true. If a town runs out of water, then it becomes a ghost town. Without energy, industry and commerce dies.

He then began to talk about how linked water and electricity are in Fresno. He states that the city spends $21 million a month (…or year?) on electricity, and of that, $11 million are spent on water related items. That is, electricity to pump water and treat it. One stat he pointed out is that acquiring water from the aquifer (underground) takes 18 percent more electricity than water from the surface. Unfortunately, he did not go into details on ways to mitigate these costs, but it stands to reason that if we all use less water, there will be less need to pump from the aquifer.

The next topic was how the city of Fresno fits in with the state and the county. Because of Fresno’s climate, we use more electricity (per capita) than almost every other city, due to air conditioning and such. So not only do we have the highest rates, but also the highest uses, sending bills skyrocketing. He gave an example of someone he found who was paying over $2,000 a month in electricity alone.

Within Fresno county, 49% of energy use is by Fresno. 60% is by non-residential users…..or 40% by homes.

He noted that Fresno spends a combined $860 million a year in electrical costs……and a massive $300 million a year could be saved with sustainable initiatives.
That’s money we are simply burning now, that could go to disposable income, new hiring, etc etc. Less money spent on electricity bills means money left over to go out to dinner, money companies can use to improve their business, and money industry can use to increase capacity.

One program he then began talking about was free energy audits, offered by the city, thanks to a federal grant. He told us that anyone can call a number, and a team will come to your house and find leakage and such and tell you what you can fix.

Apparently, the program is open to all residents of Fresno and Kern counties. Information can be found here:
http://www.fresno.gov/Government/DepartmentDirectory/PlanningandDevelopment/HomeEnergy/Default.htm

Our free home energy survey will show you where to save energy. More important, it will recommend the energy efficiency home improvements that are most cost-effective and have the best payback.

Schedule your free home energy survey by calling 855-621-3733 or completing the online signup form. A qualified home energy rater will set up an in-home appointment. Expect the following during the visit

A thorough 3-4 hours survey to determine where your home wastes energy.
A detailed report recommending energy efficiency improvements.
No-cost and low-cost ideas for saving energy.
Help accessing available rebates, incentives and financing options if you choose to make home energy upgrades.



He gave some examples of huge wasted energy problems that they found, such as homes where the vent system is broken, so all the hot and cold air is being wasted, and the homeowner is paying to cool an attic or crawlspace, and not the living area. They use a heat sensor to see where cold or hot air is escaping into the atmosphere.

He noted that the construction industry can stand to benefit, because there is a huge market for home improvements in energy efficiency. The city does not make the fixes, but tells you what you can do to save money, and it is up to you to fix the problems they find.

He then started moving towards discussing downtown living, and the benefits of living in apartments. He noted that in Fresno, only 2% of energy is used by multi-family apartments. He mentioned that apartment living saves a lot of energy and money, because the homes are better insulated (thanks to shared walls). He said that while a single family home uses on average 700 kilowatts, a apartment uses 470.

The next speaker was the president of Granville homes. I will discuss what he talked about tomorrow.

And here is what the turnout looked like, lots more people in the back by the bar.

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