Sustainable Braintree advocates for energy conservation and the use of renewable energy at the municipal, commercial and residential levels.  Our goal is to support a rapid and just transition to a low-carbon economy to protect our climate for future generations.

As we all now know, much of our energy is fossil fuel-based and that needs to change fast.  Whether it is electricity produced by a coal or gas-fired power plant or gas or oil used in a building or home's boiler or furnace, the carbon Dioxide (CO2) emitted by the combustion fossil fuels is a major contributor to global warming.

Our global economy needs to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy (solar, wind etc) if we are to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming.

Energy conservation

Energy conservation is the simplest and most cost effective means of protecting our environment, our earth and our atmosphere.  

Conservation isn’t limited to just energy conscious habits like turning off lights when you are not using them but also ties into increased energy efficiency in our appliances, automobiles, buildings, power plants and distribution grid.

Habits
Changing your habits as they relate to energy is a no-brainer.  It is easy to do, it is good for the Earth and it can save you money. This type of behavioral change was the focus of our Cool Braintree program and is the subject of the workbook the Low Carbon Diet.

Audits 
Consider getting an Energy Audit for your home.  An energy audit is a free assessment of your home that is performed by your local utility company.  All utilities offer energy efficiency rebates after an audit is performed.
If you are an oil heat customer your free audit will be performed by BELD; if  you are a natural gas customer your free audit will be performed by National Grid/MassSave.

Appliances
Buying energy efficiency appliances is a great way to follow-up on energy conscious habits.  When purchasing a new appliance always look for the Energy star label.  Energy Star is a system of ratings and rebates that is run by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Dept of Energy.

Automobiles
MPG (Mile per Gallon) has certainly come into its own since the year 2000.  Not only are most automakers striving to increase the MPG of their vehicles but most automakers also offer gas-to-battery hybrid, battery to electric (aka plug-in) hybrids and all-electric vehicles.

Buildings
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Building Sector consumes nearly half (48.7%) of all energy produced in the United States.  The building developer and construction industry has a major opportunity to ensure that the design and construction of all new buildings and major renovations will reduce the amount of energy required to heat, cool and otherwise operate. The Green Building movement as it has come to be called is vibrant and growing larger every day.

Power Plants and the 'Super Grid’

Unless energy is being produced on-site in a private residence or commercial building there is a good chance that your power is coming from the enormous network of power plants that are tied together via a grid of high-tension wires that span across countries and indeed across continents. The power plants can range from fossil fuel-powered facilities like coal or gas plants, to nuclear reactors, to renewable energy power plants like concentrated solar thermal (CST) and wind farms. Obviously we need more of the latter and less of the former but we also need a smarter and more efficient grid to carry that energy.  According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the estimated annual cost to society due to outages and transmission losses of the outdated US grid is $206 billion per year. $206 billion in energy costs translates to a whole lot of unnecessary CO2 emissions.

Energy Production

Prior to the Scientific Revolution (in the 16th and 17th centuries) most of the energy that people used came from burning wood.

Since that time human civilization has gone through many changes including intense population growth and technological advances. The wood that was in ample supply in 1700 could no longer support our burgeoning advances and we eventually turned below ground. Today fossil fuels such as coal, oil and methane gas comprise the bulk of our energy sources. The balance of our energy comes from nuclear and renewable sources.

Fossil Fuels

In 2007 the Energy Information Administration estimated that -

86.4% of all energy sources came from fossil fuels:
36.0% from oil, 27.4% from coal and 23.0% from methane gas.  

Similar to wood, fossil fuels are carbon-based, however, they contain much higher concentrations of carbon due to the fact that they have been formed over millions of years under intense heat and pressure within the earth’s crust. It is because of this long formation process that they are considered non-renewable energy sources.

Fossil fuels have been plentiful and indeed have played a major role in the civilization we enjoy today. These types of fuels, however, have a major drawback: the high concentrations of carbon that they contain translates to high emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) when they are burned (such as in a combustion engine).  We are burning so much fossil fuel so fast that the earth cannot absorb it all, causing excess amounts of CO2 to be released into our atmosphere and contributing to Global Warming.

Renewable Energy

Some sources indicate that Renewable Energy (including wood) accounts for as much as 16% of world-wide energy sources.  The major types of Renewable Energy are:

  • Biofuel (biodiesel, biofuels)
  • Biomass (wood, yard/crop waste, land fill gas)
  • Geothermal (electrical generation, direct source heat pumps)
  • Hydro (hydro-electric dams, tidal power and wave power)
  • Solar (Photovoltaic (PV), solar heating, concentrated solar thermal (CST)
  • Wind (turbine electrical generation)

By definition Renewable Energy comes from sources that are naturally and rapidly replenished. Most renewable energy sources have very low associated CO2 emissions and therefore have less of an impact on the Earth and our atmosphere and do not contribute to Global Warming.

Click here for more information on Renewable Energy.