Governor Cuomo has asked us all to begin thinking and planning on a regional basis. For this purpose, our region is the Mid-Hudson and comprises seven counties: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester, representing 12% of the state’s population. See EngageMidHudson.com for more background.
So this week, let’s take a closer look at our region’s energy budget–something long overdue!
The Mid-Hudson region spends $7.12 billion per year on energy for residential, commercial, industrial and transportation uses. That is summarized by fuel type in this table:
Mid-Hudson energy use by fuel type
Net Energy Consumption
Transportation is the region’s biggest end use for energy, not surprisingly, given the vehicle miles travelled in the Mid-Hudson.
However, the region’s nearly 800,000 households spend a whopping $2.18 billion on utilities per year for non-transportation related energy. That is about $2,750 per household per yearfor space heating and appliances and includes homes, condos and apartments.
Mid-Hudson energy use by sector
Net Energy Consumption
Most of us purchase 20% or more energy than our homes or buildings actually really need. Why? Mainly, due to the waste in heating, cooling and lighting systems and lack of proper air sealing and insulation in most building’s walls and ceilings.
If homeowners installed common energy upgrades (e.g. air sealing and insulation) on a wide scale sufficient, we could easily achieve 5% savings as a region.
That 5% action alone will put $109 million annually back into the pocketbooks of those homeowners who do air seal and insulate properly, such as with the Energize New York program. That may mean several hundred to a thousand dollars per family of direct savings.
Meanwhile, the Mid-Hudson region’s businesses spend $2.37 billion on utilities per year. Again, a modest 5% energy savings through common efficiency measures (building envelope, lighting, etc) would yield $118 million in easily achievable savings to reinvest. NYSERDA has successful programs to help pay business owners pay for upgrades.
So we can definitely keep more of our hard-earned dollars local by not shipping elsewhere via our utility bills. Between residential and commercial buildings, we have at least $230 million per year we can pocket by doing so.
But there is another reason to “energize” our homes and businesses. We are exporting too many dollars when we don’t have to!
As a whole, New York, and the Mid-Hudson region are net energy importers from other states and nations.
For example, we nearly all of our petroleum based fuels from suppliers outside New York State and buy hydroelectric power from Quebec.
In fact, of our state’s annual estimated energy expenditure–$60.50 billion in 2010–about half those dollars–$30 billion–left the state. That is a very large cash drain on New Yorkers!
Keeping even 3% of that annual exported expense will leave an extra $1 billion in our state-wide economy.
For the Mid-Hudson, that export expense is about $3.36 billion for 2010. Again, reducing the amount of energy we have to import by just 3% would leave an additional $100 million per year in the region’s local economy.
Reduction in energy imports could be achieved by a combination of the supply and demand side activities: first reduce, then produce.
First, we could pursue wide-scale adoptions of energy efficiency measures. For example, in a commercial building with interior lighting fixtures that are 15 to 20 years old–a very common situation–an lighting upgrade can pay for itself within 30 months or sooner, while locking in lower future operating bills for a decade or more.
- In the Mid-Hudson, about 85% of households use either fuel oil or utility supplied natural gas for space heating. Yet, the fuel sources do vary widely across the region’s counties. For example, natural gas predominates in Rockland County, serving 89% of Rockland residents. Happily, natural gas prices are quite low these days.
- Fuel oil predominates in the 6 other counties serving, with at least 6 out of 10 households in Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster using oil for space heating. For these homes, energy efficiency is a big money saver, especially in the wake of rising fuel oil prices.
Second, we could expand our local distributed generation capacity by many different means. From roof-top solar electric and geothermal heat pumps to combined heat and power for corporate or institutional campuses, the sky is the limit on building local capacity that avoids exporting our energy dollars.
The Governor has signed signed new incentives that make solar electric (photovoltaic) installations every more attractive, exempting the expense from the sales taxes, among other benefits.