EREN Network News
August 1, 2001
News and Events
- National Academies Report Recommends Fuel Economy Changes
- 400-Kilowatt Solar System to Power Texaco Oil Fields
- EPA, Fortune 500 Companies Kick Off Green Power Partnership
- Michigan Utility to Launch Green Power Pilot Program
- New Standards for Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps Face Review
- DOE Dedicates Highly Efficient House in Atlanta
- University of Michigan Wins American Solar Challenge
Energy Facts and Tips
- Office of Technology Access
About this Newsletter
- All You Ever Wanted to Know About U.S. Appliance Use
News and Events
National Academies Report Recommends Fuel Economy Changes
A report released yesterday by the National Academies' National
Research Council (NRC), which advises Congress on scientific
issues, finds that federal fuel economy standards have reduced
U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but changes to the program could
achieve more. The NRC report suggests implementing a weight-based
system that would eliminate the distinction between cars and light
trucks and sport utility vehicles. It also suggests that automakers
that exceed the standards be able to trade fuel economy credits with
other automakers a system similar to that used by power plants to
meet air emission standards.
The report notes that technologies available today, such as variable
valve timing and five-speed automatic transmissions, could
significantly reduce fuel consumption of vehicles over the next
15 years, with light-duty trucks having the greatest potential
reductions. It suggests that the federal government continue funding
research and development of new fuel-efficiency technologies
including hybrid vehicles, fuel cells, and advanced engines and
emission-control systems in cooperation with the automotive
The 13-member committee that wrote the report also suggested that
decreasing vehicle size and weight could improve fuel economy, but
that led to a contentious issue relating to crash safety. Although
the report suggests that smaller cars are more prone to lead to
fatalities in a crash, two committee members challenged that
conclusion in a dissenting opinion, and the committee called on the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct further
See the National Academies press release.
The full report is posted on the National Academy Press Web site.
Are you thinking of buying a new car yourself? The Fuel Economy Web
site, sponsored by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
allows you to compare the fuel economy of all the models available
in the United States. The site was recently enhanced with links to
local gas price information, emission test results, and crash test
results. For instance, you can look up the aluminum-bodied
2001 Honda Insight, weighing in at only 1,868 pounds, and see that
it achieves a four-star rating for both frontal and side impacts.
See the Fuel Economy Web site.
400-Kilowatt Solar System to Power Texaco Oil Fields
United Solar Systems Corporation announced yesterday that it will
design and install a 400-kilowatt solar electric system for Texaco
Inc. Ironically, the system will provide power to Texaco's Central
Valley oil field operations in California. Texaco has the option of
expanding the installation to one megawatt, which would place it
among the world's largest photovoltaic installations. United Solar
is a joint venture between Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD)
and N.V. Bekaert S.A. See the United Solar press release.
Texaco and ECD have also formed a strategic alliance to develop
nickel metal hydride batteries, which are primarily used in electric
and hybrid electric vehicles. Texaco plans to invest more than
$150 million in the technology over the next few years. See the
Texaco press release.
EPA, Fortune 500 Companies Kick Off Green Power Partnership
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Monday
the start of the Green Power Partnership, a new voluntary program
"aimed at boosting the market for power alternatives that reduce
the environmental and health risks of conventional electricity
generation." The program's founding partners, which include 20
Fortune 500 companies, are making a commitment to procure more than
280,000 megawatt-hours of green power over the next year. This
commitment will prevent the emission of 200,000 tons of carbon
dioxide, a global warming gas. DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and
Renewable Energy is also a founding partner, and has committed to
buy green power for its Denver facilities, which include the Denver
Regional Office, the Golden Field Office, and the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL). See the EPA press release.
DOE is also helping to bring green power specifically, wind power
to Illinois. NREL has prepared a detailed wind resource map for
the state, and DOE is sponsoring the Illinois Wind Workshop, which
will be held on November 27th in Lisle, Illinois. See the DOE press
Michigan Utility to Launch Green Power Pilot Program
Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, proposed last week to
start a green power pilot program, and the proposal was quickly
approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC). Starting
in October, customers will be able to buy 10, 50, or 100 percent of
their power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar
power. The renewable portion of the customer's bills will cost an
extra 3.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Consumers Energy will have
sufficient renewable energy capacity to meet the needs of about
18,000 homes. See the Consumers Energy press release.
See also the Michigan PSC press release.
According to EREN's Green Power Network, Consumers Energy will
contract for up to 50 megawatts of new renewable energy for the
program, and has already contracted with Bay Windpower to purchase
power from a new 5-megawatt wind project. See the Green Power
An updated estimate of the generating capacity that has been built
to supply the U.S. green power market has also been added to the
Green Power Network. According to the latest estimate, utility
"green pricing" programs, such as the Consumers Energy program, have
added 110 megawatts of new renewable power capacity, with another
170 megawatts likely to be installed in the next year. Companies
selling green power in competitive electricity markets have caused
more than 130 megawatts of new renewable power capacity to be built,
with nearly 650 megawatts of additional capacity planned. See the
The current estimates are a significant improvement over the
estimates from less than one year ago, when the total new renewable
power capacity was only 126 megawatts. See the September 6th edition
of the EREN Network News.
New Standards for Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps Face Review
DOE announced last week that its proposed regulations to set energy
efficiency standards for air conditioners and heat pumps have been
sent to the Federal Register for publication. The regulations would
set the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, for this equipment
at 12, a 20 percent improvement over current standards. The
proposed rule would replace a rule proposed by the outgoing
Clinton administration that would have set the SEER at 13, a
30 percent improvement. DOE invites written public comment
on the proposed regulations and will also hold a public hearing
on the matter. See the DOE press release.
DOE Dedicates Highly Efficient House in Atlanta
DOE dedicated last week a new high-efficiency house in Atlanta
that will use 57 percent less energy for heating and cooling than
comparable houses in the area. The 1,565-square-foot home is
comparable in cost to a conventional home, but will cost only about
$300 per year to heat and cool. Located just a few blocks from the
boyhood home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the "I Have a Dream"
house is built with structural insulated panels prefabricated
panels that sandwich a foam core between two sheets of plywood. It
also features Energy Star-qualified windows, tightly sealed duct
work, and a high-efficiency air conditioner. See the DOE press
Energy Star a joint effort of DOE and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has proven an effective program for
encouraging the production and use of energy-efficient technologies.
It's so effective, in fact, that it's being expanded into Canada.
National Resources Canada will work to bring the program over
the border. See the EPA press release and fact sheet.
University of Michigan Wins American Solar Challenge
The University of Michigan avoided any last-minute catastrophes last
Wednesday, maintaining its lead on the final race day and winning
the American Solar Challenge. The car finished a full hour and
twenty minutes ahead of its closest competitor, the University of
Missouri-Rolla, and achieved an average speed of 40 miles per hour
over the 2,247-mile race. See the final results on the American
Solar Challenge Web site.
The Winston Solar Challenge, a similar race but for high-school
students only, also finished last Wednesday, with the Houston Solar
Race Team taking the checkered flag. The team, from Houston
Vocational School in Houston, Mississippi, logged nearly 800 miles
during the race, traveling more than 200 miles farther than its
nearest competitor. See the race results.
Office of Technology Access
DOE's Office of Technology Access (OTA) promotes exports of renewable
energy and energy efficiency products and services and facilitates
private sector infrastructure development to support the delivery and
maintenance of these technologies worldwide. The site includes
information about OTA, its products and services, and its customers.
For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site.
Energy Facts and Tips
All You Ever Wanted to Know About U.S. Appliance Use
If your interest is in appliances, you're in luck: DOE's Energy
Information Administration (EIA) has just completed a compilation
of appliance statistics for the United States, broken down by
U.S. Census Divisions. The regional profiles are chock-full of
interesting tidbits, like the fact that air conditioning is much less
common in the Pacific States than the rest of the country (38 percent
of Pacific State households versus 72 percent of U.S. households).
However, because so little energy is used for space heating in the
Pacific States, a higher percentage of the energy used by Pacific
households goes toward air conditioning and operating electric
appliances than in the rest of the country. For these facts and much
more including even the use of outdoor gas grills see the EIA's
Appliance Reports home page.
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