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EERE Network News -- 04/05/06

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  • EERE Network News by way of Tom Gray
    A weekly newsletter from the U.S. Department of Energy s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) . The EERE Network News is also
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2006
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      A weekly newsletter from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The EERE Network News is also available on the Web at: www.eere.energy.gov/news/enn.cfm

      April 05, 2006

      News and Events

      Energy Connections

      • DOE: Gulf Energy Companies Must Cooperate After Hurricanes Hit

      News and Events

      DOE Awards $140.3 Million to 31 States for Home Weatherization

      DOE announced on Monday its award of $140.3 million to 31 states and the Navajo Nation to make energy efficiency improvements in the homes of low-income families. DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program cuts these families' energy bills by making home improvements such as plugging air leaks, improving insulation, and tuning air conditioning and heating systems. DOE will award a total of $243 million during this fiscal year, providing weatherization to more than 96,000 homes. See the DOE press release.

      The average U.S. family spends 3.5 percent of its income on energy, but for lower-income families, energy bills can average 14 percent of their income. DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program lessens that impact, reducing an average home's energy costs by $358 annually. Weatherization grants will go to every state this year, as well as the District of Columbia, the Navajo Nation, and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona. State energy offices distribute the weatherization program grants through more than 900 local agencies. DOE estimates that for every dollar spent, the program returns $1.53 in energy savings to low-income families. See the Weatherization Assistance Program Web site.

      DOT Sets New Fuel Economy Standards for Light Trucks

      The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) introduced new fuel economy standards for light trucks last week, including the first-ever standards for the largest sport utility vehicles. The new fuel economy standards increase the miles-per-gallon target for light trucks from 21.6 to 24 miles per gallon, an 11 percent increase. According to DOT, the new standards will save more than 250 million gallons per year just by including some of the largest sport utility vehicles on the market today, those with a gross vehicle weight rating of between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds. The changes constitute the first complete reform of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and minivans since its inception in 1979. See the DOT press release.

      The new rule also elaborates on DOT's conclusion that any state regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles is prohibited under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), which sets the legal basis for fuel economy standards. According to DOT, the EPCA prohibits any state laws or standards relating to fuel economy standards, and because greenhouse gas emission regulations effectively regulate fuel economy, such regulations are not permitted. The discussion can be found on pages 288 through 339 of the final rule. See the final rule ( PDF 1.4 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

      Washington State Approves New Biofuels Requirement

      Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed a bill last week that will require fuel suppliers to ensure that ethanol provides 2 percent of the gasoline they sell, and that biodiesel provides 2 percent of the diesel fuel they sell. Senate Bill 6508 sets different timetables for the two biofuels. For ethanol, the 2-percent requirement takes effect on December 1st, 2008. The ethanol requirement could eventually increase to as much as 10 percent of the gasoline sold, so long as sufficient agricultural sources are available in the state and burning the ethanol-rich fuel isn't hurting the state's air quality.

      For biodiesel, the requirement goes into effect on November 30th, 2008, or when in-state agricultural sources can meet the 2-percent requirement, whichever comes first. The biodiesel requirement will increase to 5 percent of the diesel fuel sold once the state has enough agricultural supply and seed-crushing ability to meet a 3-percent requirement. In addition, beginning on June 1st, 2009, all Washington state agencies are required to use diesel blends containing at least 20 percent biodiesel. According to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the law is expected to create demand for 20 million gallons of biodiesel annually in the first year. See the governor's press release, the NBB press release, and the history and full text ( PDF 40 KB) of the bill. Download Adobe Reader.

      Governor Gregoire also recently signed a bill to encourage biomass energy development in the state. House Bill 2939 establishes the "energy freedom program" to promote research and development in bioenergy and to stimulate the construction of biomass energy facilities in the state. A recent report from the Washington Department of Ecology concluded that underutilized biomass in the state could produce about half of the state's power needs. See the history and full text ( PDF 49 KB) of the bill and the 124-page biomass report (PDF 1.7 MB).

      Xcel Energy Plans to Finance Large Solar Power Plant in Colorado

      Xcel Energy released a request for proposals (RFP) last week for a company to build a large solar photovoltaic plant about 20 miles north of Alamosa in southern Colorado. Xcel Energy wants the solar electric plant to produce 13,700 megawatt-hours of electricity per year but did not specify the total capacity of the plant. However, running the numbers through PVWATTS Version 2­a solar power estimating program from DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory­suggests that to meet Xcel Energy's power requirements, about 8.6 megawatts of fixed solar panels would be needed. If the solar panels track the sun from east to west, about 6.2 megawatts of solar panels would be required. Based on those numbers, the solar power plant would be among the world's largest. See the Xcel Energy press release and RFP and the PVWATTS on-line calculator.

      Xcel Energy is also offering one-time payments of roughly $4.50 per watt for solar photovoltaic systems installed on homes and businesses in Colorado. Combined with federal tax credits, the payments can substantially reduce the cost of installing a solar electric system. The new "Solar*Rewards" program is part of Xcel Energy's response to Amendment 37, which sets renewable energy requirements for the state's utilities. See the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission's Amendment 37 Rulemaking Web page.

      Large solar power installations are cropping up all over the United States. In California, PowerLight Corporation has installed a 1.2-megawatt system at Napa Valley College in Napa, plus a 182-kilowatt system at Deep Springs College in Bishop; Quantum Energy Group (a subsidiary of WorldWater & Power) has installed a 386-kilowatt system in Menlo Park; Sharp has installed a 66.6-kilowatt system at Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura; and 31 schools have earned funding from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to install a total of nearly 677 kilowatts of solar power. In Arizona, Solar Integrated Technologies, Inc. has won a contract to help install a 122-kilowatt solar power system at Luke Air Force Base. And in New Jersey, Oxford Solar plans to build a 500-kilowatt system for the Vernon Township Board of Education, while Northern Power plans to install three systems totaling 750 kilowatts on Pathmark supermarkets. See the PowerLight press releases on its installations at the Napa Valley and Deep Springs colleges, and see the press releases from WorldWater & Power, Sharp ( PDF 14 KB), Solar Integrated, Oxford Solar, and Northern Power. Download Adobe Reader.

      Sustainable Business Group Develops Zero Energy Buildings

      The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) announced last week that it is forming an alliance of leading global companies to develop zero energy buildings. The alliance will aim to determine how buildings can be designed and constructed so that they use no net energy from external power grids, are carbon neutral, and can be built and operated at fair market values. United Technologies Corporation, the world's largest supplier of capital goods for the commercial building industry, and Lafarge Group, the world leader in building materials, are heading up the industry effort. Based in Geneva, the WBSCD is a coalition of some 180 international companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable development.

      Buildings today account for about 40 percent of energy consumption in developed countries. The WBSCD effort has ambitious targets: By 2050, new buildings will consume zero net energy from external power supplies and produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions while being economically viable to construct and operate. To achieve those goals, the buildings will require a combination of onsite power generation and ultra-efficient building materials and equipment. See the WBSCD press release.

      Honda and ZAP Introduce New Subcompact Cars to the United States

      Photo of the Honda Fit, a small four-door hatchback.  

      The Honda Fit achieves 38 miles per gallon on the highway. It goes on sale on April 20th. Credit: Honda

      Two subcompact cars are newly available in the United States, and though they are both fuel-sipping small cars, the stories of the two cars are dramatically different. The Honda Fit took the simple route to the United States: Honda first introduced the car in Japan in 2001, and the car has been popular in Japan and Europe for years, so Honda decided to introduce it to North America. The U.S. version was first unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in January, and last month, Honda announced that the vehicle will go on sale on April 20th with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $13,850. The four-door hatchback features a four-cylinder engine and achieves a fuel economy of 33 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. See the Honda Fit Web site and the Honda press releases on the Fit and its sale date.

      In contrast to the Fit, the "Smart Car Americanized by ZAP" took a much different route to the United States. Sold in Europe as the "smart fortwo," the 98-inch-long, two-door car is part of the smart brand owned by DaimlerChrysler. The company has been struggling to keep the smart brand profitable, and recently announced the cancellation of a larger model, the smart forfour. Considering the tough economic situation, DaimlerChrysler has not yet introduced the car in the United States. California-based ZAP, which bills itself as an "advanced automotive pioneer," sees a large U.S. market for the diminutive vehicle and has been working for years to introduce it here. Smart-Automobile LLC imports the smart car from Europe, pays a company to "Americanize" it to meet U.S. federal and state safety and emissions standards, and has named ZAP as the exclusive U.S. distributor. After many delays, ZAP is only now selling the 2005 Smart Car Americanized for ZAP, which complies with regulatory requirements in all but five states. In February, ZAP delivered 85 vehicles to U.S. dealerships, and is now selling the car in six states. The company claims the car has earned a combined city and highway fuel economy rating of 40 mpg. See the DaimlerChrysler press release, the Smart-Automobile Web site, and the ZAP press releases and Web site.

      Energy Connections

      DOE: Gulf Energy Companies Must Cooperate After Hurricanes Hit

      U.S. oil and natural gas companies need to take a lesson from the electric power industry and work together to repair infrastructure after natural disasters, according to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Speaking last week at the annual meeting of the National Ocean Industries Association­a national trade association representing the domestic offshore petroleum industry and related industries­Secretary Bodman noted that the electric power industry has long relied on mutual aid agreements to restore essential facilities and services in the aftermath of storms, a process that served the power industry well after last summer's hurricanes.

      Secretary Bodman also praised the oil and gas industry for its recovery from the hurricanes, which shut down 90 percent of the oil production and 80 percent of the natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. As of last week, only 23 percent of the oil production and 14 percent of the natural gas production remains unavailable, and Secretary Bodman noted that it may not be economically feasible to restore some of the damaged wells. Secretary Bodman also noted that the ConocoPhillips and Murphy Oil refineries in Louisiana and the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, are all in the process of restarting operations, which "should help bring us back to full refining capacity in the Gulf for the first time since Katrina landed last August." See Secretary Bodman's speech on the DOE Web site, and for the latest figures on Gulf oil and gas production, see the report from the Minerals Management Service of the U.S. Department of Interior.

      This newsletter is funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and is also available on the EERE Web site. You can subscribe to the EERE Network News using our simple online form, and you can also update your email address, add a subscription to EERE Progress Alerts, or unsubscribe using our " Change My Subscription" page.

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