The big news in Cambridge yesterday was a rather dramatic fire resulting from a failure of the electrical system. This picture is several blocks from my office.
But a less dramatic and exciting electricity related item arrived from Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) this morning. They are part of the Cambridge Energy Alliance (CEA) which was formed after announcing their goal to reduce electricity demand by 50 megawatts over five years.
There are several interesting things going on. First the local agency whose mandate is to ensure adequate electrical power is now paying for reductions in demand. It turns out to be cheaper than paying for increases in supply (of course).
The report also points out that 42 megawatts of energy will come from a very modest program of actions that “are not particularly cutting edge”, in short efforts to conserve through education and mainly through replacement of inefficient appliances. This will require a 7% per year rate of adoption over the five years of the plan — 42 of 50 megawatts is 84% of the overall goal!
Of course there are sexier projects relating to new construction and transportation.
But what struck me is that with a simple policy change, very un-sexy changes involving simple adoption of existing technology and conservation will accomplish 84% of the stated goal.
Even RMI, a fantastic organization whose ideas are clearly of the sort that will provide the solutions to our energy problems in the long term seems to cast these conservation and upgrade programs as somehow secondary.