WBEZ | Department of Energy http://www.wbez.org/tags/department-energy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Department of Energy launches national database of building energy use http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/department-energy-launches-national-database-building-energy-use-107784 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ASGG7.jpg" title="(Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill)" /></div><p>Critical though they may be to making important decisions in the age of big data, computer models come with one huge caveat: They aren&rsquo;t real. So the Department of Energy&rsquo;s new <a href="http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/commercial/bpd.html" target="_blank">Buildings Performance Database</a>, which contains actual data on tens of thousands of existing buildings across the country, could sweeten the pot for those looking to invest in energy efficiency.</p><p>The 65,000 buildings in the data set so far are residential and commercial, public and private, and have been made anonymous. It&rsquo;s the largest free, publicly available set of information like this currently available. And DOE is inviting building owners to help it grow by submitting new data. As of this writing, Chicago&rsquo;s 606- area codes were without data.</p><p>New features will come in time, but the most recent addition includes a retrofit analysis tool, which compares the likely energy savings of different retrofits.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/doe-database-illinois.jpg" title="Screenshots from the Buildings Energy Database for Illinois. The state has only contributed information on about 700 buildings so far. Of those, electricity consumption, top, is roughly average — the blue circle is a national average for similar buildings — but total energy consumption, bottom, fares better. (U.S. Department of Energy)" /></div><p>Nearly <a href="http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=86&amp;t=1" target="_blank">40 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2012</a> was by residential and commercial buildings.</p><p>Even though it&rsquo;s an idea seemingly as old as building itself, energy efficiency has only recently grabbed the attention of big financial players, for just the reason that the DOE&rsquo;s new tool is exciting: it adds some certainty to the assumption that saving energy is a worthy bet. As data pours in, it becomes more clear to investors and governments that efficiency is often <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/stimulus-dollars-insulate-chicago-homes-105178" target="_blank">a winning bet for single-family homes</a>, large government facilities and other building types. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/chicago-startup-sees-big-energy-savings-big-data-106302" target="_blank">That flood of data creates business opportunities</a>, too.</p><p>A few years ago, Chicago architects <a href="http://www.smithgill.com/" target="_blank">Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG)</a> developed the Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan to assess variables like the age, use, condition, and energy consumption of 500 buildings in and around the Loop.&nbsp;The ambitious plan calls for a retrofit of&nbsp;half&nbsp;the city&rsquo;s commercial and residential buildings, resulting in a&nbsp;30 percent&nbsp;reduction in energy use by 2020.</p><p>Whether or not the city achieves that goal (it is tied to the <a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Climate Action Plan</a>), projects like the DeCarbonization Plan are important because of their perspective. Though engineers may beg to differ, it can be maddening to consider the complexity of energy systems embedded within buildings (themselves a network of systems), embedded within city systems, and so on. But that&rsquo;s where opportunities for transformative change exist. And since all this deals with improving the efficiency of our urban support systems, it could ultimately save money and improve quality of life.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p>If you are interested in contributing a dataset to the database or have other recommended sources, please contact <a href="mailto:buildingsperformanceDatabase@ee.doe.gov">buildingsperformanceDatabase@ee.doe.gov</a>. Files can be sent in any electronic format and should be marked &quot;PROPRIETARY.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/transforming-systems">Listen to architect Gordon Gill discuss his firm&#39;s systems and strategies for reducing energy consumption here</a>.</p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 12:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/department-energy-launches-national-database-building-energy-use-107784 Argonne scores hydropower research grant http://www.wbez.org/story/argonne-scores-hydropower-research-grant-91615 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-07/AP050526025387.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Argonne National Laboratory has secured nearly $2 million in federal money for hydropower technology research.</p><p>The lab, located in suburban Chicago, is one of 16 research facilities in 11 states to receive Department of Energy funds for such research. On Tuesday the department announced it would distribute funds totaling nearly $17 million over three years.</p><p>Argonne is the only Illinois project to receive money. The lab will investigate ways to improve pumped storage hydropower, where utilities pump water up to a dam when electricity demand is low, then release the water when demand is high. Supporters say it can make electric grids more reliable.</p><p>Energy Secretary Steven Chu said improving that technology would help maximize use of a clean energy resource and create jobs.</p></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 15:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/argonne-scores-hydropower-research-grant-91615 Is Obama's bet on green jobs risky? http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-12/obamas-bet-green-jobs-risky-87751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/100967626.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Obama flew to North Carolina on Monday for the latest meeting of his jobs and competitiveness council. His administration is betting that green technologies — from wind and solar power to advanced batteries and biofuels — will create jobs of the future.</p><p>If the Department of Energy were a James Bond film, Arun Majumdar would be Q, the tech whiz who oversees futuristic gadgets. Majumdar, whose official title is director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, helps steer government investments to new energy technologies, some of which he acknowledges may ultimately fail.</p><p>"Of course these are risky," he said. "We don't know which ones are going to win down the line, which ones going to actually make it in the market and produce hundreds of thousands of jobs and really change the world."</p><p>The White House is gambling that one or more of these technologies eventually will produce hundreds of thousands of jobs and change the world.</p><p>And it's a gamble with real money.</p><p>Majumdar's program has received $500 million since Obama took office.</p><p>Clean energy projects on the whole have received almost $95 billion.</p><p>The president is confident the country will win this bet.</p><p>"I don't want the new breakthrough technologies and the new manufacturing taking place in China and India," Obama said at a recent clean energy event at a factory in Indianapolis. "I want all those new jobs right here in Indiana, right here in the United States of America with American workers."</p><p>But Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics doubts that the White House or anyone can see into the future with confidence.</p><p>"The problem is that usually when the economic cycle gets going it delivers surprises," he said. "In the 1990s the big surprise was the extended tech boom and the birth of the Internet, which I guess no one had predicted very well in advance, and in the cycle of the 2000s it was the housing boom.</p><p>"So I think this time around it'll be something else but I would hate to put a guess on where the next big growth sector will be."</p><p>There are reasons to believe that clean energy is a good investment, though.</p><p>This part of the economy is small and growing fast. So far it gets a good bang for the government buck.</p><p>"If you took the government's stimulus program on green activities, you get 17 jobs more or less per $1 million of expenditure," says economist Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who the Commerce Department hired to run the numbers.</p><p>For comparison's sake, Pollin calculates that the military creates about 11 jobs for every $1 million; the oil and gas industry produces about five jobs per $1 million.</p><p>Pollin says clean energy gets a better payoff because kick-starting a new industry requires a lot of manpower.</p><p>"There's way more jobs in clean energy because essentially there's a lot more construction jobs, there's a lot more manufacturing jobs, there's a lot more transportation jobs," he says. "So it's really the process of building the new industry that makes it a good generator of jobs."</p><p>But the risk, says Economist Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University and the Council on Foreign Relations, is how to keep those jobs and prevent them from going over to someone who becomes more competitive. The minute the U.S. masters a technology, he says, another country can come along and snatch the advantage.</p><p>"I think the fallacy consists in saying that if I invested so much in a specific activity, that that is going to be a static permanent steady-state situation," he said. "We are living in a world of flux today, there's no way you can get out of it."</p><p>For example, the U.S. invented the car. Japan eventually took the lead. Now, the American auto industry is back. But nothing is permanent.</p><p>Economist Matt Rogers says that's all the more reason the federal government must keep its foot on the clean energy gas pedal.</p><p>Before Rogers joined consulting firm McKinsey and Co., he oversaw the Energy Department's clean energy grants through the Recovery Act.</p><p>"The bigger payoff for most of these technologies occurs over time," he said. "So you see a very large multiplier on the demand and a very large mulitplier on the jobs as these technologies get cheaper."</p><p>He says while the market can be slow to put its weight behind unusual new technologies, the administration's philosophy is that if you give these strange little snowballs a nudge down the hill so they can start gathering snow, then gravity — or the markets — will keep the best of them rolling and take care of the rest. <div class="fullattribution"> http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1307950042?&gn=Is+Obama%27s+Bet+On+Green+Jobs+Risky%3F&ev=event2&ch=1017&h1=Around+the+Nation,Environment,Economy,Politics,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137141008&c7=1017&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1017&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110613&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Sun, 12 Jun 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-12/obamas-bet-green-jobs-risky-87751