Saving Power in California
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SPENCER MICHELS: Despite the energy crisis, the lights remain on at night across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and in thousands of businesses throughout California. While the decorative bridge lights cost only $10 a day, the perception and the reality of wasted energy while the state grovels for electricity has prompted a statewide campaign to save power. Governor Gray Davis called for a massive reduction in electricity use by businesses and individuals. He says that will save about 8 percent of power needs this summer.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS: Californians sometimes think we lack power. But we have power. We’re 34 million strong. We should flex our power. How do we do it? We do it by conserving energy, which saves money; we do it by conserving energy, which will virtually assure no blackouts, and will assure reduced power bills.
SPENCER MICHELS: But Davis wasn’t just asking. Under his emergency powers, he was ordering $1,000 a day fine for businesses that don’t comply with power-saving regulations. The new rules, and how they’ll be enforced, have yet to be determined. But while some firms that light up their property have voiced concerns about the police monitoring them, State Commerce Secretary Lon Hatamiya calls the threat of fines an incentive.
LON HATAMIYA: We want to ensure that people certainly take this seriously and that up to $1,000 a day fine will be certainly levied by local law enforcement as they see appropriate.
SPENCER MICHELS: Businesses– especially those in Silicon Valley– are eager to show that they’re already doing their part. High-tech firms boasted that they had joined forces to send their employees e-mails on how to conserve power. At a news conference to showcase they demonstrated how individuals can unplug electronic devices. Carl Guardino heads the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group.
CARL GUARDINO: Overall, we have dozens of items in each of our homes that drain power. As you see on the display in the VCR a power charger or boom box or computer at home – those are draining power. Our cell phone plugged into the wall rather than being charged as we drive our car brains power. It costs more than $30 a year just for those few items.
SPENCER MICHELS: But businesses can contribute only a small amount to the overall solution. University of California scientists say computers and other office equipment comprise just 3 percent of total energy use.
SPOKESMAN: This is a dirty sock. You can wash it in the morning and have a clean sock.
SPENCER MICHELS: Despite disagreement on how best to save power, everyone’s giving advice, even the state.
SPOKESMAN: But if you knew that by doing a full load after 7 p.m. you could avoid rolling blackouts and make sure school kids don’t sit in the dark and help keep your electric bills down, you might just let that sock stay dirty a little longer.
SPENCER MICHELS: Saving energy may have a short-term benefit but probably won’t last according to analyst Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future.
PAUL SAFFO: The good news is they’re paying it tension to it. What worries me is that we may be paying attention to this the same way we do to earthquakes. The dishes rattle and everybody gets concerned you rush out and you update your earthquake kit and a month later you’ve forgotten; the kit is lost, and forgotten until the next earthquake.
SPENCER MICHELS: Promoting conservation long term is what Pacific Gas and Electric’s energy center is all about. Director Jim Chace says it took a crisis to motivate consumers.
JIM CHACE: We haven’t had on a crease in electric prices since 1996 — and that in some ways may have been a mistake because we lulled people into thinking energy would be inexpensive forever.
SPENCER MICHELS: Chace says refrigerators are the single largest energy users in a home, and new ones are far more efficient than older models. And, he says, the choice of light bulbs is important, too.
JIM CHACE: Most of our residences use a technology that right now is 125 years old. It’s the same light bulb that Edison invented in 1883. That’s the incandescent light bulb, and incandescent light bulbs typically use about four times the energy that a compact fluorescent uses.
SPENCER MICHELS: Which one of these is incandescent?
JIM CHACE: The one on the right is.
SPENCER MICHELS: Hardware stores report their supplies of energy-efficient devices are hard to keep on the shelves. At this store shoppers looked at the pricey, compact fluorescents for ways to cut down utility bills.
CONSUMER: It was $135 last month. And now it’s $247.
SPENCER MICHELS: That’s why you’re here?
SPENCER MICHELS: But how much are these?
CONSUMER: That’s $7 — something like that — I don’t know what that is.
SPENCER MICHELS: So those are more expensive than you usually pay for a light bulb?
CONSUMER: But it’s going to last more.
SALESMAN: This machine will use approximately 47 percent less water.
SPENCER MICHELS: The Governor has pledged to increase rebates substantially for consumers who buy power-saving appliances. The money will come from a surcharge on utility bills. But savings on a larger scale have been realized by people who have configured their homes for energy savings. Palo Alto resident Sandra Slater designed this home as green to minimize its impact on the environment and to maximize energy efficiencies.
SANDRA SLATER: It cost about 4 percent more doing everything green, and that was including a lot of lumber and steel and glass and a lot of things. Almost everything that we did in the house is green… has some green component in it.
SPENCER MICHELS: Slater angled the house to take advantage of the sun. She put in special window glass to minimize heat loss in winter, and provide protection in summer.
SPENCER MICHELS: And what about this insulation?
SANDRA SLATER: Yeah. The insulation there is a little hole right here in the wall.
SPENCER MICHELS: The walls and ceilings are thoroughly insulated with cellulose fiber made from ground up newspapers.
SANDRA SLATER: This is a newspaper mash that’s blown into the walls.
SPENCER MICHELS: But the key element is a system of solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity.
SANDRA SLATER: It generates about 80 percent of my utility need, so it’s great. And I sell… I sell all my electricity to the city of Palo Alto and then I buy it back. So I am actually a producer of energy for the city of Palo Alto.
SPENCER MICHELS: During the day the panels produce more energy than the houses uses.
SANDRA SLATER: This is the biggest charge of my life…coming out here and actually seeing the meter going backwards. You can see right now the arrows are going towards the street which means that I am selling all the electricity that I’m making now to the city.
SPENCER MICHELS: Slater’s electricity bills for her nearly 3,000-square foot house average $15 to $20 in the summer, $30 to $40 in the winter– far lower than comparable homes. Slater designed her house for beauty and ease of living. She says people who lower their energy consumption don’t have to sacrifice convenience for efficiency.
SANDRA SLATER: My message to most people is you don’t have to have a house that’s as green as this one. That’s not the point. The point is you can do one or two things. It’s just if everybody were to do one or two things, you know, cumulatively, that would be a big impact.
SPENCER MICHELS: Not everyone can afford a new green house. But rolling blackouts, higher bills, and the government’s tough response, are forcing many Californians to look for ways beyond changing light bulbs to reduce electricity consumption.