Simple Tips to Save Money & Energy Around the House

No more thinking or guesswork - Here are some simple ways you can cut back on energy consumption for each room in your home - and save money while doing so!

Have you ever wondered how you can cut energy costs depending on the room you’re in? Now, we take the thinking and guessing out of it. Here are some simple ways you can cut back on energy consumption for each major room in your home.

Save Money and; Energy Around the House

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More Nat Gas Pipelines May Not Be The Answer

Calls for more studies of natural gas capacity and more pipelines may not be answer to the rollercoaster rate ride offered by the utilities.

In general, the two main drivers of wholesale electricity prices in New England are the cost of fuel used to produce electricity and consumer demand.

The closure of nuclear power plants, the costs of operating coal fired plants in New England, and the region’s dependence on natural gas has contributed to price volatility.

Instead of going with fixed, longer term rates many residential and small business consumers continue to use their utility as their supply company. In Massachusetts consumers who have not yet selected an electricity supply company (like Provider Power Mass) and instead continue to get their supply from their utility, are subjected to wicked rate swings.   .

On the political front many have sought answers, stepping up on behalf of constituents, recommending the situation be studied…and studied…and studied.  Since electricity prices are (as previously stated) a product of supply versus demand, conventional wisdom is that if you increase supply-then prices should stabilize.  As a result of these studies and the opinions of experts, underway are several initiatives to increase the flow of natural gas into Massachusetts (as well as Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island).

There is of course a wrinkle.

As pointed out in a recent Boston Glob piece, Ann Berwick a former Massachusetts’ undersecretary for energy and later head of the Mass. Department of Public Utilities, more product doesn’t necessarily mean lower prices. She suggests we look at electricity costs in Pennsylvania.

Boston Globe.  8/17/15
Boston Globe. 8/17/15

Berwick says consumers need to have a thorough understanding of all the players and their roles in this debate, as well as some realities that don’t always make headlines.

  • Many proponents of added capacity are energy companies.  Under current regulations, utilities make more money by building infrastructure than by encouraging conservation and energy efficiency. So, of course, they argue for infrastructure.
  • Black & Veatch study — done under the auspices of the New England States Committee on Electricity — favored more natural gas, but also concluded that if increased energy efficiency limits growth in the demand, no additional gas will be needed.
  • New natural gas pipeline capacity won’t be a benign solution to our electricity or energy challenges. It would exacerbate our dependence on a single fuel with a history of price volatility.   This dependence could impact future policy towards a fossil fuel that is far from clean, and increase our reliance on a fuel that depends on fracking.

At Provider Power we believe an independent, thorough analysis of the energy/electricity landscape in New England is needed.  Consumer understanding and education should continue to be a priority.  At Provider Power Mass, regardless of the energy landscape, we will continue to offer competitive, long term fixed rates and information to help Massachusetts consumers mitigate the rate roller-coaster rate ride.  To learn more about Provider Power Mass, please visit us at www.providerpowermass.com.

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Energy In the News: July Recap

Regional and national news stories about energy and electricity prices in New Hampshire.

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Energy In the News: July Recap

Obama, Kennedy and Baker talk energy. Natural Gas and Nuclear make headlines. Here is a recap of energy stories as covered by media outlets across Massachusetts and the nation.

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Is Nuclear the Answer to New England’s Electricity Price Volatility?

Nuclear Matters campaign Co-Chair Sen. Judd Gregg says early closure of nuclear power plants are causing electricity prices to go up. The argument is that nuclear is of better value than other options and a cleaner option than coal.

In a recent the Cape Cod Times piece (which was really a press statement from a New York City PR agency) Nuclear Matters campaign Co-Chair Sen. Judd Gregg talks about the benefits of Nuclear Power.

According to their website the mission of Nuclear Matters is to inform the public about the clear benefits that nuclear energy provides to our nation, raise awareness of the economic challenges to nuclear energy that threaten those benefits, and to work with stakeholders to explore possible policy solutions that properly value nuclear energy as a reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity resource that is essential to America’s energy future.

One argument outlined by Sen. Gregg is that the premature closure of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and possible closure of other plants in the region are having an adverse impact on the cost of electricity.  His contention is that the early closure of nuclear power plans and our over reliance on natural gas is making electricity too expensive for electricity customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Gregg also says nuclear power plants produce electricity at a good value without emitting any carbon dioxide.  Cleaner for the environment he says than other options like coal burning plants.

ISO-New England operates the region’s power grid.  At any time any of us can see what the current power mix is for the region. If you like this type of stuff, I urge you to check out their website.  This is what it looked like at 11:31 AM on July 28.  While this number fluctuates based on demand, nuclear made up about 22% of the fuel mix.

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Is there room and opportunity within our current energy mix to use more nuclear? Yes. In fact, nuclear used to play a much greater role in generating electricity for the region.   While nuclear could have a positive impact on the per kilowatt price of electricity, like all means of generation, costs associated with the plant and upkeep will show up on other parts of our electricity bill.

As a former United States Senator and Governor from New Hampshire, Mr. Gregg is certainly qualified to and familiar with the state of energy affairs in New England.   It is of course important to consider his role and the role of this organization, to advocate on behalf of the nuclear energy sector.

 

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Go Green With These Green Grilling Tips.

Is grilling good or bad for the environment or is it at least better than cooking in the kitchen? It depends on how you cook, what you cook & the clean-up. Check out these green grilling tips.

Even with July 4th in the rear-view mirror we have several weeks of good grilling weather ahead of us.  For those who like to tailgate and aren’t afraid of snow, grilling holds year-round appeal.

Is grilling good or bad for the environment?  Is it at least better than cooking in the kitchen?

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You have four basic grill options: gas grills (natural gas or propane), electric grills, charcoal grills (using briquettes or “lump charcoal”), or grilling on a wood fire.

Cooking indoors or out, natural gas is a clean and efficient way to cook and more environmentally friendly than using electricity. Grilling with gas is also more energy-efficient than an indoor oven, since ovens take time to preheat.

In most cases, both charcoal and wood are less eco-friendly than your indoor gas or electric range.

When we grill or look to eat outside, we often include paper napkins, paper/plastic plates and perhaps the good ‘ole Red Solo Cup.

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For those looking to stay green, forget the red (Solo or any other disposable cup) and consider the same plates, cups you use for inside cooking.  Yes, it may feel less like a picnic-but the chemicals and by products used to produce paper and plastic cups are in no way more environmentally friendly then doing dishes.

What to eat?

If you insist on being a carnivore consider chicken.  It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce four half-pound hamburgers. So opt for chicken over beef, and vegetables over chicken.  (By and large we agree…what good is a BBQ without some red meat?  For today though we’re talking about the environment, not the best cut of meat.)

If you have the grill fired up anyway, cook enough for multiple meals.  Cook up extra veggies or meat to ad to salads for another day.

The Clean up:

Lets see.  You already decided against disposable plastic spoons and forks.  We used lean cuts of meat, prepared lots of left overs and used environmentally friendly cooking fuel.  Time to clean the grill.

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Simple!  Make a paste using baking soda and water.  Attack the grill grates while they are still warm and clean up will be a snap.

Now it is time for a nap!

For help in putting this piece together we looked to:

Huffington Post

Grist.org

 

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How the Federal Government Supports Energy Efficiency at Home

While federal programs certainly have their detractors, energy efficiency programs initiated by the Federal Government have been largely successful.

State or local governments have traditionally taken the lead when it comes to implementing energy efficiency programs for homeowners. Building codes, new construction incentives, home energy ratings, land use ordinances and energy efficient mortgages are decided upon and implemented by state and local governments to help curb the collective energy use of its residents.

Even in Maine where the Efficiency Maine program has been the subject of much controversy, programs administered by quasi-governmental agencies are very popular.

Meanwhile, the conversation in Washington, DC has largely leaned towards topics such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and high-level goals regulating efficiency in industry. While not unheard of, Congress has rarely had the opportunity to narrow the focus to the specific needs of homeowners and landlords in the debate.

While the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports that residential and commercial (excluding agricultural and industrial) greenhouse gas emissions only make up 12% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas output pie, that’s still 817 million metric tons of CO2. To put that into perspective, 1 million metric tons is roughly equivalent to the same physical mass as one million small cars. So, that’s the mass of 817 million Toyota Corollas worth of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere every year by houses, apartment buildings, stores and restaurants.

A Bill in the Right Direction

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, have been working for years on bipartisan energy efficiency legislation. This April, they celebrated a significant victory with the passing of a bill that would create a voluntary program for landlords and tenants to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings, mandate that large electric water heaters be run in a highly energy-efficient manner and require federal agencies to perform energy-use assessments on commercial buildings that they lease.


United States Environmental Protection Agency sign on the Clinton building
United States Environmental Protection Agency sign on the Clinton building

The Department of Energy’s National Appliance Energy Conservation Act is a small slice of the broader energy efficiency measures that the senators have been hammering at since 2011, but both Senators Shaheen and Portman are pleased with the recent victory and see it as a large step in the right direction.

“On the bill’s merits — creating jobs, saving consumers money and reducing pollution — it was never a hard sell,” Ms. Shaheen said. “The tough part was convincing Washington to not play politics with a good idea.”

Mr. Portman said, “Our targeted energy efficiency bill has garnered widespread support because of a simple fact: It is good for the economy and good for the environment.”

From recent coverage in the New York Times

Partisan gridlock will surely continue to play a role in the debate over Senators Portman and Shaheen’s broader goals, but for the time being this move is being celebrated by both parties.

What Does This Mean for Homeowners?

Starting in April, all newly manufactured water heaters have to be more efficient. Homeowners will see higher energy ratings on all residential gas, electric and tankless water heaters. The goal is to cut down on emissions and save billions of dollars in energy costs.

A residential water heater is the second largest consumer of energy in the home, right behind your heating and cooling system. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, heating water accounts for about 18 percent of energy consumption in households. Any improvement to a water heater’s efficiency is going to pay dividends in monthly utility bills, but the upfront cost will be up to 35% more expensive. Also, plan for a slightly larger tank in your basement, as the new and more efficient models are larger.

Tankless or even solar water heaters are also an option for those who don’t want to make room for the bulkier new appliances. Tankless heaters don’t have water storage containers, but instead heat water on demand, so hot water never runs out. Because they are already more efficient than heaters that use tanks, the new standards do not apply but they cost about three times more than regular heaters. Along with the monthly savings on your bill, tankless heaters last about three times longer than the average 8 to 10 year lifetime of heaters that use tanks.

The U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program is a great resource for homeowners to better understand where to find building and lifestyle inefficiencies and the products and incentives available to increase the efficiency of their home. ENERGY STAR was established by the EPA in 1992, and consumers can find a multitude of resources on the program’s website to help them navigate product choices and practices to help make their home or business more efficient. It also provides information about state and federal incentives to help push us all to more energy efficient choices.

As Senators Shaheen and Portman work to hammer home more federal legislation to increase energy efficiency both on an industrial level and at home, tools are available to make smarter and more efficient decisions for our homes and businesses. It’s better for the wallet and the environment.

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Green Living New Hampshire

ENH Power Teams UP with Hanover N.H. For Green Power Challenge

ENH Power and the Town of Hanover New Hampshire teamed up for a very successful project, Hanover's Green Power Challenge. ENH Power provided a competitive rate for Green-E certified electricity, each new enrollment also helped generate funds for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD

Case Study: Hanover Green Power Challenge

Background

The Town of Hanover, NH has a goal to be 20% green by 2017. Part of reaching this goal includes buying electricity from 100% renewable sources. The town had formed a committee called Sustainable Hanover to focus on these efforts.  Some of the committee members knew ENH Power had a good reputation and offered a Pure Green electricity rate.

In the winter of 2015, the committee reached out to Candace Sanborn, Vice President of Provider Power, the parent of ENH Power, to ask if we could offer an even higher level of green power, Green-E certified electricity.

Green-E certified electricity is the nation’s leading independent designation by the EPA for certifying and verifying renewable energy. They also wanted the energy sources to be located largely in New England.  While a competitive price was important to Sustainable Hanover, it was not the primary driver.

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Process

ENH Power had no previous experience with Green-E certified electricity, but agreed to do the research to see what it could offer.  Led by our Vice President of Supply & Pricing, Neil McKellar, during the winter in 2015, ENH Power determined that it could make this happen and worked with Sustainable Hanover to determine how this program would be structured.

The chief issue was that electricity is a commodity and pricing moves relatively quickly as a result of demand, weather and other factors.  Setting a specific price that Sustainable Hanover could quote to residents over a period of time would be a challenge.

Rate/Terms and Promotion

To solve this issue, ENH proposed a 6-week campaign from mid-April to May, 2015 when electricity pricing would be favorable. The group could give residents a price range, the lowest and highest potential price they would pay, based on how many residents participated – the larger the number, the lower the rate.  Either way, ENH determined that the rate would be slightly less than the average rate a resident would pay over the proposed term – 16 months – had they stayed with their utility. This rate would be listed on a custom web page on ENH Power’s website that Sustainable Hanover would promote, asking people to complete a short information form indicating their intent to enroll. Sustainable Hanover liked the idea and together they crafted a roll-out plan.

ENH Power worked with Sustainable Hanover on language for the email announcements and talking points that Sustainable Hanover would use to promote the “Hanover Green Power Challenge” to residents. The committee also organized and promoted a kick-off event in early May 2015 at the local community center where ENH Power stood side by side with Sustainable Hanover, providing handouts and showing videos, to promote the program to approximately 50 residents. The committee sent out additional emails and spoke to friends, colleagues and family members.

In addition to the kick-off event, Hanover publicized the program on the town website, sent out a press-release and the committee included information on various social media channels.  ENH Power created a unique landing page on their website, using real time personalizing presented information on their website to viewers of their site from specific regions of New Hampshire, and created targeted social media posts.

Through their Power to Help initiative, ENH Power also announced that they would contribute $5 for each enrollment to the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD).  CHaD has been a long term non-profit partner of ENH Power.

Results/Conclusions

The effort was a huge success, surpassing the group’s expectations with nearly 400 households signing up by the deadline of May 31, 2015. ENH confirmed the rate – which was on the lower end of the scale because of the high volume of participants – and Sustainable Hanover emailed residents telling them the good news.  Residents then had three business days to change their mind, and one person opted out. As a result their success, Sustainable Hanover is interested in doing another Challenge in the fall of 2015, this time including small businesses.

According to Sanborn, Sustainable Hanover’s strong leadership, commitment, and excellent communication were the keys to this success. “They were an absolute pleasure to work with. I look forward to our next round!”

Media & Internet Coverage

 

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