Tag Archives: Energy Costs

Could our schools do more to save energy and hence money?

This district in the US has saved $600,000 that is a lot of money.

OHOES — The Cohoes City School District has saved more than $600,000 with an energy-conservation program and expects to save nearly $3 million by 2015. Five buildings in the district were recently awarded the federal government’s Energy Star label which is presented to the most energy-efficient school buildings in the country, officials said Thursday.

The district was also named an Energy Star Leader for its overall energy savings.

“We are very pleased to receive this recognition,” said Superintendent Robert Libby. “Our energy conservation efforts are saving taxpayer dollars and allowing the district to focus its financial resources on its core mission, student education. During difficult budget times like these, it is critically important that we be able to do just that.”

Since the district started participating with the Energy Education’s energy-conservation program in 2004, it has cut energy consumption by about 30 percent, officials said.

The schools have saved $616,397 and the environmental impact on just electricity savings is equal to taking 332 cars off the road or planting 39,339 trees.

The schools that received the Energy Star label included the Cohoes High School, Cohoes Middle School, Harmony Hill School, Van Schaick Grade School, and Page Avenue School.

School buildings must rate in the top 25 percent nationwide for energy efficiency to receive the label, officials said.

Obama going big on Insulation

Little PEI is in the vanguard – here is a snip from the New York Times that talks about a major initiative in this area for the Obama administration. What if we pushed harder here? There is about $200 million in heating costs to work on – this is really a tax on Islanders. Imagine the difference if we could reduce this by 20% – $40 million more in Islanders hands – that’s $1,000 a household in savings!

Correct those flaws, and heating and cooling costs are typically cut by 20 percent to 30 percent, a saving of more than $1,000 annually in some households. In addition, carbon dioxide emissions and the strain on the national electric and gas systems are reduced.

About 140,000 houses will be weatherized with public help this year, a total that President-elect Barack Obama has promised to raise to one million, to reduce energy consumption and cut energy costs for households and taxpayers, who often absorb those costs for the poor. This would represent a historic shift in emphasis for the federal and state governments, reducing poor people’s energy bills instead of helping to pay them.

Weatherizing a million homes annually would also create about 78,000 jobs for a year, according to the federal Energy Department’s weatherization project director, Gil Sperling.

The current 140,000 annual total creates about 8,000 jobs, Mr. Sperling said.

Although that is a tiny fraction of the five million green-collar jobs that Mr. Obama promised in the campaign, “it’s a decent number of jobs per dollar spent,” said Harry J. Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit group in Washington. “The work is productive, and the jobs are at a mix of skill levels.”

Congress added $250 million to the weatherization budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Energy experts say that money could be effectively spent in low-income households and in households that have no need of public assistance.

In the forgotten corners of tens of millions of American attics and basements, near the old Trivial Pursuit games and out-of-season clothes, are flaws that waste vast amounts of energy. Buildings often resemble colanders. Leaking ducts bleed heated air into areas outside living space. Cold-air returns suck in dust and mold from attics, or gas and oil fumes from garden equipment stored in basements. Long-neglected air filters clog, forcing furnaces or air-conditioners to work harder.

Mr. Obama’s choice for energy secretary, Steven Chu, told a group in Washington in June that an extra $1,000 could make a new house energy efficient “but the American consumer would rather have a granite countertop.”

The Squeeze – How Energy Costs are hurting us

In 2004, we spent about $312 million on energy on PEI. This included Gas ($150 million), Diesel ($69 Million) Heating Oil (87 Million) and Electricity ($6.6 Million). The Tax estimate for the province for the 2004 year was $524 million.

Energy costs were 60% of the Island Tax base.

In 2008 – We will spend about $570 million on Energy. 109% of the Tax base in 2004 and an 83% increase in total costs for us Islanders. This is now about 91% of the 2008 estimated tax base.

In effect we spend as much now on energy as on income taxes. The estimate of the total amount of Federal Funding for PEI for 2008 is $556 Million. So we pay more in energy than we get from the Feds!

At least with our taxes, most of the money spent remains on PEI. But with our spending on energy most of this money leaves the province. We are being impoverished by this process.

This is why our first step has to be to reduce our individual spending on energy.

Here is the current breakdown of what we have to deal with:

What the figures show me is that the easiest area to work on right now and the best area to reduce the pain in all our pocket books is heating. Heating of our homes and heating of all public buildings. Working here also gives those who are the most vulnerable the most immediate relief.

The average home on PEI uses 3,500 litres of heating oil a year. That is $3,815 a house at current prices.

With work we can hope to reduce this systemically and permantly by abut 40% – That’s $1,526 back in your pocket.

If we could save 40% on all heating oil (include Schools, Manors etc) that would bring $72,000,000 back into circulation and keep this money on PEI. For remember, all but a fraction of our dollars that we spend on heating oil leaves PEI.

In this context then, the money that you and I spend on insulation etc is not like buying a TV. It is like buying a tax free Bond. It is like you buying an RRSP – it pays you back tax free.As oil prices rise, so does your return.

Of course the opposite is true. If we do nothing, we will soon be paying more in energy costs than in taxes. This money will leave the Island and we will be soon unable to pay for what we need to live.

At first many will have to choose between eating, heating and working. Then we will have to cut all spending – our schools are very vulnerable, healthcare, roads – all will have to be cut back.

As I looked at the numbers for even 2008, it is clear to me that even if oil prices stay the same, that we are on the slippery slope. With the reality of Peak Oil – we have to act now.

Heating first for both homes and government itself. Then we have to look at our driving habits.

I will post shortly on how others are making large reductions here.

Then we have to look at alternative sources that we can control on PEI

Higher Oil costs – What if you are a landlord? How do you stay in Business?

PEI landlords are going broke with higher energy costs – they have gone to IRAC to ask for a significant increase of between 7% – 30%.

Landlords on P.E.I. have asked the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to let them increase rents next year from seven to 30 per cent.

The requests came in the form of written submissions to IRAC. Twila Whalen, director of residential rental property, told CBC News Tuesday this has been a busy year for submissions. Most years there are no more than five, but this year more than 30 have been received, 18 from landlords and 13 from or on behalf of tenants.

Landlords say they need the increase to cover the cost of heating oil. Whalen said some tenants are worried they’ll be hit with a big increase all at once.

“Some of the tenants were actually requesting that if there’s going to be a large rent increase that it would be divided between two years or three years, not make it all at once,” said Whalen.

“That would be understandable, being that their increase in income would never cover anything, for example, like a 10 or 20 per cent increase.”

IRAC will decide by the end of the month how much rents can go up as of Jan. 1. The increase last year was capped at one per cent.

We are caught by a dilemma here. There are 11,000 renters on PEI. Many are the most vulnerable. But no one is a landlord as a charity. Costs have gone up by a lot. I spoke to a landlord the other day who simply does not know how he can continue – he is seriously thinking of not having tenants.

So how do we balance out the needs of the providers of appartments and those that have to have a home?

I humbly suggest that we have to see both at the same time – it can no longer be tenant versus landlord – but we have to find out how to meet the needs of both.

No reasonable return for landlords means no apartments. No apartments means that we have lots of homeless. Apartments that are too expensive means that we have lots of homeless.

Surely, to prevent homelessness, we have to help landlords AND tenants reduce their use of energy and later to make the shift from oil to local energy sources.

In my own case – I too am a landlord – I will be adding more insulation to the attic of my rental. This should reduce the costs – but I get no help in this. All the investment comes out of my pocket. I have installed a pellet stove and I have set up the water heating to be in the control of my tenant. I will supply the pellets and while I still supply oil heat from my own hose, I have asked him to use the pellet stove as much as possible. I will install a more flexible thermostat.

It’s not ideal. Ideal would be to have my tenant responsible for all his energy use. But like most landlords – that is technically not possible. At some point don’t we all have to be responsible? My landlord friend was livid last winter to see windows wide open in some of his units. The full burden cannot be only on the landlord. There has to be a partnership I think.

I think that this is a strategic issue that is grounded in PEI having a civic society. I fear that if we leave this alone, we risk having a lot of homeless people.

We have to have a layer of housing that is affordable. Until now rentals have been this layer. Few renters and landlord on their own are going to be able to come up with a process that will satisfy both parties.

I think a mediator and a plan for support is called for.