From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

What I Read in the Green New Deal for Public Housing Bill

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act (these comments come from the draft but the actual bill has now been filed at is the first binding legislation drafted.  It will reconstruct "the entire public housing stock of the United States, as swiftly and seamlessly as possible,” into zero-carbon homes, "a highly energy-efficient home that produces on-site, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet the total annual energy consumption of the home” within a decade.

Public housing stock will be eligible for deep energy retrofits, including 
energy-efficient windows; 
super insulation of roofs and exterior walls, including the addition of new cladding to buildings and the rerouting of plumbing and electricity; 
electrification of water heating and building heating systems using electric heat pumps; 
and electric heat pumps to provide air conditioning, where feasible; 
materials and technology to increase airtightness of the building envelope, including air sealant paints; the acquisition and installation of heat-recovery ventilation systems; 
and energy monitoring devices including smart meters and smart thermostats.  

There will be grants "to build and expand community energy generation in public housing, including 
the construction of and ongoing costs associated with renewable energy rooftops; 
renewable energy generation; 
photovoltaic glass windows; 
the bulk purchase of clean energy supply from energy utilities; 
and community-scale energy storage."

What the bill is calling a zero carbon home is also known as zero net energy housing or, more commonly, net zero energy buildings, structures which produce as much energy as they consume and such buildings have been built in just about every Earthly climate, from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole;  at single family and skyscraper scales;  at low, moderate, and luxury prices.  I’ve been collecting examples of Zero Net Energy buildings and technologies for years at if you want to see what is operating now, is being built, and some of the design visions for the future.  CA is already transitioning to a net zero energy building standard for all low-rise residential buildings now (2020) and the EU is moving to a “near net zero” standard now too.  Both will have a net or near net zero building standard for all buildings, including rehab, by 2030.

There are positive net energy buildings as well (see

In 1979 Jimmy Carter’s energy plan called for insulating 90% of American homes and all new buildings and use solar energy in more than 2.5 million homes by 1985. There were 1.3 million solar installations in the USA in 2017 by one count and may be 1.9 million in 2019 by another.  The DOE is predicting there will be 3.8 million solar homes by 2020.

Carter also wanted "20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000."  Renewables, wind, solar and hydro, are at just about that level now, 20 years behind his schedule.

Carter was thinking in terms of his next four years in office. Extinction Rebellion is demanding that “Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.”  The Green New Deal has a 10 year timeframe.

Jimmy Carter in 1979 was more ambitious than we are now. 

The Green New Deal for Public Housing also provides for community resilience centers, "a communal space in public housing that is used as a cooling center, heating center, or disaster relief center during extreme weather.”  This fits in with the idea of emergency preparedness, civil defense, no matter what the opinion of climate change.  After all, Solar IS Civil Defense (and entry level electricity for the billion or so people in this world who don’t yet have access to minimal electricity for light, communications, and other things.  See Personal Power Production:  Solar from Civil Defense to Swadeshi ( for more on these concepts and Personal Power Set ( for a look at current available technologies.

Community resilience measures include a "grant program to help provide the purchase and installation of energy storage, including batteries, flywheels, compressed air, and pumped hydroelectric or thermal energy storage, in order to ensure energy backup of not less than 48 hours in the event of an emergency or disaster;  the construction of childcare centers and ongoing costs associated with childcare centers;  the construction of senior centers and ongoing costs associated with senior centers;  the construction of community gardens and ongoing costs associated with community gardens.”

This will allow public housing to become islanding microgrids, housing that can power themselves when the grid goes down.  Grid interconnection will also allow public housing to feed energy back into the grid and offset costs.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act also authorizes the "training and development of skills necessary for career development in the fields, trades, and services reasonably determined during the first public comment period held in accordance with subsection (b)(3) to be of interest to public housing residents,” at a wage of $15  per hour with "stipends valued at not less than $250 per week to individuals participating in the workforce development program.”

Using the reconstruction of the USA's public housing as a job development program in energy efficiency and renewable power is supported by the results of the 2019 US Energy and Employment Report [USEER]* which found that there are currently more clean energy jobs available than workers to fill them.  The lack of trained people was highlighted by virtually all surveyed sectors as a growing problem with lack of experience, training, and technical skills almost universally cited as the top reason for hiring difficulty by employers. The need for technical training and certifications was also frequently cited, implying the need for expanded investments in workforce training and closer coordination between employers and the workforce training system.

US Energy and Employment Report [USEER]*  also found that energy efficiency has the most overall growth and potential for jobs.  It is about 41% of energy sector jobs now.  More than 1 out of 6, 17% of all USA construction jobs are in energy efficiency.  E2 [Environmental Entrepreneurs] ( has an Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report that goes deeper into this subject (  Cities like Boston have found that energy efficiency retrofits, electrification of existing residential buildings, and improved transportation are the most impactful strategies for reducing carbon emissions (
*Summary of the report at
Full report at
Webinar at
More at

There are 3.3 million clean energy jobs
2.3 million in energy efficiency
508,000 renewable energy
254,000 clean vehicles
139,000 grid and storage
38,000 clean fuels

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act requires biannual reports
"on the impact that the grant programs established under subsection (a) have had on—
(1) the rehabilitation, upgrades, innovation, and transition of public housing in the United States;
(2) total greenhouse gas emission output, and quarterly data on greenhouse gas emission reductions from individual public housing developments, specifically as they relate to—
(A) home energy carbon pollution emissions in each public housing development, as calculated using the Carbon Footprint Calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency;
(B) waste-related carbon emissions in each public housing development, as calculated using the Carbon Footprint Calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency; and
(C) total greenhouse gas emissions released by individual public housing buildings and homes within a public housing development, as calculated using the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency;
(3) the amount of Federal money saved due to energy cost savings at public housing projects, on a quarterly basis;
(4) the amount of energy savings per KwH at each public housing project, on a quarterly basis;
(5) public housing residents, including—
(A) access to economic opportunities through compliance with the hiring and contracting requirements described in subsections (c) and (d) of section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 (12 U.S.C. 1701u);
(B) the impacts, if any, those residents have experienced to their individual economic growth as measured by individual and household income;
(C) the specific career skills acquired;
(D) the impacts, if any, those residents have experienced to their overall health; and
(E) the specific educational or technical certifications acquired; and
(6) changes to the overall community health indicators in public housing developments and their surrounding neighborhoods, including asthma rates, air quality, water quality, and levels of lead and mold.”

"Before the start of the second fiscal year beginning after the date of enactment of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, and quarterly thereafter, the Secretary shall require each public housing agency to monitor, measure, and report to the Secretary on the economic impacts of this section on the community in which housing developments of the public housing agency are located, including

‘‘(A) the aggregate dollar amount of contracts awarded in compliance with this section; 
(B) the aggregate dollar amount of wages and salaries paid for positions employed by low- and very low-income persons in accordance with this section;
(C) the aggregate dollar amount expended for training opportunities provided to low- and very low-income persons in accordance with this section; and
(D) the aggregate dollar amount expended for training and assisting public housing resident-owned businesses for compliance with this section."
The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act guarantees "the right to housing for every individual… all housing in the United States is habitable, highly energy-efficient, and safe; and… that the Federal Government should act and build new public housing where there is a serious need that the free market cannot address or is not addressing responsibly.’’

Most, if not all. of the Green New Deal for Public Housing necessitates "SEC. 10. REPEAL OF FAIRCLOTH AMENDMENT. Section 9(g) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437g(g)) is amended by striking paragraph (3), Faircloth Amendment which forbids HUD to "fund the construction or operation of new public housing units with Capital or Operating Funds if the construction of those units would result in a net increase in the number of units the PHA owned, assisted or operated as of October 1, 1999."
Faircloth Amendment - HUD

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Zero Net Energy - November 23, 2019

Carbon-neutral science museum in Sweden to be powered by bicycles

Bergen, Norway's masterplan for a zero-carbon urban mixed use development of over 1,600 homes

24 storey mixed use PassivHaus building in midtown Manhattan

Net Zero plant-filled Singapore pavilion for Dubai’s 2020 World Expo

Trenezia, carbon neutral village of over 1000 houses for Bergen, Norway

Snøhetta completes world’s northernmost energy-positive building, 8-story, 18,000 square meter Powerhouse Brattørkaia in Trondheim, Norway "which produces, on average, more than twice as much electricity as it consumes daily.”

Self-charging solar electric vehicle with air purifying moss interior

ReGen Village - a real estate developer planning to build food and energy self-reliant communities

Gaobeidian, China Passive House project is 330,000 square meters (3,552,100 square feet) of certified Passive House buildings—8 high rises, 12 multifamily buildings, and 6 villas

Living Vehicle 2020 travel trailer generates all its own energy (and may be net positive energy)

Smart Forest City for Cancun, Mexico "conceived to be completely food and energy self-sufficient"

LIFE Hamburg, a new energy self-sufficient educational campus that will “reinvent learning” for 1,600 students scheduled to open 2023, the solar-powered sustainable building will feature a carbon dioxide-absorbing green facade and an organic rooftop garden

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What To Do After the Climate Strike

Fridays for the Future ( - the Friday Climate Strikes continue
October 2 there will be a Global Solar Yatra ( with 1 million students in over 70 countries building their own solar lights for studying
October 7 Extinction Rebellion ( will be doing actions around the world
Sunrise Movement ( is planning actions in support of the Green New Deal up to and after the Inauguration of the next President in January 2020

September 20 was a great show of strength but what are we going to do tomorrow and the day after that?  Is there a daily climate practice that can do what we need to get done in the time available?  I know someone who used to write a letter to the editor to some publication around the world on climate issues every day.  Now he does stand outs most mornings during rush hour traffic with his climate signs.  Another is standing up in the train to talk about climate on the commute home.  (“How did Solidarity start?” someone once asked Lech Walesa who answered, “By speaking loud at the bus stops.”)  I have a solar swadeshi myself:
and have been practicing Solar IS Civil Defense for 20 years:

If the children can devote one day a week to climate issues, the adults should too.  Climate strikes can evolve into climate teach-ins, brainstorms, hackathons, and barnraisings, especially if we have a daily climate action plan on international, national, regional, state, county, municipal, neighborhood, family, and individual scales with benchmarks and targets.

Greta Thunberg at the UN mentioned that we are on track to burn through our carbon budget, the amount of greenouse gases we can put into the sky and still stay within that “magic” 1.5º F heating range, within 8 years.  That’s one benchmark.  The idea that “we have a little more than a decade” to turn around climate comes from a 2017 paper from Christiana Figueres, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Gail Whiteman, Johan Rockström, Anthony Hobley & Stefan Rahmstorf.  What gets mentioned less is their six-point plan with specific targets for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020:

However, China may reach its greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2022, far ahead of its 2030 schedule announced at the 2015 Paris climate meeting:
and Norway, Iceland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Paraguay are all countries which get almost all their electricity from renewable energy now:
Costa Rica plans to be a carbon neutral nation by 2021:

Job One for Humanity ( has a four point plan for climate action starting from emergency preparation and working on up to mass political and social change.  Many of their ideas are not only adaptation to the weather emergencies they believe are now inevitable but also best practices which will also mitigate any more climate damage and improve individual, family, and local resilience.

Lots to do and lots we can do.  

If anyone is interested, My Approach to Climate Change is available at

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Agrophotovoltaics, Agriphotovoltaics, Solar Sharing

Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has been doing “agrophotovoltaics” studies for the last few years, the concept of producing both crops and solar power on the same land.  Their 2018 study results are available here:

”The results from 2017 showed a land use efficiency of 160 percent, as confirmed by the project consortium under the direction of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. The performance of the agrophotovoltaic system in the very hot summer of 2018 greatly exceeded this value.”

Fraunhofer is also doing tests of solar panels over shrimp ponds in Vietnam:
They show similar results there, too, possibly even better as the solar shading is more conducive to shrimp growth.  If there are any applicable aquaculture facilities in your state, there might be some solar opportunities available there too.

What Fraunhofer calls agrophotovoltaics the Japanese call  “solar sharing” and have been doing since at least 2004:

”The concept was originally developed by Akira Nagashima in 2004, who was a retired agricultural machinery engineer who later studied biology and learned the “light saturation point.” The rate of photosynthesis increases as the irradiance level is increased; however at one point, any further increase in the amount of light that strikes the plant does not cause any increase to the rate of photosynthesis….

”Based on the tests conducted at his solar testing sites in Chiba Prefecture, he recommends about 32% shading rate for a farmland space to reach adequate growth of crops. In other words, there is twice as much empty space for each PV module installed.”

UMass Amherst is working on this concept as well with outreach to farmers through a state program:

Mother Jones article on this idea:
Paper from Nature Sustainability the article references

There should be no competition between active farmland and solar development.  When done correctly, solar can become a lucrative second “crop” for farmers while maintaining and, in some cases, increasing agricultural productivity.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Old Solar: Jimmy Carter's 1979 Green Deal

Jimmy Carter’s energy plan called for "20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000" in 1979. Renewables, wind, solar and hydro, are at just about that level now, 20 years behind his schedule.

Carter also wanted to insulate 90% of American homes and all new buildings and use solar energy in more than 2.5 million homes by 1985. There were 1.3 million solar installations in the USA in 2017 by one count and may be 1.9 million now by another and all low-rise residential buildings in CA will be built to net zero energy standards starting in 2020.

Carter was thinking in terms of his next four years in office. Extinction Rebellion is demanding that “Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.” The Green New Deal has a 10 year timeframe.

The argument can be made that Jimmy Carter in his cardigan sweater spouting “mush from the wimp” is more radical about energy than almost anyone in the public eye today.

PS: Reagan won the 1980 election and shut down the building solar wave with extreme prejudice. Reagan killed us. Carter’s energy plan would have saved us (as long as the terrible shale oil component was shelved).

Old Solar: 1881
Old Solar: 1980 Barnraised Solar Air Heater

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Zero Net Energy - July 18. 2019

Zero-energy demonstration project in Beijing made from pre-fab timber components

Energy blockchain for 55,000 rooftops in Japan planned, 100 rooftops now
Power Ledger - Australian company behind the project

Singapore’s first net zero energy building - 6 story building at the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment

"S2A Modular in Southern California is building a factory to manufacture modular net-zero-energy private homes, condominiums, apartment complexes, and commercial buildings."

Renovated office building in Amsterdam is net positive energy with BREEAM outstanding rating

Net zero energy church in Iowa

In the EU all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020 and all new public buildings have been nearly zero-energy since 2018.

Eco-Capsule - self-sustainable micro-home
in Times Square NYC

Net positive house in Lincoln, MA produces 67% more energy than it consumes with  -6.3kBtu/sf/yr

Carbon Drawdown Now:  Turning Buildings into Carbon Sinks

Zero carbon retrofit for Paris 2024 Olympics

Norwich, UK’s 100 unit Passivhaus council house development

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

How Do You Pay for the Green New Deal: Cost of Fuel

I did some back of the envelope estimates of the cost of the fossil fuels we use in a year.  
The source of these figures is the USA DOE Energy Information Agency

But any mistakes in arithmetic are my own.


7.5 billion barrels of petroleum products consumed in USA in 2018
average price $69.78 per barrel
Cost of petroleum products:  $523,350,000,000

In 2017, the United States consumed about 27.11 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas
average of $4.08 per thousand cubic feet
Cost of natural gas:  $110,608,800,000

EIA expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to 691 million short tons (MMst)
$39.09 per short ton (2017 price) 
Cost of coal:  $27,011,190,000

Total:  $660,969,990,000

We spend nearly $661 billion per year or something like that on fuel alone every year.
And these are only ballpark numbers, probably on the low side.

With the 2018 USA GDP at $20.50 trillion, the cost of fuel is approximately 3.22% of annual GDP


Another "cost" of fuel is covered in the International Monetary Fund's recent report on fossil fuel subsidies, covering 191 countries:

They look at the difference between the market price and "how much consumers would pay if prices fully reflected supply costs plus the taxes needed to reflect environmental costs and revenue requirements."

Global fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion (6.3% of global GDP) in 2015 and were projected to be $5.2 trillion (6.5% of GDP) in 2017
China subsidizes the most with $1.4 trillion per year
$649 billion in 2015 for the USA, 3.6% of GDP
Russia at $551 billion
EU at $289 billion
India at $209 billion

"Efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015 would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46%, and increased government revenue by 3.8 % of GDP."

Subsidies consist of underpricing for local air pollution, the largest source (48% in 2015), 
global warming at 24% 
broader environmental costs of road fuels at 15% 
undercharging for general consumption taxes 7% 
supply costs 7%

Coal and petroleum get 85% of the global subsidies monies. 
Coal receives 44% of subsidy monies
petroleum 41%
natural gas 10%
electricity 4%

"If fuel prices had been set at fully efficient levels in 2015, estimated global CO2 emissions would have been 28% lower, fossil fuel air pollution deaths 46% lower, tax revenues higher by 3.8% of global GDP, and net economic benefits (environmental benefits less economic costs) would have amounted to 1.7% of global GDP."


The USA spends about $661 billion per year on the cost of fuel
and another $649 billion on subsidies for that fuel
That's about $1.2 trillion per year for the full cost accounting of fossil fuels and such fossil foolishness.
That's about 7% of USA GDP

The energy transition, Energiewende, of Germany is estimated to cost 0.5 - 1.2% of GDP per year

How do you pay for the Green New Deal?  You do away with the cost of fuel (and all the subsidies that go along with it).