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April 16, 2013
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Guest column: Energy efficiency is the key to meet the growing demand for power

In our national economy, so much energy is consumed in buildings — sports facilities, schools, places of worship, office buildings, manufacturing plants, homes.

Residences comprise more than 90 percent of the building square footage in the U.S. The building sector consumes about three-quarters of all electricity and accounts for about half of the atmosphere’s particulates that contribute to global warming.

Most particulates are from building operations — heating, cooling, lighting and water heating. Less than a tenth is attributed to the manufacture of building products.

Newer technologies are available to conserve and generate energy for buildings. These technologies include: moisture and air sealing techniques, insulation, water heating systems, energy-efficient windows, energy-efficient lighting, solar tubes, Heat Recovery Ventilators, passive solar designs, photovoltaic systems and next-generation heat pumps.

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s 10-year energy action plan concluded energy efficiency is the least costly way to meet the growing demand for power. By retrofitting buildings, we may be able to reduce energy consumption, save energy costs and generate energy locally.

In his book “Reinventing Fire,” Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute said he sees a day when buildings become energy-neutral or even energy-positive. The trick, he says, is to select and adapt strategies that make sense technically and economically in local communities.

A local opportunity to explore some of these technologies is the Umpqua Energy Exchange in Roseburg on May 4. The theme of this Saturday workshop sponsored by the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition is “Business and Residential Building Retrofits for Energy Efficiency.”

The program starts with a tour of Roseburg Glass Co., 719 S.E. Spruce St. Owners Don and Stephanie Ramberg retrofitted an old building — nearly a tear-down — into attractive, energy-efficient offices, display area and shop.

By noon, participants shift to the new Umpqua Business Center, 522 Washington Ave. The former Douglas County Farmers’ Cooperative building was adapted into a business support center. There, a tour, lunch, displays and program are scheduled.

A panel of Oregon Department of Energy staff introduces Oregon’s 10-year energy proposal and joins a discussion about how business and homeowners may offer helpful input into legislation on the proposal.

A concluding panel of local experts illustrates selected energy technologies that “meet code,” introduces local contractors, identifies current incentives and calculates return on investment.

Registration for Umpqua Energy Exchange ’13 is due April 29. More information is available by contacting Jim Long at jblong@dcwisp.net or 541-673-3713.

Umpqua Energy Exchange ’13 represents a local opportunity to consider technologies that conserve energy, generate energy and better utilize existing buildings.

For example, downtown commercial buildings may be adapted for upper-floor apartments or offices. Adapting current buildings often proves less costly than erecting new structures.

Retrofitting buildings for energy conservation and generation may reduce daily operating costs and, in this way, pay for the improvements. Improving energy efficiency of buildings often reduces atmospheric particulates. Umpqua Energy Exchange ’13 explores these prospects with local professionals.

The 2013 Energy Exchange focuses on state policies that influence the development and adaptation of energy technologies. Participants in this year’s workshop can contribute to planning future Energy Exchanges that consider city and county policies related to retrofitting buildings for energy efficiencies.

Jim Long coordinates Umpqua Energy Exchange based, in part, on the “Energy Spotlight” column he writes and The News-Review publishes on the first Money Monday of each month. He can be reached at jblong@dcwisp.net. Rachel Kingsley graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in building and construction technology and is producing a film series on energy efficiencies in buildings. She can be reached at kingsleycurriculum@gmail.com.

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The News-Review Updated Apr 16, 2013 12:32PM Published Apr 16, 2013 06:01PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.