Your Computer Wastes More Energy Than You Thought

For instance, this is not what is meant by computer sleep mode | Photo: JustMichele/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Computer users generally assume that their hardware's sleep and automatic shutdown functions keep their desktops and laptops from wasting energy. But a pair of studies commissioned by the state of California show that idle computers waste a whole lot more energy than we suspect.

The studies, paid for by the California Energy Commission, showed that users often incorrectly believe their computers have energy saving settings enabled when they do not, and that a large majority of computers are left on for more than 23 hours per day, being shut down only during rebooting.

"The considerable amount of energy that is being consumed by computers that are on, but not in use, shows that a large amount of energy could be saved with improved power management," said California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister.

Now You Can Find Energy Projects Proposed For Your Neighborhood

Detail of the Claremont Graduate University Energy Maps | Image: Energymaps.org/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Here's an interesting new tool for Californians who want to learn if any power plants, transmission lines, and pipelines are planned for their favorite places, thanks to researchers at Claremont Graduate University.

This interactive map charts out everything from existing oil wells in the San Joaquin Valley to proposed transmission lines in the desert, and it's been compiled as a way to give Californians a handle on what kind of projects might be coming to their neighborhoods.

The Energy Maps project's intent is to give Californians a "heads up" about pending energy projects in their neighborhoods, which can help neighbors wield better input into energy decision making that can affect their lives, their property values, and their health.

California's Renewable Energy Plan Misses the Point on Renewable Energy

The massive, 6,000-plus-page draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan started its journey through the public comment period this week with at least one contentious public meeting.

The plan, commonly referred to as the DRECP, would shape both renewable energy development and some conservation across 22 million acres of the California desert in six counties. Criticism of the document is mounting, over its complexity and the relatively short period in which the public will be allowed to comment on the Plan. As we reported earlier this month, the sheer size of the document inevitably excludes most members of the public from having meaningful input into the process.

But a closer look at the DRECP reveals that behind the arcane language and the bureaucratic jargon lies a document that is woefully out of date, planning for development of renewable energy in the California desert as though the last six years never happened.

Summer Power Stayed on Despite Drought, Fires, Closed Nuke

Power lines in Palo Alto | Photo: Daniel Hoherd/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The agency that operates California's power grid is reporting that this past summer saw no major outages in the state despite frequent heat waves that boosted power consumption during peak periods.

The hot summer was the third in which the state has been deprived of power from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant, leaving Southern California with about 2,200 fewer megawatts of power generating capacity. According to the California Independent System Operators (CaISO), which operates the power grid in most of California and a portion of southern Nevada, California's record drought cut output from the state's hydroelectric plants by another 1,628 megawatts.

But despite those shortfalls and wildfires that threatened transmission lines near San Diego, California stayed powered up this summer -- and much of the credit goes to the state's increased renewable energy capacity, which set output records this summer.

California's Carbon Trading Program May Give You Money Soon

Millions of California households will get a little help on their electric bills this fall. | Photo: hubgoat/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California households who get their electricity from the state's privately owned utilities will be getting a bit of a present in their electric bills this fall, thanks to the state's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

Most California residents' electric bills will be credited an average of $35 in October or November through the state's Climate Credit program. The money comes from emissions permits purchased by the state's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

That $35 average credit varies by your utility, with some companies' customers getting more and some less. Southern California Edison residential customers will receive $40 per household, while San Diego Gas & Electric clients will receive just under $37. The objective is to provide Californians with a bit of cash they can use to invest in energy-efficiency such as LED light bulbs, further cutting the state's greenhouse gas footprint.

California's Huge Renewable Energy Plan is Bad for Democracy

A draft plan released last month that would manage millions of acres of the California desert for renewable energy development is profoundly anti-democratic.

The Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, made public in late September after two years of delay, would streamline development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources on about two million acres of the California desert -- 3,125 square miles, an area more than six times the size of Los Angeles. The plan would also designate close to five million acres as conservation areas to be managed for protection of a number of so-called "covered species."

DRECP's scope is gigantic, in other words, and that's a problem. An attempt to plan for both the development and conservation of most of the California desert, the DRECP is so complex and so huge that substantive public comment on the plan would be nearly impossible even if the public had a far longer deadline for comments than early January. And that obstacle to full public comment is bad for democracy.

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