Every once in a while, a picture is worth 1000 words. Take a look at this 21-year history of energy use in a Florida home:
Danny Parker, the home’s owner, is a noted energy efficiency researcher at the Florida Solar Energy Center, so this is not your typical house. But the story told by this data is very common, and ignored by policy makers.
To read the graph, note that the green line is a 12-month average, while the red line is the monthly bills. With hot summers, there is an annual spike for air conditioning.
There are three potentially energy increasing events in this graph: the births of two children (Wade and Sarah) and an expansion on the home. But with Parker’s care, they did not increase energy use. There are a number of events expected to decrease energy use, starting with installing R-19 insulation in the 1990s. Not all of the home improvements had a visible impact on the Parker’s energy bill. The three big wins? White roof, whole house fan, and adding solar.
Not marked on the graph, but important are the energy saving behaviors the Parkers’ use in everyday living, and new appliances purchased twice during the twenty years.
Our takeaway? Every home can get to net-zero electricity. Take three or four years and do a round of upgrades, including the simple things like appliances, to drive electricity use down. Then close the last gap with solar. All that is needed is a way to plan ahead, track, and access available rebates. (Exactly what we do at WattzOn!) No major policy initiatives needed, just more consumer engagement with the tools we have.
For a different take on the policy implications of this graph, check out this column by Alan Meier of Lawrence Berkeley National Labs.