Building a Social Movement

There’s a great story from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath about a man riding an elephant. When you visualize this scenario it seems that the man is in control. His instructions and swift movements direct the elephant at will. But there is something a little more fundamental that we all recognize. The man is only in control to the point the elephant is willing. The elephant, if provoked, could easily toss the man off his back.

We also battle this dynamic within us between the rational side of our brain (the man riding the elephant) and the emotional side of our brain (the elephant). We often do what we logically know is not the best option.

In order to truly effect change or motivate someone to act, it is not enough to convince the man riding the elephant. We must also motivate the elephant. 

I tell this story to make an important point about getting to “net zero energy“. Facts and figures will not win the day. They are necessary to be sure but we must start with the emotion, the why. No change will ever happen unless those who need to change understand why they need to change. When it comes to “net zero energy” we all need to make changes, and many of us realize that, but few of us understand the why.

At ALCSE we are working on building a social movement. One of our goals at ALCSE is to educate people about why this change needs to be made and why they should make this change. But, just as importantly we hope to inspire this change and this movement to “net zero energy.” The greatest changes in our history were won with passionate people who inspired us all to act. We hope you’ll act with us. 

Take the Long Term View on Gas Prices

By now you’ve felt it. The happiness that comes with filling up the gas take at half of what it used to cost. Great news right? Well, yes and no. We’re very happy that lower gas prices are putting more money into the pockets of US consumers. This is wonderful for the US economy in the short-term. Especially when those savings are captured and put to use saving energy in your home through comprehensive energy efficiency or investing in renewable energy!

More troubling though are indications that people are now making long-term decisions based on what could very well end up being a short-term change. Sales of SUVs and trucks are starting to climb. Many people are worried that highly efficient vehicles like electrics and plug-in electrics will slow.

Most indications are that gas prices will stay low through 2015 but will start to rise again. What will happen in 2016? No one can be certain of anything. Anyone who has lived through the last 10-20 years can say that prices will be volatile at best. We encourage people to think twice before purchasing inefficient vehicles based on today’s gas prices. You may come to regret it next year.

The only thing certain is change. That means that the decisions you make today should not be based only on the present, but on what may, and likely will, happen in the future. Make choices that are focused on what is in the best benefit of everyone when it comes to your energy use, and that includes vehicle energy efficiency. Choosing highly efficient vehicles, including electric and hybrid vehicles will benefit you not only today but far into the future. No matter whether gas prices rise, your costs will stay low. But, just as important is knowledge that you are making wise choices for the future of energy efficiency.

Choose wisely, choose sustainable energy!

Huntsville Better Buildings Challenge

Huntsville is on the move to net zero energy!

Have you seen the incredible pace of clean energy activity in Huntsville lately? It’s almost been neck-breaking but who doesn’t want to see even more? In case you’ve missed some, here are the highlights.

  1. Clean, sustainable energy startups will get a boost at summer 2015 accelerator program
  2. Huntsville is the only Alabama city in running for $5M Georgetown University Energy Prize
  3. Redstone Arsenal to be home to the largest solar power array in Alabama
  4. Another major energy project coming to RSA, aim is to make 25 MW of power from biomass-generated steam
  5. Huntsville becoming geospatial and energy center, Washington officials tell 2014 Geo-Energy Summit

It’s great to be part of a city that is working so hard to reach net zero energy. We know there are so many great things to come for our great city and for all of Alabama.

What’s not even listed yet is that we’re working on launching the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge to encourage and assist the commercial sector, especially small businesses, with saving energy. Saved energy puts capital back to work where it belongs like hiring people, research and development and expanding.

We’re also hard at work creating an online dashboard to show you the latest clean energy activity all across Madison County. It will also let you submit your own energy-saving or energy-producing project. Reaching our goal of 100% clean and efficient energy will take everyone!

We just can’t say how proud we are of Huntsville for making such great strides is such a short amount of time. Of course there is ton more work to do to reach “net zero energy” but the future sure is bright.

Thank you for your part in helping us reach NetZeroHSV Let’s keep up the momentum!

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The Importance of Public Transportation

Recently we read an article in the Birmingham Business Journal (Original Article HERE) that showed Alabama as only one of five states in the country that doesn’t provide any funding for public transportation at the municipal level. While most of this study focuses on the job creation and service benefits of public transportation, we believe that the importance of public transportation goes beyond these and would like to bring attention to another, often under-appreciated benefit. Saving energy and saving even more money as a result.

The Importance of Public Transportation

While it is true that some people who currently do not drive would use public transportation, and thereby increase energy consumption, it is also true than many who currently drive cars would opt to use a well designed public transportation system. To further demonstrate this point, consider the following data points from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):

  • Riding public transportation far exceeds the benefits of other energy-saving household activities, such as using energy-efficient light bulbs, adjusting thermostats, or using energy-efficient appliances.
  • Public transportation use saves the U.S. the equivalent of 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually — and more than 11 million gallons of gasoline per day.
  • Households that use public transportation save an average of more than $8,000 every year — even more as the price of fuel rises.
  • Household residents with proximity to public transportation drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles annually compared to those with no access to public transportation.

Other forms of alternative transportation shouldn’t be ignored either. Walking and biking have substantial health benefits along with their financial and energy savings. Cars aren’t going away but they are becoming smarter and more efficient. Smart policy that places requisite value on public transportation, green ways, bike ways and alternative fuel vehicles will be imperative to improve livability in our communities.

Does Department of Energy Activity = Clean Energy for Alabama?

The last 30-60 days have seen a flurry of activity coming out of the Department of Energy (DOE). This federal activity could mean huge opportunities for growth in clean energy for Alabama. Here are some of the topics being covered by recent grant announcements or notices of intent.

  • Extreme residential energy efficiency
  • University R&D on energy efficient technology
  • Commercial energy efficiency
  • Distributed energy and storage integration

Of course it isn’t unusual to see such a large amount of federal activity during this time of year but the variety of topics is encouraging! Our mission to transition Huntsville to 100% clean and efficient energy by 2025 and Alabama by 2035 aligns well with DOE’s recent announcements. We wholeheartedly believe that the most cost effective energy is energy you do not need to use. This is why we put so much focus on energy conservation and efficiency. Then and only then should renewable energy, energy storage, and other forms of distributed generation be considered.

We’re hard at work with our partners to bring some of DOE’s investment in clean energy to Alabama. As always, we can never have enough committed team members and we hope you’ll join us.

-Daniel