Energy Efficient America

This blog is devoted to giving people information on alternative energy products and ideas for a new energy revolution. If it relates to going green and getting off the grid than you will find it here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Rules of Real Estate Full coverage

Go green, a smart home improvement
New tax credits and rebates are making solar-powered conversions as smart as redoing your kitchen.
By Michael Copeland, Business 2.0 senior writer
October 31 2006: 6:52 AM EST

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Considering a remodeling project to boost the value of your home? Before you drop $40,000 or more on a new kitchen or master bath, consider the newcomer on the renovation block: a rooftop solar-power system that not only will lower your overhead costs and insulate you from a volatile energy market but will likely add just as much to your home value over the long haul.

The technology has come a long way in the past 30 years. And what's starting to be good for contractors is looking sweet for homeowners too. For starters, today's solar systems are far more efficient than their commercial predecessors, and most are warranted to last 25 years.

More from Business 2.0

Server farm goes solar

Major Kitchen Remodel Solar Energy System
Average cost $43,8621 $45,0002
Home value increase $39,920 $22,500
Rebates and tax credits3 - $15,000
Utility savings (5 years) - $9,950
PAYOFF -$3,942 $2,450

Source: Borrego Solar; Realtor Magazine
[1] National average. [2] Average cost for 2,000-square-foot house. [3] For California. Incentives vary by state; see for a database of solar tax incentives.

More important, the federal government and some states are offering serious incentives that can slash the price of installation (typically over $40,000 gross for a full system) in half. In California and New Jersey - the first states to allow so-called net metering, whereby homeowners are credited for electricity they generate beyond their own use - going solar can pay for itself in several years.

The complete guide to the new rules of real estate
Home systems are still rare, so their value is difficult to assess, but home appraisers follow this general rule of thumb: Half the gross cost can be recouped in the home sales price as soon as it is installed. True, that's well below the recovery rates for kitchens and bathrooms (which range from 70 to 90 percent), but your kitchen doesn't pay the power bills.

And solar's ability to lower energy costs also adds value. A study in Appraisal Journal found that for every utility-bill dollar saved annually because of an improvement, you gain $10 to $20 in property value. So if you can zero out a $1,000 annual electric tab by installing solar, you'll get back $10,000 to $20,000 in home value.

Whether it pencils out for you depends foremost on where you live. California and New Jersey lead the nation in offering financial incentives, but states like Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New York are ramping up fast.

Another determinant is your typical electric bill. "If it's under $100 a month, people just put in solar because they want to be part of the solution," says Mike Hall, VP at Borrego Solar in Berkeley. "When you get to $100 to $150 a month, the financial arguments start to take hold. Anything north of $200 a month is a no-brainer."

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Progress Seeks 31% Rate Increase


The Tampa Tribune

Published: August 30, 2008

TAMPA - Customers of Progress Energy Florida are expected to pay a lot more for electricity next year, the St. Petersburg-based utility said Friday.

The utility is seeking permission to increase electric bills 31 percent in 2009 to cover costs for fuel, the construction of two nuclear reactors in Levy County and reducing emissions from the company's coal-fired power plants.

Progress Energy is Central Florida's largest supplier of electricity, serving 1.7 million customers in 35 counties, including Pinellas, Pasco and Polk.

The proposal would add slightly more than $34 to the monthly bill of a customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month. Monthly bills would rise from $110.59 to $144.86 in January. The Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates electric utilities, is expected to issue a decision by year's end.

The bulk of the increase - about $21 - stems from skyrocketing fuel costs. The utility expects to spend $3 billion on fuel next year.
Coal accounts for 43 percent of the power generated by Progress Energy's power plants. Natural gas is used to make 34 percent of the utility's power, and oil accounts for 7 percent.

"The price of coal has increased almost 268 percent in the last five years," said Jeff Lyash, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Florida. "We do all that we can to mitigate that. Our hedging program has saved our customers $600 million since we put it in place in 2003."

Lyash said the soaring cost of fuel is why the company wants to build two nuclear reactors in Levy County. In addition to lowering consumer fuel costs by $1 billion a year, it would help reduce air emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, he said.

"Each megawatt of nuclear construction we build displaces a megawatt of coal, gas or oil and eliminates that risk of future price increases and volatility for our customers," Lyash said.

The two new reactors would generate up to 2,200 megawatts of electricity, enough power for nearly 1.4 million Florida homes. The two-reactor project, if approved by federal regulators, would begin generating electricity in 2017.

Under new state law, Progress Energy can pass on to customers the cost of building a nuclear plant years before the plant begins generating power. Under the utility's plan to increase monthly electric bills next year, about $11 of the increase reflects pre-construction costs for the nuclear project.

The company also is spending $1.3 billion to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury from two coal-fired units in Crystal River. A portion of that cost -about $2.50 - would be recovered from customers each month next year.

The improvements would lower emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, the primary causes of smog and acid rain, by more than 90 percent, Lyash said.

Progress Energy isn't the only electric utility seeking a substantial increase in electric bills to cover the soaring cost of fuel.

Tampa Electric, Hillsborough County's chief power provider, underestimated its fuel costs for this year by $209 million, or 20 percent. The utility will ask regulators in September for permission to recover those costs in 2009, in addition to the $1.4 billion the utility expects to spend on fuel next year.

If the fuel-recovery plan is approved, it would add $25.62 to the $114.38 bill of a Tampa Electric customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month.

Tampa Electric also has asked for a 9 percent increase in base electric rates. If the higher rates are approved, it would add another $10.62 to a customer's monthly bill. By next summer, Tampa Electric customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month could see their bills rise to more than $150 a month.

Tampa Electric serves 667,000 customers in Hillsborough County and portions of Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties.


$110.59: What a Progress Energy customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month now pays each month

$144.86: What a Progress Energy customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month would pay beginning in January if regulators approves the company's cost-recovery plan for fuel, nuclear construction and environmental improvements.

$3 BILLION: What Progress Energy expects to spend on fuel next year

1.7 MILLION: Florida customers served by Progress Energy

$150: What a Tampa Electric customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month would pay next summer if regulators approve requests to raise rates and consumer fuel costs

667,000: Customers served by Tampa Electric

Reporter Russell Ray can be reached at (813) 259-7870 or

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Tampa Electric Officially Requests 22% Rate Increase

Tampa Electric underestimated its fuel costs for 2008 by $209 million, or 20 percent.

By RUSSELL RAY | The Tampa Tribune

Published: September 2, 2008

TAMPA - Tampa Electric Co. formally asked state regulators today for permission to increase electric bills 22 percent beginning in January to cover the skyrocketing cost of fuel.

The utility serves 667,000 customers in Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Tampa Electric announced in July it was planning to seek a 22 percent increase in consumer fuel costs.

Under the utility's proposal, residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month would be paying about $140 a month starting in January, up from $114 now.

Tampa Electric underestimated its fuel costs for 2008 by $209 million, or 20 percent. The utility is asking the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to recover those costs in 2009, in addition to the $1.4 billion the utility expects to spend on fuel in 2009.

"Just as fuel is used to power cars, fuel is also used to power electric generators," said Tampa Electric President Chuck Black. "This unprecedented run-up in fuel prices has been frustrating for our entire team and truly challenging for our customers on all energy fronts."

Reporter Russell Ray can be reached at (813) 259-7870 or

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Power bills expected to climb again

Last Edited: Tuesday, 06 Feb 2007, 6:56 PM EST
Created: Tuesday, 06 Feb 2007, 6:56 PM EST

Lakeland Electric plans a rate increase. We've got you covered

LAKELAND - Ed and Rose Tomon's electric bill has gone up around 30-percent over the last few years.

"That's a big deal. My Social Security increased only 3.3-percent," said Ed.

So, the Tomons cut corners - turning down the heat in the winter and rationing out the air in the summer.

Despite all that economizing, it looks like their bill is going to go even higher. Lakeland Electric wants to raise the average homeowner's base rate by $3 a month.

"You know, to pay for plants, to pay for personnel, to pay for your fleet, your cars, your trucks, things of that nature," explained Kevin Cook with the City of Lakeland.

Cook says Lakeland Electric hasn't raised its base rate since 2000. Still, bills have gone up and up - and not only in Lakeland - all around the Bay Area.

Lakeland Electric says the culprit is the cost of fuel. It says the price of coal has doubled in the last few years, and the price of natural gas has quadrupled.

Power companies pass those higher prices straight on to the consumer.

There is some good news. Fuel prices depend on supply and demand.

"Right now, the supply is such that you can probably look for prices for all energy products to stabilize within the next six months," said Florida Southern economist Dr. Carl Brown.

Still, businesses in Lakeland may be in for an even bigger shock. Their bills could jump up as much as 40-percent. The City Commission will vote on the rate hikes next month.

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How to 'save the watts'

How to 'save the watts'

Last Edited: Thursday, 28 Jun 2007, 7:40 AM EDT
Created: Thursday, 28 Jun 2007, 7:40 AM EDT

Florida Power wants residents to start being more careful about how much energy they use in their homes-- whether they're old or new.
Florida has seen a lot of growth in the past few decades, and that means an increased demand on electricity. When that happens, energy costs rise-- and so does your electric bill. Now, power companies statewide want to show you how to run your home more efficiently so you can save some of that cash.

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Cut the electric bill with sunshine

Last Edited: Wednesday, 21 Mar 2007, 11:34 PM EDT
Created: Wednesday, 21 Mar 2007, 7:07 PM EDT

Progress Energy will start offering rebates to people who use solar power. We've got you covered

ST. PETERSBURG - Progress Energy is unveiling a new incentive to cut power bills. They will use Florida sunshine to brighten your budget.

Progress customer Colleen Clark was paying big bucks to heat her pool.

So she installed a solar heater to try to absorb some of that expense.

She ended up saving $1200 a year on her electric bill.

Now she wants to save even more, using the sun to heat the water in her house as well.

“With all the incentives going on, especially Progress Energy’s new credit incentive, that got me excited,” Clark said.

Colleen is getting a $450 rebate from Progress Energy, and another $500 from the EPA to install solar panels.

“It will heat the water in the panel, and send that water into the water heater’s tank, then as you turn your faucet in the kitchen or you turn on your shower, that hot water comes into your home,” said Progress spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs.

More good news: you can use your old water heater, and get a federal tax credit, up to $2,000.

But the set up will initially cost about $4,500.

It’s a lot of money, but some say it is an investment that is too hot to pass up.

“It can help you save money, and it can help save energy for the whole state,” Jacobs said.

Those savings could add up, considering consumers like Colleen Clark plan on cutting their monthly hot water bills in half.

“You are helping your pocket book, and you are getting a nice warm fuzzy feeling you’re helping out Mother Earth,” Clark said.

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Floored by sky-high electric bills in Lakeland

Last Edited: Friday, 05 Oct 2007, 5:47 PM EDT
Created: Friday, 05 Oct 2007, 5:47 PM EDT

Lakeland electric customers are experiencing sticker shock. We've got you covered

LAKELAND - You may want to turn down the air, and turn off the fans when you're not at home. Have you looked at your electric bill lately? You may get sticker shock.

"The house is still the same, same two people, and the bill is getting bigger and bigger," said Jim Davari of Lakeland.

Davari bill just hit an all time high, even though he just spent $7,000 on energy savings devices. He installed double paned windows, shot more insulation into his attic, and now has florescent bulbs all over his house. Despite all that, he got a bill from Lakeland Electric for almost $400.

"Natural gas has increased by almost 400 percent in the last few years," said Kevin Cook, a spokesman for the utility. That cost increase is passed directly onto consumers.

Most Lakeland Electric customers got a really high bill for August, partially because it was so hot. But there's another reason. The August bill included the first week of September. They were billed for five weeks instead of four so that Lakeland Electric could pass along a decrease in the fuel charge that took effect the first week in September.

Even though the rate was lower, most people's bills were higher than usual.

Lakeland has one of the highest electric rates in the state, in part because it depends heavily on natural gas. Using coal produce to power is cheaper, but not in favor right now.

Recently, Governor Crist came out in favor of green technology like solar and wind. TECO just scrapped plans for a coal plant in Polk County because regulations governing it might be too stringent, and the cost to build it too high.

So, that leaves Davari and others frustrated.

"Something has to give," he said.

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