Students' Solar Decathlon vs. Real Market Homes: 

How concept houses at college competition compare with what residential builders offer today
Posted by Jim Meyers Fri, 10/27/2017 - 02:15 PM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government Transportation

The buzz at the 2017 Solar Decathlon proved infectious, thanks to the human energy and excitement of the college students worldwide who participated in the October event in Denver. And as a professional in energy-efficient buildings, I was impressed by what the young people demonstrated: new concepts, some pretty amazing technology, well-designed and cool-looking houses, and their willingness to “stretch the envelope” (pun intended). The competition also gave me an opportunity to reflect on those ideas and new technologies, their applicability for today’s new-home buyers, and finally how the decathlon concept homes compared in price to Zero Energy (ZE) homes on the market today.


Reno Brightens Its Future with Energy-Efficient Buildings Push 

City tackles DOE's Better Buildings Challenge
Posted by Jim Meyers Mon, 10/23/2017 - 07:00 AM Categories: Buildings Industrial State & Local Government

Reno embraced Nevada’s newly re-invigorated push toward cleaner energy when the city launched REENERGIZE RENO, its ambitious program to improve the efficiency of municipal, commercial, industrial and multifamily buildings by 20 percent by 2025.  The move shows how local governments, coupled with forward-looking state policies, can reduce pollution, conserve water, curb climate change, and create jobs even as they help consumers and businesses save money. REENERGIZE RENO is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge, designed to cut energy waste in large buildings.


New Facts Underscore How Much Energy Efficiency Benefits the Southwest 

SWEEP documents how utility programs help consumers, businesses and the environment
Posted by Howard Geller Fri, 10/06/2017 - 12:06 PM Categories: Buildings Industrial State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

SWEEP’s updated and just-published fact sheets show the benefits to consumers and the environment from energy efficiency programs implemented by electric utilities in five states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The fact sheets and paper demonstrate that electric utilities in the region have generated enormous economic and environmental benefits through their efficiency programs.

Backsliding on utility energy efforts, on the other hand, would result in higher costs for consumers, waste precious water resources, and cause greater harm to the environment and public health.


Colorado VW Plan Supports Transition to Electric Vehicles  

State is accepting comments through October 13
Posted by Will Toor Wed, 09/13/2017 - 06:30 AM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) has released a draft plan on how the state will allocate approximately $70 million in funding that the state will receive as part of the settlement of the VW emissions cheating scandal. The settlement funds are designed to reduce air pollution from vehicles, in order to mitigate the effects of the non-compliant, diesel-fueled Volkswagens.


Home Builders in SWEEP States Win Prestigious National Innovation Awards 

Southwest builders honored in 4 of 5 categories
Posted by Nancy Kellogg Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:45 PM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government Utility Policy

Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognizes the Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program builders with the department’s Innovation in Housing Awards. Only the top 1 percent of builders in the nation receive these prestigious awards. But this year, builders from SWEEP states won the Innovation in Housing awards in four of the five categories:


Don't Gut Federal Energy Efficiency Programs 

Posted by Howard Geller and Neil Kolwey Mon, 08/28/2017 - 07:15 AM Categories: Buildings Industrial State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

Federal energy efficiency programs within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are threatened with devastating budget cuts proposed by the Trump Administration. Should citizens, businesses, and elected officials in the Southwest care? Absolutely!

Southwestern states (AZ, CO, NM, NV, UT, and WY) are home to 123,000 energy efficiency jobs -- more jobs, in fact, than any other segment of the energy industry including oil and gas production. The federal energy efficiency programs support and contribute to these jobs, while providing significant energy and cost savings to businesses and consumers, and significant reductions in CO2 and other pollutant emissions.

DOE's energy efficiency programs include programs to improve energy efficiency in industry, homes, commercial buildings, and vehicles.DOE provides R&D support to help develop new technologies that save energy in industry and buildings.

EPA's ENERGY STAR programs also support many jobs and help Southwest businesses and homeowners save money through labeling of energy-efficient appliances, equipment, and buildings. The six Southwest states are home to more than 907 businesses and organizations participating in the ENERGY STAR programs.


A Better Way to Help Denverites Power Electric Cars 

SWEEP reports offers specific steps that the city can take
Posted by Will Toor Fri, 08/25/2017 - 07:21 AM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order on July 11, 2017, in which he pledged that Colorado would meet the Paris climate targets, and set goals for reducing emissions through more renewable energy, ramping up utility energy efficiency programs, making buildings greener, and accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). In order to meet these emissions targets, the state will need to ramp up electric vehicle adoption, and do it fast.

A recently released pair of studies should help the state develop this plan. One study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (with funding from the state) modeled the benefits of several potential networks of fast chargers around the state. The other study was conducted by SWEEP on behalf of the City of Denver, with funding from the Regional Air Quality Council, and looked at how the city and metro area can accelerate EV adoption, by deploying more fast-charging sites across Colorado, and encourage the development of more charging locations at apartments and condominiums complexes.

Here are a few key insights from these studies:


Clearing the Air With Electric Cars 

Colorado's sources for electricity cleaner than in other states
Posted by Mike Salisbury Wed, 08/23/2017 - 12:05 PM Categories: State & Local Government Transportation

A new report conducted by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project on behalf of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health (with funding from the Regional Air Quality Council) shows why more EVs on the road – including affordable models such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt - will help both metro Denver and the planet.

Simply put, electric vehicles (and soon, electric SUVs and trucks, too) reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent to 43 percent compared with gasoline powered vehicles.  They can cut emissions of nitrous oxide (NOx) – by at least 38 percent and perhaps up to 63 percent and essentially eliminate emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These last two pollutants are important because they contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog, which irritates human lungs and worsens respiratory illnesses.

By reducing the amount of ozone’s precursor chemicals in Denver’s air, electric vehicles will help solve one of metro Denver’s most vexing public health concerns. The findings of this report are important because they dispel the myth that EVs aren’t cleaner than gasoline vehicles. 


Energy Codes Are Life and Safety Codes  

Energy codes create safe, resilient, and habitable structures
Posted by Christine Brinker Fri, 08/18/2017 - 12:51 PM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government

Building codes ensure and protect the safety of the houses and buildings where we live and work. The International Energy Conservation Code, or IECC, is one of a suite of model national building codes adopted by state and local jurisdictions to ensure a bare minimum of durability, quality, health, and safety.

 Once in a while, we hear building officials mistakenly say they don’t adopt or inspect for the energy code, “because it is not a life-safety code.” This comment, however, stems from a basic misunderstanding of the energy code, and what it is designed to achieve.

We’re here to correct the record—the energy code fundamentally improves the durability of buildings as well as the health and safety of us humans inside. It’s not just a “nice-to-have.”


Which Segment of the Energy Industry Supports the Most Jobs in the Southwest? 

Hint: It’s Not Fossil Fuels Production
Posted by Howard Geller Wed, 07/19/2017 - 01:56 PM Categories: Buildings Industrial State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

Which segment of energy industry supports the most jobs in the energy-rich Southwest? Answer: It’s the energy efficiency industry, according to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). If public officials want to expand energy-related jobs, they should start by supporting energy efficiency initiatives including the federal energy efficiency programs funded by the DOE and EPA.


How to Improve I-25 Traffic Without Spending Big Bucks 

Use market forces to help highway travelers for the long-term
Posted by Mike Salisbury Fri, 07/14/2017 - 02:01 PM Categories: Transportation

Anyone who travels on highways in the Front Range knows that congestion is a major problem in the Denver metro area and, based on expected population growth over the next 30 years, it’s only going to get worse. What if there was a way to increase mobility on the existing road, and improve transit and other options, without needing more public funds? This sounds like magic, but it really just requires a smart approach to using market forces to optimize the use of our existing highway lanes. 


Southwest Has More “Zero Energy” Homes and Homebuilders Than Anywhere Else in the Country 

Reasons for Progress Could Serve as National Model
Posted by Nancy Kellogg Tue, 06/27/2017 - 02:44 PM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government Utility Policy

More than 60 percent of the most energy-efficient homes built today in the country have been constructed in the Southwest. What’s more, nearly two-thirds of the homebuilders who make these highly efficient houses also are based in this region. The reasons for this success could serve as a model for other parts of the nation seeking to improve the efficiency and quality of their new housing stock. SWEEP’s building team recently “crunched the numbers” from the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 updated list of homebuilders who construct houses according to the strictest energy efficiency criteria.


Industrial Contributions Towards U.S. Climate Goals 

Leading companies trim emissions
Posted by Neil Kolwey Wed, 06/14/2017 - 02:49 PM Categories: Industrial

In the wake of the president’s unfortunate and misguided decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has assembled an alliance of 12 states, over 150 cities and counties, and over 1,200 businesses and investors, with the goal of achieving the U.S. Paris goals despite the president’s withdrawal. Some experts estimate that this alliance could achieve as much as 60 to 70 percent of the U.S. Paris goal.

The industrial sector is very important in these efforts: industry accounts for 30 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. There are a growing number of large industrial and information technology (IT) companies with greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, energy efficiency, or renewable energy goals. Contrary to the president’s statements about the Paris accord, these companies recognize that achieving clean energy goals will not conflict with good business strategy, competitiveness, or profitability.


Time for states to step up on clean transportation 

States, cities can embrace EVs, add public transit
Posted by Will Toor Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:23 PM Categories: State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

When President Donald Trump recently walked away from the Paris Climate Agreement, his decision spurred many states, cities and businesses nationwide to step up their own push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what the federal government does or doesn’t do. One key area for action is transforming America’s transportation systems.


Bipartisan Plan Could Solve Colorado’s Transportation Headaches 

Voters Will Have to Approve Proposal
Posted by Will Toor Tue, 03/21/2017 - 11:58 AM

The proposal lawmakers introduced is a well-crafted compromise that deserves support from those who care about energy efficiency and emissions reductions. HB 1242 builds on years of work by local governments, environmental groups, and transit, walking and biking advocates to assure that any new state transportation funding makes a significant investment in multimodal transportation, not just highways. However, despite the support of House and Senate leadership, this bill still faces a battle to get through the legislature


With electric car tax credits, all of Colorado benefits from cleaner air 

But some state lawmakers want to cut useful program
Posted by Will Toor Thu, 03/16/2017 - 11:30 AM Categories: State & Local Government Transportation

Colorado lawmakers are debating a proposal to eliminate tax credits that encourage consumers to buy cleaner, energy-efficient electric vehicles (EVs) and other alternative fuel vehicles. Opponents of the program – notably the Independence Institute and Americans for Prosperity – are feeding legislators incorrect information about how much most consumers can benefit from the program. Despite the opponents’ claims, EVs are not toys for the rich.


How Can the Southwest’s Communities Make Installing EV Charging Easier and Cheaper? 

Cities and Counties Adopt EV Ready Codes
Posted by Mike Salisbury Mon, 03/06/2017 - 12:55 PM Categories: State & Local Government Transportation

Communities that require builders to install EV charging capabilities in new apartments, single-family homes and commercial offices will make the transition away from gasoline-powered cars easier for their residents. Some local governments have figured out an answer to how to make the changes happen. Recently, the cities of Boulder and Aspen, Colorado, joined the City and County of DenverBoulder County and Salt Lake City in adopting an “EV Ready” building code.


State of Colorado is near the bottom in funding public transit 

Colorado invests one-twenthieth of national average
Posted by Will Toor Wed, 02/01/2017 - 11:48 AM

The level of state support for public transit in Colorado is one of the lowest in the country. In Colorado's Statewide Transit Plan, CDOT used information from the National Transit Database to compare Colorado’s state funding for both capital and operating to the nation as a whole. For the nation as a whole, including states that do not provide any support for transit, states provide 26 percent of the operating costs for transit, and 12 percent of the capital costs.


Top 9 Reasons to Update to a Newer Energy Code 

Posted by Christine Brinker Fri, 01/20/2017 - 01:59 PM

With the newest version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) on its way, we want to make sure all jurisdictions in the Southwest reap the benefits of the most recent energy codes and aren’t left in the dust with poorer-quality and leaky buildings built according to prior codes. We recommend moving to the 2015 IECC and improving efficiency beyond this baseline in the future.


Corporate Clean Energy Leadership 

Energy Efficiency Is a Solid Foundation for GHG Reductions by Large Companies
Posted by Neil Kolwey Fri, 01/20/2017 - 01:46 PM

Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies now have targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, buy renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.  The companies want to be socially responsible and enhance their green business image, but pursuing clean energy goals also benefits their bottom lines, especially when their efforts emphasize energy efficiency. These enterprises will continue to play an important role in the next four years towards helping the U.S. achieve its Paris climate commitments, especially if there is little or no support for clean energy from the federal government.


Doubling Down on Energy Efficiency 

States, local governments must pick up the slack
Posted by Howard Geller Fri, 01/13/2017 - 02:04 PM Categories: Buildings Industrial State & Local Government Transportation Utility Policy

If the adage “personnel is policy” holds true, energy efficiency and clean energy will face a tough four years with respect to federal policy. With a pullback in federal leadership, states and local governments will be left to pick up the slack.


Blame inflation, not fuel efficiency, for potholes and rickety bridges 

Rising prices drain road funds 1,000 times more than electric cars
Posted by Mike Salisbury Fri, 01/13/2017 - 01:10 PM Categories: Transportation
As in many states across the country, in Colorado and Nevada the demand for funding to maintain and improve roadways outstrips revenue dedicated for this purpose. At a legislative hearing in December 2016, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) said it needed $1 billion read more...

Energy Codes Count award recognizes results 

$1.2 Million Saved: Value of Energy-Efficient Buildings to 50,000-Person Town
Posted by Jim Meyers Tue, 12/20/2016 - 01:34 PM Categories: Buildings State & Local Government

What's the benefit to a local community of incorporating the newest energy efficiency measures into the building code? For one Colorado town, it’s already worth $1.2 million.  The lessons from Parker (located southeast of Denver) underscore how local leaders can help their residents, businesses, homebuilders and commercial real estate developers recognize that spending a little money upfront can lead to big savings in the long run. Can your town, city or county show similar, positive results? Read on.


Huge VW Settlement Can "Electrify" Transportation 

In the Southwest, potential $29 million for EV charging stations, $164 million for electric buses
Posted by Will Toor Fri, 10/14/2016 - 04:24 PM Categories: Transportation

When Volkswagen was caught systematically cheating on emissions tests, making their diesel vehicles look much cleaner than they actually are, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit for violations of the Clean Air Act. The company and the DOJ have reached a partial settlement, which is expected to be approved by a federal judge in October. The settlement includes approximately $10 billion in compensation to owners of noncompliant VWs, but also includes $4.7 billion that could help to accelerate the adoption of electric cars and buses.

We believe the two big opportunities that come from these substantial settlement dollars are building out the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the Southwest and replacing old diesel buses with zero emission buses powered by electricity.  


It's Time to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation 

Transportation Ranks 1st in Emissions that Cause Climate Change
Posted by Will Toor Wed, 09/14/2016 - 03:47 PM

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project recently provided comments to the Federal Highway Administration in support of establishing a "performance" measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.  It's timely because this year was the first that transportation overtook power plants as the largest source of GHG emissions in the United States—and because our commitment to the Paris climate accords will require a massive reduction of all GHG emissions, particularly those from transportation. Here's a look at the scenarios and comments from the Southwest.

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