NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California May Employ Some Unique Energy Conservation Schemes

February 20, 2001

The newest member of the California Energy Commission, Arthur Rosenfeld, a retired physics professor, is suggesting some relatively painless ways to conserve scarce energy as the summer air-conditioning season approaches.

  • His experiments have included replacing the dark roof of a Kaiser Permanente office building with a light one -- thereby slashing energy demand by as much as 30 percent.
  • Another project involved using a combination of digital electric meters and basic physics to cut the power bills of another building by a similar amount, without workers in the building even noticing the change.
  • Rosenfeld hopes to have tens of thousands of commercial buildings outfitted with the new meters and vanilla-hued roofs by the time summer arrives.
  • Researchers say the lighter roofs are 90 degrees cooler than black ones and reduce the energy needed to air-condition a building by up to 40 percent.

Cooler roofs also mean cooler outdoor air, and that could help reduce smog.

California is estimated to have about five billion square feet of commercial roofing. Although the switch to lighter roofs would save businesses huge amounts in energy costs, the California Energy Commission thinks it necessary to offer a 10 cents-per-square-foot subsidy as an added incentive.

That subsidy only amounts to $10 million now, but there is plenty of room for it to grow. So also would a talked-about subsidy of $40 million to install the digital meters -- even though the incentives for corporations to finance their own meter installations are also present.

Source: John Emschwiller, "California's Shortages Rekindle Its Efforts to Conserve Energy," Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2001.

For text

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB98262395083647473.htm

 

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