In Response To Katie Leonard

Los Alamos


This is a response to Katie Leonard’s recent letter to the Reporter.  I read the interim report, and the committee was certainly diligent in their tasks.  The report is 150 pages long.  My conclusion is that they overworked the problem. 

As I’ve discussed before, we took our business emissions free 2 years ago.  It’s really pretty easy to do this, and it only took a couple of months to do it.  All we did was put in a large (20kW) PV array and an appropriately sized heat pump/air conditioner.   

This was a retrofit on a building that was likely built in the 1970s.  It doesn’t have great insulation.  Here’s what we didn’t do (all of which was recommended in the report): 

  1. We didn’t replace any windows or doors. 
  2. We didn’t add any insulation. 
  3. We didn’t buy any “Energy Star Appliances”. 
  4. We didn’t replace any hot water heaters. 
  5. We didn’t put in a magnetic induction stove. 
  6. We didn’t reduce the Average Heat Loading to 0.30 therms/sq. ft. or Less. 

Here’s the main point the interim report is missing:  If your goal is to eliminate emissions, it doesn’t matter how much renewable energy you use.  The goal is zero emissions, not energy conservation.  For renewable energy, one size does not fit all.  There are tradeoffs between conservation and production, and these tradeoffs are likely site dependent.  People need to have the freedom to make those decisions.  Codifying everything is a bad idea and you are going to get a lot of pushback if you try it. 

The real challenge is getting people to make the investments required to make emissions-free energy a reality.  It would be helpful if those of you on the committee were to tell the public about your personal investments in renewable energy and what the results were.  Lead by example.  It’s pretty hard to convince people that “we” need to invest in renewable energy if you aren’t willing to invest your own money in it. 

Fortunately, renewable energy has a lot going for it.  As I discussed in an earlier letter, it is cost effective although it requires significant upfront investment.  It also has a lot of side benefits.  It is a hedge against inflation.  You get to thumb your nose at OPEC and the oil companies.  You get to thumb your nose at the gas companies and the big utilities.  And, you get to thumb your nose at the government because you aren’t paying gas tax and you aren’t paying GRT on your utility bill.  On top of that, the government will even pay you to do it with subsidies.  It just doesn’t get any better than that! 

Also, solar energy is contagious.  I know of at least 4 solar PV installations that were initiated as a result of our DP Road installation.  Global climate change may not motivate people to invest in renewable energy, but “Keeping up with the Joneses” will.  Stick that PV unit on your roof where all of the neighbors can see it.  Another thing that would help is if the DPU would include a simple bar chart which shows how your utility usage compares with your neighbors and the county average.  You will be surprised what motivates people.