Expert: energy-tight buildings needed to cut emissions |

Expert: energy-tight buildings needed to cut emissions

Alan Sayre
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

NEW ORLEANS ” Stopping energy waste in homes and commercial buildings will be a key step to sharply cutting carbon emissions, an energy researcher said Tuesday.

Speaking to an energy policy conference of state legislators, Bobi Garrett, associate director of planning and technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver, said buildings and homes account for 72 percent of U.S. power consumption and 55 percent of its natural gas use.

Currently available technology could cut by more than half the energy use in commercial buildings, thus reducing the amount of power generated for the structures and the carbon dioxide produced by generating fuels, she said.

“If you want to tackle carbon, think about building efficiencies,” Garrett said.

The National Conference of State Legislatures is holding its annual meeting in New Orleans. On Tuesday, a session centered around energy policy and efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Making U.S. homes more energy efficient will require convincing homeowners that it will not be costly, Garrett said.

Equipment to maximize efficiency will add to a home’s cost but will have to be offset by long-term reductions in energy bills to win widespread acceptance, she said.

Garrett also said alternative power forms are dropping in price. Wind-generated power, for example, has fallen from 90 cents per kilowatt hour to as little as 6 cents as larger turbines and higher towers start operations.

Solar power ” for example, heating water to generate steam to produce electricity ” currently costs 12 cents to 14 cents per kilowatt hour, a price Garrett said is likely to drop as new technologies with larger commercial applications reach the marketplace.

Electricity from solar cells that convert sunlight directly into power costs 18 cents to 23 cents per kilowatt hour. While that’s comparatively expensive, she said, cell-generated power could be cost-effective during peak periods when wholesale prices typically soar.

According to the federal Energy Department, the average U.S. residential price for power in February 2008 was $10.24 per kilowatt hour; commercial users paid an average of $9.21.

Garrett said alternative sources would not fully replace traditional power generation, though she expected their use to grow sharply.

“That fact is we need them all in a rational fashion,” Garrett said. “Nuclear, coal, oil and renewable sources.”

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