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Jeff Ihnen

Incentive or Discount?

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant One Comment
I read this article http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2010-01-05-home-energy-efficiency-demand_N.htm and the thought came to mind, “are energy efficiency incentives really incentives pushing people to implement energy efficiency - or coupons offering a discount for energy efficiency measures?”  What’s the difference?  I would say it’s huge. Retailers abhor it when the trained shopper waits for deep discounts to buy, obviously at a much lower profit margin.  Likewise, there is nothing airlines hate worse than an airfare war.  Buyers of “American made” automobiles (GM, Ford, Chrysler) have been trained to wait for huge incentives, which is one of the reasons two of three essentially failed.  Again,…
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Water Runs Uphill – I Think Not

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Stimulus, Tax Stuff No Comments
This week – a little diversion into engineering.  Go ahead.  Shake those goose bumps out. There are three universal laws of thermodynamics but I’m not going to explain them all now or you might fall asleep and hit your head on the table.  I will only cover one of them. A law is essentially a theory of something that has never been disproven.  One of these laws indicates the direction of all processes.  Heat travels from hot to cold.  Water runs downhill.  However, heat can travel from cold to hot and water can go up hill if you add energy. …
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New Year’s Energy Resolutions

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant No Comments
Here is a New Year’s resolution for you: resolve to not use an excuse to use New Year’s resolutions.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing now.  Put the unused exercise equipment on eBay so it can take up space in somebody else’s closet or under their bed.  Get out and walk or run.  Buy some free weights.  Take the stairs. Do push-ups or stomach crunchers.  Do not cruise the parking lot for the closest possible spot.  Take the always-empty row furthest from the building. Like energy efficiency, these things aren’t sexy, but they are practically free and very effective. …
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Beer or Air

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, LEED, Sustainability No Comments
Last week these columns featured Wal-Mart and its silencing of critics via green and sustainable business practices.  Are they really saving energy compared to their peers?  Skylights, dimming fluorescent lights, and LED refrigerated case lights triggered by occupancy sensors – but what’s the totality? Lexus makes hybrid vehicles.  One is a $110,000 sedan with a 5 liter V8 with fighter-jet horsepower weighing in at 20 miles per gallon.  A Caterpillar earth mover may get that kind of highway mileage.  The point is, a facility / organization can be green in name only.  Note that in no way am I inferring…
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Save Energy – Get Out of Jail

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Stimulus, Sustainability One Comment
Unless you were living in a cave four or five years ago, you know Wal-Mart was under relentless assault by, I’ll just call them activists.  Complaints included: They weren’t providing health care to enough people.  They weren’t paying overtime.  Their goods were manufactured in sweat shops overseas.  When unions tried to organize their meat cutting operations, Wal-Mart exited the meat cutting business.  Their executives were making too much money.  The company was making too much money.  Part of the real gripe was that Wal-Mart had saturated the rural and small town markets and they had started to impinge into larger…
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Policy to Curb Carbon

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Stimulus, Tax Stuff No Comments
Any carbon-reduction policy that includes paying Washington for permits to emit carbon is the wrong way to go.  Why?  Two words.  Social Security. Washington has no spending restraint.  Earmark nation is alive and thriving.  Everyone has heard of the Social Security Trust Fund; Al Gore’s “lock box”.  Social Security has been running surpluses in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year for a long time.  If you think your payroll taxes are piling up for your retirement in a bunker under Washington somewhere, you are sorely mistaken.  Our profligate government has been taking the surplus and spending it on…
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What’s the Game?

By Energy Rant, Renewable Energy One Comment
Hypothetical:  Our company has about 40 employees.  We’re going to split into 4 teams and have a tournament.  What’s the game?  We have cyclists, runners, a guy who thinks he can play golf, a guy who throws hammer but not when I’m around, skiers, people who fish, people who hunt, play cards, Sudoku, video games, Frisbee golf, and play board games.  We’ve played softball games (poorly) when the economy was good. We have people who were born when I was in college.  We have people who were in college before I was in the first grade.  Female, male, burley, squirrelly,…
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Energy Efficiency Stimulus and Oversight

By Energy Rant, LEED, Stimulus One Comment
Most energy efficiency programs are required by regulators to be evaluated to ensure ratepayer money is being spent wisely and reported savings are being achieved.  If only such oversight were to happen for the millions/billions/gazillions being shelled out to state and local governments in the name of energy efficiency. State and local governments have Amazon-wide budget gaps to fill, and I can assure you that earmarks (dirty word) for energy efficiency will find their way to plug budget holes to keep buildings open, replace roofs, buy new lawn mowers and pickup trucks, and avoid staff reductions. We in Wisconsin have…
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The More You Spend, The More You Save

By Energy Rant, LEED, Retrocommissioning (RCx) 2 Comments
Talk about an oxymoron.  Years ago this was a favorite saying of my roommate and I as we lambasted dopey ads on TV, on paper, or over the airwaves. Fewer years ago, once I got into this energy efficiency profession, I was speaking with a utility energy-efficiency program guy who frequently interacts with regulators.  This was during a stakeholder meeting for quantifying energy saving potential by sector and by technology.  (technology = lighting, furnaces, chillers, etc.)  Knowing buildings systems rarely work as they are supposed to, I asked, “Have you considered retrocommissioning (RCx) as an energy efficiency program?”  His answer…
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