I attended the Plan It Green Conference last weekend and I found it both stimulating and frustrating. I was stimulated by the size of the crowd and the number of vendors. There’s clearly a great deal of interest in and “energy” around green technologies at least locally. Many of the vendors had interesting information to share. Though I didn’t see anything really mind blowing.
What frustrates me is the return on investment that using many of the green solutions still offers. Or rather, the lack of return on investment. For example, one solar water heater provider had a formula that after base cost and rebates, the total installation of the solar water heater system was close to $7,000. Based on their estimates you could recoup that cost in 6-9 years. This is still on the upper reaches of most home owners. First, the initial cash outlay is high. Getting the rebates most likely a process of filing documents and waiting several weeks, if not months. Finally, unless you are sure you are going to stay in you home for 6-9 years, you will never recover the total of that initial investment. Unless maybe you could increase the sales price for having the system. Finally, in 6-9 years the whole industry will probably have changed and your 2011 solar system will probably look 19th century.
Somehow the price/value relationship is going to have to change for there to be widespread consumer adoption of many of these technologies. Either the current energy sources are going to have to continue to skyrocket in cost or some kind of subsidies are going to need to help solve the cost issue for most homeowner.
At least that was the impression I was left with. I would be happy to learn that I am wrong. Let me know. Please!
I was just introduced to a technology today that shows promise as far being an affordable source of renewable energy for home owners and businesses. I am hoping to learn more. If I do, I will write another post.
Mr. Mielke, you are awfully courteous, too. I don’t own my home, but I do conserve energy as much as possible for financial and environmental reasons. Actually, I think we conserved more, solar would probably be less needed in the near future (not to say we shouldn’t switch to that at some point).
Actually, I think that Mr. Brunell is correct (and courteous). If we’re drawn into a debate on a much broader subject, the point of the post (the lack of affordable, green home improvements) could be lost.
Early adopters will just have to buck up and pay more. Those of us who depend upon inefficient methods for home/water heating will just have to find ways to conserve. We heat one room, while the rest of the house languishes in a deep freeze, and I don’t use hot water in the kitchen, because it’s so far from the hot water heater.
Don’t worry about hijacking this blog. This is what the comments feature is for!
Agreed, but I have my own blog(s) where I do that. Again, I don’t want to hijack someone else’s blog.
Blogs could be a great place to discuss ideas, but I only find this happening on blogs with a fairly narrow focus.
Well of course it is vague. These are blog comments! It’s not something you can easily or even effectively lay out in a blog comment. Plus, I don’t think it’s up to me to dictate what we, as a society, should do. I have ideas, of course, but I don’t want to hijack a blog comment arena with them. By the way, I think your comments have been nice and civil, which is a rarity these days. Thanks for being sane.
That sounds nice. Nice and vague.
What we need is a new way of looking at everything. Cost ratios. What conservation means. Long term planning versus short term profit (the MO of just about every business I can think of as of late), and so on. Until that day comes, we probably deserve to be unemployed, unfortunately. We’ve been fooling ourselves for so long about so many things, and have let ourselves become distracted that we have lost sight of the bigger picture. What can be done? A radical rethinking of all we hold sacred.
Massive federal intervention was needed for the US to compete in solar, but the US is still selling off its industrial capabilities as scrap. The Chinese, meanwhile, have an industrial policy that addresses jobs and industry. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever compete successfully against them, so it’s good that they are making solar more affordable for us, because we’re going to be unemployed.
I agree with the other environmental costs that we are all paying. But unless you can make those costs explicit for the average home owner and show that moving to conservation (an easier sell) and green tech they will be ahead financially you are relying on those few visionaries who will sacrifice short term for long term payoff. There will always be those folks. But to make an impact the vast majority has to get on board. That’s the hurdle.
There are other costs to consider besides the economic costs, such as environmental costs. I don’t own my home, but if I did I would be installing solar of some type regardless of whether or not it would take 6-9 years to recoup. Environmentally speaking it is just a sound idea. Obviously, not everyone can afford to do that, but I think many who are pondering such an action look at things beyond simple economics.
The expense of green energy for the home requires many people to add the cost to their mortgage when they buy an older home.