How Can Homes and Businesses Cope with Rising Energy Prices?

I am a high school senior in New England. A recent “Current Events” project at school involved reading news articles on the rising costs of home heating oil, gasoline and natural gas. So I was wondering what would you first recommend for a home or small business to deal with these higher energy costs? MJ, Hartford, CT

Yes, no question that energy prices have changed dramatically! According to WTRG Economics, the prices have risen from September 2004 – September 2005 for fuel heating oil from $1.20 to $1.994 per gallon, natural gas from $5.00 to $12.250 per mmbtu, and petroleum from $42 per barrel to $67.40 per barrel – all in one year. For buildings, energy efficiency immediately reduces energy use. This includes compact fluorescents for lighting, insulation and thermal barriers, use of ‘smart’ thermostats and motion light switches. Renovations including more insulation, double and triple pane windows, smart electronics and energy management systems, and high efficiency-rated appliances such as window air-conditioners, refrigerators and washer/dryers. These appliances offer solid savings. Adding on-site energy also reduces energy use significantly with solar water heating as the most economic, but also solar space heating, ground-coupled heat pumps, solar-air-conditioning (large buildings), and certain biomass systems. On the electric power side, advanced battery, combined heat and power, fuel cells, microhydropower, modular biomass, photovoltaics and small wind systems all are being used to provide remote power, back-up power, augment energy use (meaning displacing electricity) or dedicate power to certain critical uses, thus displacing electric power. When financing these systems within the mortgage or second mortgage can truly make these options quite affordable. For vehicles, tune them up. Have proper inflation in the tires and drive the speed limit. Most cars are less fuel efficient at higher speeds. And of course, when buying a new car, look at fuel efficiency. My Prius is averaging 50 mpg, which is very gratifying in this time of high gasoline prices. And as trite as this sounds, using your bicycle and walking for short trips saves significant amounts of energy and pollution – and pushing local governments for more bike paths and pedestrian-friendly development and zoning is a long term solution. What I remind many people about energy is that once an investment is made for energy efficiency or renewable energy, the energy costs are capped forever for the portion of any energy they produce or save. Energy costs are unlikely to be low or sharply decrease, so now is the best time to prepare. Scott Sklar
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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