A More Efficient Trump?

I’m not sure most people would want President Donald Trump to be any more efficient, but the Trump Tower is a different story.

Trump Tower 2015.jpg

A more efficient Trump? Three related stories caught my eye in the past two weeks. First, New York City mandated energy efficiency upgrades at all tall buildings, including Trump Tower (lawsuit against the mandate to follow?); second, Amory Lovins is back with another paean to energy efficiency, a drum he’s been banging (successfully) for 40 years, but which seems always to come in second to new supply sources; third, renewable energy mandates are incredibly costly compared to efficiency upgrades.

First, New York City mandates. New York’s new Climate Mobilization Act requires large buildings over 25,000 sq.ft. to shave their carbon emissions footprint by 40 percent by 2030 or face significant financial penalties. New York says that such large buildings are only 2 percent of the building stock but generate half the carbon emissions of all buildings. Buildings will have to do deep energy retrofits, buy green power or eventually look at carbon trading, all measures needed to move toward net zero carbon emissions from all buildings. EVERY city should adopt similar legislation. If you want a jobs program for the new carbon economy, this is it.

The Manhattan skyline is full of large, inefficient buildings, now with mandated energy upgrades.

The Manhattan skyline is full of large, inefficient buildings, now with mandated energy upgrades.

Second, the Rocky Mountain Institute and Amory Lovins released a report last fall showing that energy efficiency as a carbon-free resource is not only cost-effective compared with renewables, but is up to SEVEN TIMES larger than previously thought. We are bending over backwards to develop carbon capture and storage, but why generate the carbon emissions in the first place, when efficiency gains are so close at hand? Same as New York City’s new law, this is a huge jobs program and can be accomplished at least 80% by 2030 to 2040 with a major commitment in the next few years.

Amory Lovins first opened our eyes to the benefits of energy efficiency way back in 1976.

Amory Lovins first opened our eyes to the benefits of energy efficiency way back in 1976.

Third, energy journalist Amy Harder reported on the high cost of renewable energy mandates, sometimes 10x the cost of a carbon tax. A University of Chicago report puts the cost of Renewable Portfolio Standards at $130 to $460 per ton. Compare that with $20 - $40 per ton for proposed carbon taxes and you wonder if it wouldn’t just be more efficient to subsidize solar and wind directly via tax credits rather than mandating a certain percentage adoption by a certain date. Here’s the caveat:

These results do not rule out the possibility that RPS policies could dynamically reduce the cost of abatement in the future by causing improvements in renewable technology.

Amy Harder is one of the best energy journalists out there, writing for Axios.com, my preferred daily news source for almost every subject.

Amy Harder is one of the best energy journalists out there, writing for Axios.com, my preferred daily news source for almost every subject.

In other words, just by requiring utilities to produce X MW or GW of renewables by a fixed date, aren’t we driving suppliers to continue refining technology and lowering its costs so they can sell their capacity to the utility company that’s under the mandate?

Things to ponder as the Green New Deal moves closer to political reality and the details start to become very important.

What do you think?