As temps dip down into the teens this week, many people are looking for ways to simultaneously conserve energy and stay nice and warm. While conservation tips are helpful in the short-term, it’s also important to think about long-term energy efficiency measures we can all take. That way, the next time temps drop, we can enjoy a hot chocolate with our family rather than scramble to adjust ceiling fan rotation and put towels under our doors and windows.
We reached out to Daniel Tait, CEO of the Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy, for advice on energy efficiency, sustainable energy production, and other topics. Here’s what Daniel had to say.
GASP: First of all, what is the Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy?
Daniel: The Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy is a non-profit accelerating Alabama’s transition to clean, sustainable energy. Our first priority is getting Huntsville to what is called “net zero energy” or 100 percent clean and efficient energy by 2025 through a mixture of saving energy and producing clean energy.
The biggest thing is to have fun with it! We really want to get out there and show people what can be done in an engaging way to get them energized about our future, pun intended.
GASP: How would you describe the current clean energy landscape in Alabama? How does it vary across the state (e.g., Huntsville vs. Birmingham)?
Daniel: Alabama is great candidate for clean and efficient energy! We currently lag behind some other parts of the country including our neighbors Georgia and Mississippi. However, we’re starting to see significant changes especially with reduced costs of renewable energy. It is an exciting time to be in the energy business. The only thing we can reliably forecast is lots of changes but we can’t possibly determine exactly where the market or policy will take us.
We’re primarily committed to Huntsville for our 10 year “net zero energy” challenge because we believe it shows the most promise. With its technical and engineering background Huntsville can help create the roadmap for the rest of the State. Once we have achieved our goal for Huntsville, we will begin the scaling process throughout the state, which will bring a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. However, we are always interested in partnering with others in the State, where appropriate.
GASP: What are some things the average Alabamian can do to use less energy, especially during the winter when temps are getting colder?
Daniel: I always like to give unorthodox energy savings tips rather than the standard ones you typically hear. First, get your HVAC serviced by a reputable company, preferably an ENERGY STAR partner if available. Most people don’t do this but that’s like getting a car and never getting a oil change. Second, weatherstrip your doors and windows if necessary. If you have a towel or blanket at the bottom of your door, you need new weatherstripping. Weatherstripping wears out over time so you’ll need to replace it every few years.
Lastly, we want to point out is that you should always be comfortable in your home. If you have to put your thermostat on 60 degrees to reduce your utility bill, you have a significant issue that needs to be addressed. No amount of “tips” will fix it. Get a comprehensive energy assessment as soon as you can.
GASP: Are there any easy steps Alabamians can take to increase our state’s supply of clean energy?
Talk. I think the biggest thing that people can do is talk with their friends, neighbors, co-workers and representatives about what clean energy really means for Alabama. What are the positives in their opinion? How and what can we learn from other states?
This transition is not up to one person or one group. We all need to be educated on what we can do and which steps will make sense for Alabama. If you feel strongly about this issue, volunteer or get involved with an organization or a group.
GASP: We believe that reducing air pollution will not only benefit air quality, but will also be good for our economy and our health. Is the same true of sustainable energy?
Sustainable energy is the economical choice for sure. As recently as a few years ago we couldn’t have said that. Energy conservation and efficiency have always been and will continue to be the most economical way to increase clean energy in Alabama. But with the prices dropping in renewables like wind and solar, they are increasingly cost competitive with traditional sources of energy. It’s no longer just a “long-term” play. They work and are an affordable option now.
Michael joined GASP in 2013 as communications specialist. He has lived in Birmingham since 2008, and is an active member of the Birmingham community. He’s a passionate advocate for health equity, civil rights and equality. He is currently serving as executive director. Email Michael