How long can Pacific Northwest energy production stay ahead of consumption?
What if two million more people lived here?
That is the estimated regional population growth over the next 15 years, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. It’s the Council’s job to come up with a power plan to guarantee adequate and reliable energy at the lowest economic and environmental cost for Northwest, and they believe that they have the answer – conservation.
“It’s the lowest cost way to meet the demand for power. It also lowers the environmental impact by reducing the amount greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels. It just makes sense.” That’s John Harrison, the Council’s information officer. Just through conservation, he says, “it appears that we can meet nearly all of the demand over the next 15 years.”
What does this look like practically, in a real life setting? Here are two examples from Hood River, Oregon.
With its numerous large windows and thirteen and a half foot ceilings, the home feels a lot more spacious than its 160 square feet, about the size of an average kitchen. It has all the quality and style of a high end home – stainless steel appliances which include a full size oven and gas range, pine paneled walls, high-end oak flooring, exposed cedar beams, even a soaking tub. It has warmth, character, and location. It’s just compact.
Emily Kao, Envirogorge’s associate editor, and her partner Brynden Rawdin Morris love their house. They built it themselves with the help of family and friends. The windows help heat and light the house. By opening windows on opposite ends of their home, a cross breeze cools it. Add in LED lighting and they are able power their entire house from a standard dryer outlet.
Of course, tiny living isn’t realistic for most people. A family with children would be hard pressed to make that kind of living arrangement work. A more realistic option might be Ann Marie Jelderks’ 1000 square foot condominium on the second floor of a multi-unit building. There are eight units in total. The first floor is comprised of businesses, and the second floor is all apartments. Her two bedroom, one and a half bathroom condo is located on a hillside overlooking downtown Hood River with views of the Columbia River and Mt Adams. Ann Marie says, “I could practically fall into downtown. Next to the view, that’s the best thing about living here. I don’t have to drive my car.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 136.78 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in the United States in 2014 for transportation. That’s a total of 1,519 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, almost one third of all U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.
Ann Marie isn’t part of those statistics.
But the view and the location are not the only high points of her home. Floor to ceiling windows, a deck with a view and sun for her vegetables, vaulted ceilings, and in back is a small tree shaded patio for private gatherings. It all adds up to a living situation that would be a dream for most.
“We don’t have a lot of square feet, but the floor plan is very efficient,” she says. The walls are highly insulated and there is a layer of cement between the two floors so neighbors never hear each other.
Her electric bill is only $60 a month.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration website states that the average home size in the U.S. has increased from 2,200 square feet for homes built in the 1990s to 2,465 square feet for homes built in the 2000s. That’s 27 percent larger than homes built before the 1990s.
Living close and staying small and efficient are two ways to conserve.
What else can we do to conserve? See article two in this series!