Let’s face one significant truth that is often set aside by many: the world is polluted. And it is high time for everyone, even in their smallest ways, to start using clean energy before everything is too late. Rodney Flowers brings in Ron Kamen of AWESome EarthKind to discuss how to begin this mission of embracing renewable energy sources, from changing the light bulbs in your house, favoring electric cars over fuel vehicles, to checking and replacing filters. They also talk about the hesitation of many with this shift, especially large corporations and businesses, and what we can do to start moving forward with carbon footprint reduction. Ron also underlines how social injustices are fueled more with each day clean energy is not given a chance and how everyone can work together to address this alarming fact once and for all.
Listen to the podcast here:
How Clean Energy Can Change The World One Step At A Time With Ron Kamen
As always, I am excited about the show. We’re going to talk about energy right here on the show as if you don’t have enough of that going on right now. I believe we could always use a little bit more energy. We’re going to talk about how we can save some energy. We’ll talk about clean energy. I guess you are wondering, “What the heck is Rodney talking about?” I have Ron Kamen in the studio with me. He is the CEO of EarthKind Energy Consulting and host of the AWESome EarthKind Podcast. His mission is to empower everyday people to make clean energy transitions to reduce their carbon footprint and save themselves money. Without further ado, here’s Ron Kamen. Welcome to the show.
Thanks so much for having me, Rodney.
I’m glad you’re here.
It’s a real pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for having me. I’m looking forward to this. Where would you like to start?
I want to get to know you a little bit more, understand what started the EarthKind Energy movement. Help the readers understand who are you and how did you get to where you are with EarthKind Energy Consulting?
I was a kid growing up in a suburb of New York City in Queens, New York and in Long Island. I went to school up in Binghamton, New York, if you’re familiar with that by the Syracuse Ithaca Cornell area but a little South. I went to school with the idea that I was good at math. I liked the balance of debits and credits and I was going to be an accountant. As I got into it, I realized that the accounting was not so much all the stuff that made sense but it was about this little rule and that little rule. After sitting in an accountant’s office in this little dark space for the year working there, I was like, “It’s not for me.” I realized I was too much of a people person. I liked people. I went on and got a graduate degree.
In my studies in my graduate degree, I realized that life is short. All of us have to figure out why we’re here, what we can do, what our purpose is, what the meaning is. I came to realize that for me, it was doing work with people and having an impact. I became a community organizer first working with senior citizens and all folks that were struggling to figure out how to eat and eat when utility rates were going up year after year and electricity prices were going nuts. I became a clean energy guy and it became energy in the environments. We started out with some people working in a couple of people around a table. It was dozens, hundreds, thousands of people. It was folks all over the state. I became part of both the state and national movement, became a clean energy guy.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of different people. In the last many years, I’ve had my own business consulting to governments, businesses, nonprofits, schools and all sorts of communities about how to take the next step on energy. It’s my passion. It’s where I live. It’s what I do because when you take a look at energy and you take a look at the climate, what you find is that almost 90% of the impacts we’re having on greenhouse gases comes from the energy that we use from the electricity, from heating and cooling and from transportation.
We’re all overwhelmed with all the things going on in the world. If we want to have an impact on the environment, first thing to do is to start looking at our energy consumption personally, as a community and then national and international. By taking that on step-by-step, the fascinating thing is that there’s tons of energy out there, all this free energy, clean energy and renewable energy. It’s in the Air, Water, Earth and from the Sun, that huge ball up there. It’s AWES. It’s those forces of nature that blow us away every day. We’re seeing it all over the world. It’s also you and me. It’s all of us on this planet. There are seven billion of us. We are a force of nature. All of us are having an impact every day. We don’t necessarily see it. We don’t realize it. Every one of us in the United States is responsible for an average of about 5 tons of carbon a year that we’re putting out.
There’s the ability for us to have an impact on the earth in a way that we want to save money doing it, which is fascinating and to leave a legacy for our kids. For me, I’ve got some kids and I’m worried about the future. I want to make a difference. That’s where I started, where I came from and where I am. I’m a clean energy guy. I love working with people, helping them figure out what they can do, how they can take advantage of these technologies, how they can identify different programs and opportunities to save themselves energy, save money and create the civilization that we all want and need.If we want to have an impact on the environment, we must start looking at our personal energy consumption. Click To Tweet
What are some of the misconceptions about being able to do that especially as it relates to affordability and making the switch? There are these ideas that it’s not possible to have completely clean new energy. It’s going to be way too expensive. You don’t have the infrastructure. Help us out with that.
First, there are 1,000 times more energy than we need in nature. That’s a fact. You can take a look. We see it every day whenever there’s a hurricane, a tornado, a flood and the fires out West. It’s massive, the amount of power that’s there. We live in a sea of energy. First, there are tons of energy. Second, the technology has come to the point where the technology can capture that energy and channel it into all our electricity, heating, cooling and transportation needs. The technology is there. Do you ever doubt that? Take a look at those little personal smartphones that we all got and realize that every one of us and every kid that’s out there that holds one of these has more computing power in our hands than took us to the moon with the Apollo spaceship. That’s how much computing power we all have. That’s a couple of $100 that used to not even exist on the planet, much less be unaffordable. That’s what’s happening with energy.
Those cheapest forms of energy are clean energy. What we’re seeing worldwide, what we’re seeing in the United States and everywhere is that when you take a look at solar and you combine that solar with battery storage and solar and wind with battery storage or solar, wind and water with battery storage, what happens is that you have the ability to save money. It’s the cheapest source of power. The water flows, the wind blows, the sun shines and you get free energy. All we have to do is create that infrastructure, let nature do its thing and tap into it. The cheapest form of energy are those renewables. That’s being proven day in and day out the cheapest source of power in the last bunch of years. When you take a look at what’s been coming online worldwide, most of it is in clean energy and renewables. In the United States over the last year or so, all of it was renewables.
The conception that it’s too expensive is an old conception. Technology has improved. Our iPhones or smartphones are multimillion dollar super computers. From years ago, they were a couple $100. That same evolution is happening with clean energy technologies. Almost all of us can take some steps that would save us money in clean energy. The first thing is everyone’s on the spectrum. We’ve all done some things, some of us more than others. All of us are overwhelmed with keepers. This is a massive problem. “What the heck can I do about it?” The reality is there are some things you can do about it. We always should start with yourself personally. Your family and your household, take that little step that gives you a little sense of control and power because that’s a great place to begin.
What are those steps? How can we take responsibility?
Let’s take a look first at electricity. We all have electricity. It’s what powers up everything that we do. Some simple things you could do with electricity like a good chunk of what we spend electricity on is LED lighting or Light-Emitting Diode. If you have an incandescent light bulb in your house still, the way you touch it, it’s hot. The reason it’s hot is because 90% of the energy in that incandescent light bulb is producing heat, not light. An LED light bulb or Light-Emitting Diode, most of the energy is producing light. That’s why you can get the same amount of light out of an LED as you do out of an incandescent light bulb and save 80% or 90% of the energy because instead of wasting it as heat, you’re producing light.
The first simplest easy thing with electricity is change your lighting. Get LED lighting. If you’re not sure which white bulb to get, we have a little free handout that your folks will get when they come on to our website. It’s a little download that tells them how to pick out the right LED light for their particular situation. You’ll even get the chance to win an LED light fixture to have an opportunity to be part of a little sweepstakes for the show’s readers to come on. That’s a simple thing.
Second thing is on heating and cooling. One of the things that a lot of us don’t realize is that we have filters that keep some of the crap out of coming into the air. People sometimes don’t even realize that they have filters so they never change them or they don’t change them often enough. What happens when you don’t change those filters is it blocks the air from coming through. By blocking the air, that means that you got to have more energy going more time to get that same amount of volume of air coming through. Check your filters. Change those filters. It’s a simple, easy thing to do. That will help save you money as well as give you a better air and breathing environment. Those are two simple things you can do that are easy.
The third thing is on thermostats. If you don’t have a smart setback thermostat, if you don’t set your thermostat back every night and then change it when you get up during the day, the simple, easy thing to do that can knock 10% or more off of your heating and cooling bill is by changing the thermostat so that you change it a little bit when you’re going into sleep and change it when you’re up and around. Those are three simple, easy things that you can do that make a significant difference.The wind blows, the sun shines, and you get free energy. All we have to do is create the infrastructure and let nature do its thing. Click To Tweet
Why is this important to you, Ron? We’ve heard about clean energy. We’ve heard about this power and saving money saving tips. You’re passionate about it. I think there’s more for you to give us more tips and ideas that you have certainly want to hear about those. Why is this so important to you at this point?
It’s important to me for several reasons. On a personal basis, I have kids and I have grandkids. I’m concerned about the future of civilization and what we’re doing on a global level. If you take a look at what’s happening in the world, you look at the fires, the tornadoes, the hurricanes, the floods, the droughts and what’s the impacts of climate change, we are changing the climate. There is no denying it. If you believe in science and all of us that are reading this, it is science. That power is up, our phones, our internet, our computers, our cars and everything that exists in our buildings. Everything else is based on science. For me, science is real. You can’t deny the science. The science has proven that all of us collectively are basically had saturated the environment with carbon dioxide and other substances that are changing the climate.
We are having that impact and it’s coming back in various forms of nature activities that awes us. Clearly on a global level, that’s there. On an economic social and environment justice basis, when you take a look at the impacts that we’ve had over the years on various communities, what you see is that the communities that are most effected are the communities of people that are struggling in various different ways, shapes and forms. I have some kids and grandkids. Equity injustice is an important thing to everybody. In particular, it’s important to all of us that care about each other. The fascinating thing with these technologies is that where they have the most impact, where is that in those communities that most need to have the change? When you take a look at communities that are living near highways and byways, communities that are living near landfills and other forms of toxic substances, what you realize is that those communities are most impacted.
Take a look at people of color in various different communities around the country, what you find is that the asthma and cancer rates are up. They’re struggling not only with the environmental impacts of breathing, water supply and all those pieces but in addition, there are also impacts on the economy. The fascinating thing to me is that 3.4 million Americans work in clean energy jobs. People don’t realize that’s 3.5 times more people in clean energy jobs than in the entire fossil fuel industry. To give you a sense, the coal industry is 60,000 people. It’s great. We need to help them transition and make that transition. If we want to create prosperity in jobs, the people who most need the work can be employed doing the work that most needs to be done and it’s all in clean energy. We can create clean energy that creates jobs, improves our justice, makes things better for everybody and simultaneously creates the clean environment that we all need to breathe and live.
Help us make that connection. You mentioned quite a few things with the environment where people live and the impact that dirty energy, I’m going to call it in contrast to clean energy. Carbon energy has on people in those environments. I want to expound on that. I would like for you to explain the relation between clean energy and social justice.
First, in social and economic environmental justice, you look at people, where did we put our highways, where do we have toxic dumps, who lives near those situations? What you find is that primarily, a great percentage of them are people of color and that’s in a social, environmental and economic justice issue there. What happens in those areas is that when you live near a lot of highways, what happens is all that transportation, all those fossil fuels that we’re burning in our vehicles are spewing out into the environment that’s creating particulates and those particulates go right into people’s lungs.
In dense urban areas near highways, what you find is that asthma rates are significantly higher and lung cancer rates are significantly higher. When you take a look at it in addition, older building stock, which wind up being areas of social, environmental justice, you have oil burning equipment that produce a lot of particulates. That spew a lot of particulates into the environment, which makes breathing difficult. All of those impacts are having an effect. How does that effect on everybody?
We’re all in this together. That’s the first thing. Nobody can get away from it. You can’t go anywhere where you’re not being impacted anymore. The people who are most impacted are folks who are living in urban areas where they’re near highways and where they have older heating systems. We need to make that transition and we can make that transition. The first transition I believe that we need to make is ourselves individually, our communities and then our policies and government all across the board. There are three layers of this. First, for most people is to start. I think most people that I’ve met, I always feel like, “I want to do something but I don’t know what to do. I’m overwhelmed with this. I got too much else going on. I know it’s too expensive. How do I do this?” They don’t have those skills. That’s one of the things that I’m looking to provide, not only to the folks that I’ve consulted with on a corporate and government basis but to individuals who want to make a difference where they could become part of a small community of people that are figuring out what they can do and how to do it.
Whenever there is a highway installed, there’s a permit, hearings and all of these things that happen. That ultimately gets put in. If people are suffering from the negative environmental effects of a highway or building then that’s an issue that has to be taken up at a higher level of state government or some type of local government. Are you stating that there’s injustice with the existence of those buildings in certain places? I want to understand in your position because I want to understand what we can do to help support the change.
There’s injustice. There’s no doubt about it. The question becomes, “What do we do? How do we start the changes?” Here are a couple tidbits of information that are incredible from my perspective. When you take a look at the greenhouse gases and you take a look at air and other sources of pollution, energy is key, electricity, heating and transportation. All three of those, on a rough sense, it’s about a third of the climate greenhouse gases come from electricity generation, about a third comes from heating, about a third comes from transportation. On transportation alone, I’ll give a quick couple of things. Electric vehicles, which everyone thinks is so expensive. The fact of the matter is that you can get an electric vehicle no matter where you are. It’s just not Tesla anymore. Tesla led the way and Tesla definitely pushed everybody else to do it.
Every manufacturer has an electric vehicle. Whether you are preference with Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes, Porsche or any other vehicle that’s out there, any other manufacturer, they all have electric vehicles. They’ve all invested heavily in electric vehicles. Every major manufacturer is moving that way because several things happened. Instead of 2000 moving parts, burning fossil fuels and having explosions under your hood, what happens is you got twenty moving parts. It’s all Solid State Technology. It’s like our smartphones. The prices are coming down. Battery costs are coming down. With the federal incentives, state and local incentives, you can choose an electric vehicle that is comparable to any internal combustion vehicle and get better performance, have less maintenance, no oil changes and no transmission fluids. You can save money and it’s about half the price even with high electric costs, no matter where you are and half the price compared to gasoline.
There’s ability to save money on fuel, on maintenance and on upfront capital costs if you figure it out and you take a look at it. There are different strategies that different people use to do that depending upon their situation on whether they have access and are going to pay cash for their vehicle, going to borrow against the vehicle or they want to lease the vehicle. There are different ways of doing that but that’s about a third of the carbon. One piece is to transform our transportation system to electric vehicles. People think, “What about the charging? What do I have to do with the charging? Where am I going to charge this?” If you live in a single family home, the fascinating thing to me is that you take an electric vehicle. If you have the garage or some other place where you can plug it into a regular wall socket with 120 volts overnight, it gives you enough charge for 200 miles.
Ninety-eight percent of the trips that every American on the average takes is less than 50 miles. That means all of us that have a single family detached resident, if we have two cars or even one car that we do 98% of our trips with, plug it into the wall socket. You don’t have to worry about a charging station out there wherever. You plug it in overnight. That’s it. Don’t go to a gas station ever again. No oil changes, no transmission fluid. That’s it. You’re clean, you’re green and you’ve got a better performing vehicle than you would otherwise. If you live in a multi-family situation, it becomes a little bit different so then you have to make sure that you get a charging station wherever it is if you do have a car parked there.By shifting the current fossil-based fuel economy to a clean energy one, the country can save around $5 trillion. Click To Tweet
The next piece is a collaborative piece on the societal basis. We need to move our entire transportation system to electrification. If you live someplace that has subway, those are already electrified most of the time. Clean electric has been there in the subway and transportation systems in New York and also the bus systems. What you see around the country are various people coming together. There are these coalitions of folks that are concerned with clean energy and environmentalist, along with social and economic justice folks. I’m part of some around the Northeast. What we’re doing is we’re pressing to have the transportation system and the bus system be transferred over, not only on public buses but then on our kids’ school buses. These kids are sitting on buses that are spewing out nasty substances all day long as they’re riding these buses. It’s an impact on their health. It’s an impact on our collective health. We need to make this transition and we can.
There’s a whole range of interesting topics that we talk about on my show that starts to go into these technologies, what’s happening, where the costs are, what the transitions can be and some of the local state and national policies that we can put into place. On a national basis, it’s amazing because when you take a look at the statistics and you look at transferring over from our current fossil fuel-based economy to a clean energy economy, electricity, heating and transportation, it’s $5 trillion that we can save all of us as Americans in this country by making that transition. It’s already 3.4 million jobs. We can have a tremendous number of new jobs that are available. It’s economic opportunity. It’s an environmental opportunity. It’s job opportunities. If we do it right, we can provide people who most need the work with the work that most needs to be done in all these communities. It’s a tremendous opportunity all down in the waves.
This reminds me of pre-COVID. Let me create this landscape for you. On pre-COVID, we had the Zoom. We had the GoToMeeting. We had the Skype. We didn’t have Teams with Microsoft but we had a level of infrastructure available for telework, for a lot of video conferencing and things like that but companies weren’t using, except that they’re using them when COVID happened. Everybody’s using it and then Teams came out. Microsoft created Teams. Everyone’s using Teams. If we’re finding that this is better people and more productive, we’re more connected seemingly even though we’re not physically connected in space. We could have made the decision to do this before COVID. With the clean energy, based on the things that you’re telling me, the infrastructure is much available but there’s still hesitation to make the leap to do this hopefully nothing will have to happen that would force us to make that change. My question to you is why is there this hesitation for us to fully utilize the infrastructure, the tools, the technology that is available for us to experience clean energy?
I think there are a lot of things. A part of it is people are hesitant to change.
I feel like it’s more than that. I’m looking at the lights in my studio. They’re not LEDs. It seems like what I’m using is the best. You go look at some of this stuff. It doesn’t seem as bright enough. I don’t know. We come up with these stories we tell ourselves.
I think that’s part of it. These stories that we tell ourselves from whatever bias or history that we’ve had that we need to deal with. Look at the world. Look at it from a scientific basis. Look at the stuff that you know personally. Almost every one of us has lived through extreme weather events. I’ve lived through them. I think almost everybody I know has been part of a flood, a hurricane, a tornado, or a fire. We haven’t related it.
I’m not the cause of Katrina. I’m not the cause of this tornado. It’s nature.
Part of it is a shift in awareness. Take a look and realize, “Every time I turn on this incandescent light bulb that I got in my office and my home here, I’m helping to contribute to global climate stuff. If I add it all up and I documented, I got five tons of carbon that I’m responsible for putting into the environment every year. I had no clue that was my situation.” Part of it is awareness. Part of it is thinking, “The technology is not there.” The technology is there. You got to look sometimes. If you go into any retail store these days, Home Depot, Lowe’s or wherever else, they got LED lights. You can see what they look like. Do different comparisons between what you got and what want to have if you take a little time. Part of it is people don’t have time. That’s part of it too. We’re all on this.
It’s not up front and center. I think what we do is we reach for what’s upfront and say, “This is the most prevalent, common and most heavily used. The cheapest product at this time.”
It’s cheap. “I’m going to put it in. It’s going to last 1,000 hours. I’ll have to go out and get another one. I don’t think about it until I got to go get it then I got to go get another one.” You add it up. We don’t think in these cycles about first, how can we save some money doing stuff over the long-term? How is it going to save money on my electricity versus how much does it cost me first time? “You mean I can buy one LED light bulb. It will last me as long as ten incandescent light bulbs. I’m saving money by spending a little bit more. I can save money by not having to do ten of them over the next couple of years.” There’s a bunch of things that I think we the short-term perspective on that’s a natural human bias.
I’ll tell you. We are in an existential crisis. We have a short period of time to turn this around. You can see it every day. I see it every day. Anybody that’s taken a look at the fires, the droughts, the hurricanes, the tornadoes and all these other extreme weather events realizing that they’re getting more often and they’re getting more intense. If we don’t wake up from COVID, the fact that we’re so interconnected, our society is fragile and our lives are all fragile. I’m afraid. I think that fear needs to catalyze our actions to be able to take those steps individually and collectively to make this transition. If we don’t make the transition soon, we’re going to be made a different transition and it’s not going to be pretty.
What would you recommend? You gave some examples and those are some small yet highly effective examples of things we can do. Are there more impactful steps we can take?
First, the reason why I set up AWESomeEarthKind.com as a podcast, as a website and then also as a community is to let every individual who doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how to do it to have the opportunity to figure out and to get the information so that for yourself as individuals and yourself as a family, for your household, that you can take a next step individual. I think that’s always important because until we each take responsibility, we don’t get far. That’s one piece is taking individual responsibility. Whether you do it with me or do it by yourself, take a look at your electricity bill, your heating bill, your transportation bill and add it up. That bill is your dollar amount that you’re currently spending on energy and that is mostly your carbon footprint. The vast majority of your greenhouse gases are coming from those $3 sources.
First, take a look at those dollar sources and start to chip away with some way shape or fashion and each of them because you can save money, which would be great and you’re having a significant impact. That’s the first phase. Second phase is taking a look at your community wherever you are. Each of us lives in a different type of community, a different municipality and different situations. Some of us live in multi-family buildings. We’re a little community there. Some of us are single family residents and what’s going on in the neighborhood, a municipality or everywhere else. There are things that each of our municipalities can do that can make a real difference. For instance, in over 30 different municipalities, every new house that gets built, every new building has to be zero net energy. They decided as a community, “We’re going to build new structures.”
They’re not going to be the old technology anymore. They’re not going to be 200-year-old fossil fuel burning technology. They got to use state-of-the-art technology. If you do it and you do it right, you can save money on the construction cost or maybe a cost to a little bit more for the construction but you’re going to save so much money on the energy. The environmental impacts are going to be so worthwhile, plus the job impacts a tremendous, plus the equity impacts are fantastic. As a community, you can have on your local level, the ability to set those rules and set those parameters about what happens with new construction and then what happens with retrofits on existing construction. That’s the second piece.We as humans are not perfect beings, but every step that we take brings us closer to a better solution. Click To Tweet
The third piece is as a community as well. Take a look at what’s happening with your utility. The utilities and your entities involved with those utilities have programs and incentives that are there. What programs and incentives can you take advantage of individually? What can your community take advantage of? How do you systematically move things along? Here’s another example. People think that solar is expensive. It used to be expensive but it’s come down 99% in the last ten years. The prices have come down.
Solar is the cheapest form of energy. When you take a look at it, different utility territories have different rules, different operations and different incentives there. You have to take a look at yours. One thing is that if you want to do solar, you have an individual household and you have some ability to do it on your household, you can do it if you have capital and have a 10% or 20% return on your investment. If you have your own cash, you can do that.
The second best way is if you get a home equity loan. Not only can you do it and have yourself in the cashflow positive right from day one but then you also get additional tax benefits by being able to write off your home equity interest, which is another tax benefit that you layer in. Third, if you can’t do that, you got a lease. Most people have leases. You pay a monthly amount that is less than what your utility bill would be. You get that paid off all the time. A fourth way is if you don’t want to do that, another entity will come in. Third party financing, they’ll put it on your roof. You saved money from day one. You pay them per kilowatt hour like you would pay your utility but you pay them less. You’re saving some. You don’t save as much as if you own it or took a loan but that’s one way of doing it as a personal basis.
The next level is in many communities across the country, there is something called community solar. In community solar, anywhere in your utility territory, you can become part of a community solar project and save money from day one. In various places around the country, you sign up for community solar. It doesn’t shift anything. You don’t see any difference in terms of how it affects your performance. You still got your utility supply and stuff with your wires and everything else but you saved money from day one by signing up for that community solar project. The more of us that get signed up for these community solar projects, the more of us that promote these community solar projects, the more community solar that we have and then it starts to escalate from there.
First, do something yourself. The thing that they found about solar, it wasn’t the amount of money and education you have, it’s whether or not you knew somebody else that does solar. That’s the biggest indicator about whether people do solar is whether they know somebody else that does it. I think that’s part of it too. If we all do these little things and we share, “I did this. I got an LED light bulb. It wasn’t that difficult. I saved a pile of money. I had a positive impact. I feel good for myself and I feel good what I’m leaving the future generations.” That has a big impact. First, take a look at what you could do personally. Second, look at your local community, third, at your utilities and your state and then fourth, on a national basis and an international basis, there are policies in these programs. One of the things we all need to do is participate by voting. On that basis, we all need to participate in this democracy. Get out and vote for those people who stand for the things that we believe in. I got to tell you on my basis, I believe in clean energy. It’s a future. It needs to happen. It is something that we cannot fail out. Failure is not an option on this one. We need to do this. Failure is not an option.
Why don’t the utility companies stop producing fossil-derived energy? Why don’t the electric companies harvest solar energy and distribute that to all of its customers? Is it money? Help me understand why that’s not taking place. If it is, educate me. I think to some degree it is but I don’t think 100%.
It’s complicated. It’s complex. At some extent, it is and it depends partially on which utility, which state, under which regulatory regime. I’ll give you some examples. A lot of utilities are doing it. When you take a look at some of the biggest solar projects going on and around the country and you could Google it, you’ll see there are some utilities that are in back of it because the long-term power is the cheapest form of electricity. Instead of building a coal, a gas or any other kind of plant, an oil plant, they’re realizing that, “We can get the cheapest power from doing this long-term deal on solar. We’ve combined soil with batteries, it’s available 24/7.” It’s solar on demand or it’s wind on demand.
When you take a look at what is happening some utilities are doing it but part of it as well in different states and different utilities. They have old mindset. People are hesitant to change. They don’t know how to change. They don’t want to change. Part of it depends on whether you live in a regulated state or a deregulated utility state. Some utilities still own the generation where the power plant power is produced. They own the transmission. How that power then gets from those power plants transmitted through to the distribution, to those local pipes and wires that then distributed to all of us. In a regulated state, it is one way to approach it, generation, transmission distribution and things you can do in those kinds of states with those types of utilities.
In other states, New York and other ones, they’re deregulated, which means that you can choose your power provider, your generation source somebody else is responsible for transmission. The only thing your utility does is distribute that energy and you pay them for the distribution. Depending upon where you are, there’s little differences in how to approach each type of utility, what they’re responsible for and how they look at energy whether they’re responsible for generating it themselves or distributing it. How those incentives are set up and regulated by the different state entities that are there. It’s a little complicated but that’s why each of us has to take some amounts of personal responsibility for looking at our situation and figuring out what’s going to work where we are. It’s a little bit different depending upon which utility and which state and where you are at.
Are there any negative impacts from clean energy?
It’s like everything else. There’s nothing that’s perfect. When you take a look at the whole clean energy stream and you compare it to the fossil fuel stream, there are dramatic benefits and improvements. There are also some bad pots. Part of the thing that needs to be cleaned up in the clean energy industry is where we get the materials. Some are the earth materials and what happens there? There is no doubt about it. There’s also on the end side, what do you do with this when you’re done? There is the growing piece of recycling some of this equipment at the end of their useful life. A solar panel, interestingly enough, are guaranteed for 20 or 25 years, which is incredible. Most likely it’s going to produce energy for 50 years. That’s pretty good. You still get something out of it no matter where you are. There’d be a secondary market for people who don’t need quite as much power and the density as some of the urban areas to use it and keep using it for 50 years.
At some point though, there becomes the end of life. What do you do with that? Instead of dumping it in a landfill someplace, what we need to do it is take it apart and then reuse those components. We need to be conscious of those life cycle costs. Where are the materials coming from? How do we improve that? Grabbing those materials especially the earth elements that are there and how do we deal with the end of life on the recycling pieces of it. They’re all manageable and doable. There are solutions to it but we need to be cognizant of it and not do the simplest easiest thing, which is to throw it in the garbage and let it go to a landfill someplace and pollute somebody’s water supply.
There’s nothing that’s perfect out there. We humans are not perfect beings but every step that we take takes us closer to a better solution. By going to clean energy, the massive problems that we face, many of them go away. We start dealing with a longer-term reality where we realize that instead of burning fossil fuels that have been around for hundreds of millions of years of dead animals and everything else that are in fossils, we let the 1,000 times more energy that’s around us powered up the air, the wind blows, the water flows and the sunshine. That’s free energy once we have the infrastructure. We need to move to the infrastructure and that will be taking care of a lot of the problem.
How can people find out more about this? What they can do to support the transition and learn more about you?
It’s AWESome EarthKind. That’s you, me and forces of nature. EarthKind, that’s all human way. We look at it and it’s all women kind of mankind. That’s all earth kind. AWESomeEarthKind.com is the website. AWESome EarthKind is the podcast. It’s available on all the major podcast platforms. If this resonates with you, take a listen to the podcast, subscribe to us, rate and review us. That would be great. Come to the website, AWESomeEarthKind.com/gamechangermentality. There’s free info for you about how to do LED lights, about how to do some stuff around your household. That’ll be the opportunity to get into a sweepstakes for the show folks that can win an LED light bulb. You’ll also find out we’re doing these workshops webinars. In those webinars, we share some information and also the system that we’ve put into place that takes my years of experience and systematically lays out.
How do you analyze where you are so that you figure out, “How much am I spending on electricity, heat and transportation? What’s the strategy? How do I strategize from my situation? What I can do? What are the utility programs? What are the tax benefits? What are the other incentives I can take advantage of? How do I look at financing it? Doing it if I have cash?” If you don’t have cash, you take the tax benefits. “How do I analyze, strategize? How do I energize to take my next step to make an impact?” If you go beyond doing all that personally, the next level of that is what are the things that we can do in our communities and with other folks around my region, around your region to have an impact collectively on things like school buses, other mass transit, electric vehicles, charging stations, all the infrastructure that can be in there, the policies and programs that can create the incentives to make this transition happen. We need to make it happen. Let’s do it.
If we’re building new construction, does it make sense to only take a look at clean energy? Should we even consider a fossil energy anymore? What’s your thought about that?
If you take a look and you’re building a new structure, there is no doubt that you’d be out of your mind leaving money on the table if you don’t do it in a net zero perspective on clean energy. Here’s the reason why. Looking at electricity depending upon your roof structure and what roof you have, you can put the solar on your roof. It should build that into every structure that you do as long as you have access to sun. If you can’t do it on your roof, you can do it in a parking lot, which is fascinating. You take a look around. People are doing it over parking lots.
Why wouldn’t you do that in a parking lot? You’ve got covered parking, which is great. You can keep the elements makes total sense. You see colleges doing buildings. All buildings are doing it all monthly family bills. Anybody that’s got parking over that parking lot, they should put in solar over that parking lot so that you get energy out of that situation and protect the vehicles, keep them secure. You don’t get rain. You don’t get snow. You don’t get whatever heat and whatever else is pounding down on your vehicles. You got a covered solar to do your electricity.
Other places do it. They’re doing it on landfill. If we’ve got an old landfill that’s producing methane, capture that methane. Do something with the methane, which is what a lot of communities are doing. Cover that landfill with solar and you’ve got another source of electricity generation that’s clean, green and possible. That’s one piece. First, do solar everywhere you can. Second, in New York state to give you a sense, even though we got New York city in the number of urban areas, if we covered 3% of the land area in New York state, we could have all the electricity and energy that we need to do everything from electricity, to heating and cooling, to a whole transportation system with 3% of the land area. First solar electricity keeps makes sense. On the heating and cooling side is that one we don’t even realize. Do you have a heat pump, Rodney?
I know that.
If you got a refrigerator and freezer, that’s a heat pump. If you got an air-conditioner, that’s a heat pump. The next level beyond that is an air source heat pump. That’s a central air conditioning system but instead of producing cool air that takes the heat out of your house and puts cool into your house, in the winter you flip it around. There’s a little valve that flips around an air source heat pump. It creates heat. This technology has evolved to where it creates heat. It cost effectively down to minus fifteen. At the very least, if you’ve got an essential air-conditioner and you need to change it, you should change it out to an air source heat pump. That gives you heat as well as cooling. It’s more efficient. You save money again on both the cooling side and on your heating side. Air source heat pump is one place.
If you’re doing new construction and you’re mobilizing people already, you’re going to be digging up foundations and doing all that construction, you put in holes in the ground under your structure. Even if you want do it under your structure, people think about geothermal as being the least that you could do. If you put it under your structure so that you grill the holes when you’re doing the new construction, what they found across the world and we have people doing it all across the Northeast and elsewhere, is you can carry all the heat, all the cooling, all the hot water for a building up to 30 stories with a 500 foot well. How cool is that? You’ve got the power of the earth with 55 degrees.
Generally in most part of the country, that’s what’s found there. You take 55 degrees. You put a fluid down. You bring it back up. You exchange the heat with a little blower across a coil. What you have is 55 degrees that either you can use as your cooling, little additional cooling that you have to do when you’ve got 55 degrees to begin with. In any place, you need the cool 55 degrees. It’s pretty cool. If you’ve got to heat up to 70, you’re only going 15 degrees instead of from 0, 30 or wherever you’re at. You have the power of the earth that makes the most efficient form. Every unit of energy you put in, you get 4 to 5 times more energy out with the heating and cooling by putting in one unit of a clean electricity compared to the heating and cooling. If you’re doing new construction, geothermal makes sense. To give you a sense in a retrofit, everybody’s heard of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. You ever heard of that little monument?
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, they were looking at creek, changing out the heating and cooling system. They realized that geothermal was the most cost effective way. They went down 2,000 feet under Manhattan. They drill holes. They have heating and cooling in St Patrick’s that provides all their heating and cooling with geothermal that was under Manhattan. If they could do it in Manhattan with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a historical structure, we can do it anywhere. Heating and cooling, that’s the next step for everybody, for sure. New construction makes total sense.
If you’re building new construction, build in a charging station. The level of charging stations that’s level one is 110, 120 volts. That’s what we all use for all our general day-to-day needs. That’s the regular one. You can plug in a wall socket. Level two is what you do with an electric stove or an electric dryer. That’s 220, 240 volt. That gives you the same amount of charge at about five hours instead of overnight. You’ve got the ability to do stuff faster. Build in a level two charging stations for your vehicles.
If you have solar powering your heating, cooling and your transportation, you’re 99% of the way there in terms of being fossil fuel free. When you look at your costs, the lifetime savings are dramatic compared to spending money on oil, gas or any other fossil fuel and spending it on gasoline for your transportation. New construction, it’s a no brainer. You should take a look at it. If you can’t figure it out, give a call or drop a note, stop by AWESomeEarthKind.com. We’ll be happy to help you figure it out. We’ll set in place whatever you need to be able to do it. No matter where you are, new construction is a no brainer. Retrofits are possible depending upon your situation and what you’re competing against to have cost-effective, saved money from day one, saved money lifetime, have a positive impact, make your grandchildren proud and leave a legacy.
Ron, thank you for coming on the show and sharing all that valuable insight and knowledge on how we can experience clean energy. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing, Rodney. Keep up the great work. I hope we can have a long game changing fruitful activity going on. Clean energy has got to be a piece of it. Failure is not an option on this one. We’ve got to make this transition. By doing it, we can not only have a legacy for our kids, we can not only save civilization but we can save some money doing it, create jobs and justice along the way. It’s a win-win. Thanks so much, Rodney.
Thank you. Yes, sir.
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About Ron Kamen
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