Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2014

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Energy column:

Mapping valley’s energy use

Curious how much electricity your home street consumes? How about the one over?

The national models and online calculators are little help when trying to figure out what your desert home’s carbon footprint is.

Those calculators are generic and don’t take into account the additional resources homes in the Mohave Desert consume during the summer, and the water used year-round, said Sheila Conway, executive director of Urban Environmental Research, a Las Vegas-based consulting firm.

The company is rolling out an analysis of Las Vegas homes that will be able to tell utility consumers how much energy their street or ZIP code uses, said Abhilasha Wadhwa, the researcher who designed and developed the program.

Her motivation is simple: Help people lower their carbon footprint — the amount of carbon released into the air, in part, from using electricity, gas or water — by making changes to their homes and lifestyles.

Buildings are the largest single contributor to greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for about 50 percent of the overall carbon footprint, she said.

“It was a huge factor for me,” said Wadhwa, who has a background in architecture. “How could architects not feel responsible (for climate change)?”

Now that the program is finished, the company is trying to make the information available to the public through Clark County and the municipalities for free. The company is planning on expanding its research to include the commercial sector, too.

The upshot is that if other desert governments like what the company has to offer, Urban Environmental may be able to sell it to them.

The program is far from perfect. Although Wadhwa was able to secure some figures from the electric and gas utilities, she said that because of privacy concerns she was not able to compute individual homes.

She said she got better cooperation from NV Energy, which permitted her to give a street view of electricity use. Southwest Gas, however, allowed her to only list natural gas use by ZIP code.

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The Rebuild Nevada coalition is launching its Clean Energy Works campaign to push for strong clean energy and climate change laws in Congress.

The coalition is made up of the Nevada Conservation League Education Fund, the Sierra Club, 1Sky, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Democracia Ahora, the Pew Environment Group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Values Network and Environment Nevada.

The petition calls for investment in wind, solar and geothermal power, U.S. energy independence, the creation of clean energy jobs in Nevada and the reduction of carbon pollution, a major contributor to global warming.

Visit rebuildnevada.org for more information.

•••

The Recovery Act is sending $9.6 million to Nevada for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Sixty percent of the money is going to local governments for community efficiency projects. The money is also expected to be used to retrofit 200 emergency vehicles with idle-reduction technologies, lowering emissions. The rest of the money is expected to be used to install energy management systems in state buildings, replace inefficient traffic signals and street lighting in rural Nevada and train government workers in energy management.

“This funding will allow states across the country to make major investments in energy solutions that will strengthen America’s economy and create jobs at the local level,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. “It will also promote some of the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy technologies we have — energy efficiency and conservation — which can be deployed immediately. Local communities can now make strategic investments to help meet the nation’s long-term clean energy and climate goals.”

•••

Car dealer Lexus of Las Vegas recently received gold certification for an existing building through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The dealership has been working since 2007 for the certification by recycling, carpooling, buying sustainable goods, using low-mercury lighting, managing energy use and cutting nearly in half its water use.

Through the company’s recycling program, Lexus said it cut down the trash it was sending to the landfill by 97 percent.

That equated to 14 tons of general materials being recycled, 19 tons of car and other batteries, 12 tons of used oil, nine tons of tires and one ton of wood pallets.

Nicole Lucht covers health care, workplace, energy and banking issues for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached at 259-8832 or at [email protected]

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