Green Bits: March 2009

By Katherine Pioli

Utah’s jobs future is green; tax credits for energy-saving appliances; new life to old grease; long-life batteries.
by Katherine Pioli

Tax credits for purchasing energy-saving appliances

The stimulus bill signed by President Obama (ah, that feels good to write) last month made some changes to the tax credits effective for 2009. Here are the changes: Credits now extend through 2010; the credit is raised from 10% to 30%; instead of capping the credit amount at $300, the credit is now 30% of the total cost of qualifying energy-saving appliances with the maximum credit being $1,500 though some improvements do not apply; the $200 cap for windows is withdrawn.

How might Americans feel if they could collectively save about $780 million in utility costs over five years? It’s possible just by switching to a more energy-efficient water heater. Heating water can amount to more than 15% of the total energy used daily by the average household. Cut that percentage in half by using an energy-efficient product and the savings can be enormous.

Save the receipt from your water heater purchase and enter it into your 2009 IRS Tax Form 5695 to claim your tax credit.

The Energy Star label will help buyers pick an appliance that meets the requirements for this tax credit. Energy Star is a program sponsored by the U.S. Environ­men­tal Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. It rates and promotes products based on their level of environmental responsibility. Their website gives all the necessary information on heaters and other appliances under “Products.” For water heaters, choose the “Find the one that’s right for you” link and come up with not only a list of different heaters, but also a list of the manufacturers and brands.

Giving new life to old grease

California doesn’t have to glorify its progressive energy program with catchy words like “biofuel.” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome prefers the term “brown grease” for the oily substance that his city will be converting into a useful form of fuel.

In San Francisco grease, fats and oils dumped down drains account for 50% of all sewer blockages and emergencies and a $3.5 million annual cleaning bill. A new plant will be turning a citywide problem into a green solution.

Last month the California Energy Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Biodiesel Board announced $1 million state and federally funded project to be taken on by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The promise of funding rests on the requirement that San Francisco now create a “how-to” manual or open source toolkit for cities across the entire nation who wish to replicate the project.

Utah is one place that could benefit from such a manual. Restaurant grease collection is already happening here in Provo. The company John Kuhni & Sons collects nearly two barrels of grease from 70 to 75 area restaurants every week. At an average of 300 pounds of grease per barrel this equals 10,000 pounds per year per restaurant. Can anyone say “brown-grease energy” in Utah?

Long-life batteries

Each year 15 billion batteries are made and sold, and probably the same number are thrown away. Even environmentally conscious people tend to continue discarding the batteries from their headlamps, digital cameras, GPS devices and portable radios. By now most people have probably heard of rechargeable batteries, so why is it so difficult to get people to use them?

One Nevada-based company, Responsible Energy Corporation, is making it their business to inform the public and propagate the use of rechargeable batteries. Their website busts a number of rechargeable battery myths. For example, the company assures that some battery chargers actually are time efficient, taking merely one to two hours to recharge. Also, the company claims that for certain uses, such as with digital cameras, rechargeable NiMH batteries will actually continue working longer than alkaline batteries, running sometimes three to four times longer on a single charge.

For those who like the idea of using these environmentally friendly, convenient little rechargeables, the Responsible Energy Corporation offers a wide variety of merchandise, including lithion-ion AA and AAA batteries, nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and solar battery chargers.

Responsible Energy Corporation

Jobs, income available to Utahns in wind, solar and geothermal energy production

Seven thousand new jobs by 2020, $300 million in additional gross domestic product by state, $310 million in net new earnings-and these estimates on Utah’s future in alternative energy are conservative. They come from a new study to be released March 9, “Building the Clean Energy Economy: A Study on Jobs and Economic Development of Clean Energy in Utah.”

The study was commissioned by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.’s Energy Advisor Dianne Nielson and compiled by Utah Clean Energy, Wikstrom Economic & Planning Consultants, and MRG Associates. “Energy,” says Huntsman, “is a critical component of sustaining Utah’s vibrant economic growth and preserving our unparalleled quality of life.”

In 2006 the Governor called for a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2015. In 2008 the Energy Resource and Carbon Emission Reduction Initiative was signed into law, establishing a target for Utah to derive 20% of its electricity sales from renewable resources by 2025. Now the Clean Energy Study states that attainment of these goals can result in job and income numbers well beyond current predictions.

The reason? Utah, the study declares, could well become a leader and exporter in such alternative fuels and services. Current numbers reflect only production used within the state and could be greatly increased given the likelihood of Utah’s energy work reaching far beyond state borders.


This article was originally published on February 28, 2009.