Skip to main content
All Posts By

Jeff Ihnen

Colors and Costs of Hydrogen vs. Natural Gas

By Energy Rant No Comments
This post features a lot of refined hydrogen content you can't find online. But before I get to hydrogen, here's an update: I always get a little excited to lead news cycles. After publishing Electricity Shortages and What to Do About It last Tuesday evening, The Wall Street Journal published The Coming Electricity Crisis  on Thursday, including the following common threads: I wrote, "In one year (2023 v 2022), the forecast peak load growth for 2028 doubled…" The WSJ wrote, "Projections for U.S. electricity demand growth over the next five years have doubled from a year ago." I wrote, "Growth projections in Georgia,…
Read More

Electricity Shortages and What to Do About It

By Energy Rant No Comments
Some folks pin excessive weight on the federal government’s influence over our efficiency and load management industries. Even though billions/trillions of dollars are allocated through the “Inflation Reduction Act” and “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” those funds are fleeting. What’s more enduring? Rising electricity prices and load-balancing authorities are pushing for more baseload generation and transmission-line construction – things that are always met with stiff resistance by state and local governments and stakeholder groups. Utility Dive recently reported that electricity prices outpaced the broader U.S. consumer price index. Well, gee, why would this happen? Have fuel prices increased? No. You’d think electricity prices…
Read More

Four Steps to Energy Code Flatline

By Energy Rant No Comments
Energy efficiency program administrators can be quite conservative regarding change and innovation. I love hearing, “Bring us new ideas that have been successful in three or four other programs.” There you are! The pinch is on. Energy efficiency codes and standards have raised the bar consistently such that incremental savings from one code change to the next are exceedingly scarce. The gravy-train days of incremental widget-efficiency improvements, including lighting efficacy and heating and cooling equipment efficiencies, are quickly closing. Vehicles A nice parallel to diminishing returns on efficiency is vehicle mileage. The following chart shows fuel energy consumed per thousand…
Read More

Our Adaptable Planet

By Energy Rant No Comments
For years, I wondered how the national debt would result in Great Depression-level pain and a reset not unlike bankruptcy. The national debt doesn't need to be paid back like we often hear or read in the news. It just needs to be maintained at manageable levels, defined as not letting the borrowing cost get to a prompt supercritical situation that overwhelms everything else. Financing costs are becoming alarmingly high – already more than we spend on national defense – about $1 trillion annually. When tax revenues to finance the debt are insufficient, or if debt markets bomb, the Federal Reserve steps…
Read More

Progressive Outline to Decarbonize Buildings

By Energy Rant No Comments
Two weeks ago, I described an array of district heating and cooling plants that serve medical, college, industrial, and even city-scale loads. Last week, I explained options to decarbonize district heating and cooling plants. Those options include converting systems from steam to hot water as equipment reaches the end of its useful life, heat recovery chillers, and, most importantly, energy efficiency in facilities and processes served. But before getting started on efficiency, I must add that there are also many barriers to shutting down a district steam plant and transitioning to distributed heating and cooling plants. First, there are loads other than space…
Read More

Decarbonizing District Steam and Chilled Water Plants

By Energy Rant No Comments
Let's begin with Oxford Dictionary's definition of decarbonization. Noun: reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide emissions from a process such as manufacturing or the production of energy. Last week, I introduced central or district plants that serve multiple buildings with steam, chilled water, and, in many cases, electricity. District plants serve colleges, healthcare, manufacturing campuses, and, in some cases, entire sections of cities. This week, I describe issues and strategies to save energy and decarbonize these plants. As I learned early in my energy efficiency career, it is essential to understand the design logic behind the system before recommending modifications. Steam moves…
Read More

Decarbonization – An Introduction to District Plants

By Energy Rant No Comments
I would like to see a poll of peoples’ suggestions for decarbonization. My guess is solar panels would be near the top; next, maybe an electric vehicle; after that, maybe electrified appliances and HVAC. Are any of these investments cost-effective? Keeping it simple, are the accrued savings over the life of the project or object more than the cost? It depends on the baseline alternative and various stackable incentives. Without guessing and getting into details, I believe consumer electrification and decarbonization are driven more by non-financial matters. What about commercial and industrial facilities? It gets decidedly more challenging because the…
Read More

Studying Ice

By Energy Rant No Comments
I took advantage of the cold weather this week to demonstrate ice formation again. Caution: video ahead. When I take to Google and ask, "What is the freezing point of water?" it apparently depends on my location 🙄. You probably know that the boiling point of water changes with barometric pressure, but the freezing point also changes with pressure – but over a much greater range of pressure, as shown below. A change in the melting point of ice of two degrees Fahrenheit requires 2000 pounds per square inch (psi). The range of atmospheric pressure everywhere on the planet only varies…
Read More

Three One Eighties in Fifty Years

By Energy Rant No Comments
My top "strength," according to Gallup's CliftonStrengths survey, is context, which means knowing and understanding history to assess situations and inform and guide decisions. "Those with Context are the people in our lives who instinctively look to the past to understand the present." How does this affect my perspectives? Historical context serves as an impenetrable bullshit filter. I.e., we've been here before. I recognize this pattern, and I'm not joining the mob. See you later. We're Going to Starve If you're over 50, you were probably told that we would run out of food. Here are some zingers from the 1970s. "Population will…
Read More