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Me and DTE and Big Data – now what?

26 May 2015

imageEarlier this year, DTE offered us an app which would help us manage our energy usage.  Last week, a box labelled “DTE Insight” arrived at our home.  DTE Insight is supposed to “put home energy usage data at our fingertips” and give us real time energy data usage.  

As the parent of a recent high school graduate interested in statistics, I hear a lot about “big data” and “informatics” and how the processing and analysis of data will change our lives. While it is interesting, the DTE app and “bridge” have not been a revelation. I still know that lights need to be turned off, and appliances unplugged.  

While putting a number to how much electricity each item in my house is using is cool, I’m not sure that having “snapshots” of this information will change my use or that I want to take the time to compare and contrast or to evaluate each individual bit of data as to each appliance (I suppose if each item had a meter scrolling on it….).  Instead, I expect I will continue to turn the lights off and read outside in the daylight, and keep telling my kids to turn off the lights and the TV when they leave a room.

While I see the value for large energy users, I’m not sure that knowing how much each lamp is costing me in real time is going to change my behavior. Maybe someone can show me how they are using it to become more energy efficient?

“Free” Energy Efficiency Funds Available to Michigan Small Businesses

17 Apr 2014

 The Michigan Energy Office recently announced a grant program where they will match building owner (private and non-profit) funds of between $5,000 and $20,000 for energy efficiency projects.  Any small business or private nonprofit organization with fewer than 100 employees statewide that owns a commercial building in Michigan is eligible to apply.

 There is a process with written and oral presentations and the goals are to improve energy efficiency by 20% or more through each funded project and to cause funds to be reinvested based on savings.  This may make some smaller private projects that have been sitting on the shelf awaiting funding viable.

You will need an itemized budget and budget narrative and be able to justify the expense and the savings you expect as well as jump through a number of other “hoops.”  Please let me know if you’d like more information about the program.

Electricity “shaming” comes to Detroit?

21 Oct 2013

My first energy “report card”

About 20 months ago, I blogged about a friend in Palo Alto who had received a summary comparing her electric use to her neighbors and last summer my house got a smart meter with the promise that, at some point, we were going to get access to our energy usage information via the Internet “to better manage my energy costs.”

Well, that day has arrived (sort of) and, frankly, I don’t have the tools to manage my costs but now I feel like an underachiever.

Our “energy report card” came in the mail and you can see, my family is somewhere in the middle when compared to my more efficient and less efficient neighbors.  Apparently, if we only could have matched the efficient neighbors, we’d have saved over $400 last year.  That sounds nice, but other than giving me three canned suggestions (or did they know we have an old basement fridge?), I’m not sure knowing how my usage compares really does for me.

Despite all the LED bulbs I’ve replaced (and I still have plenty of incandescents I’m waiting on to burn out), insulation, a new fridge and microwave and dishwasher, and timers, I  still need to invest more time and money in energy efficient appliances and use them more intelligently – no meter is going to remind my family to turn off the lights when we leave a room or not stand with the fridge open. It is the human element that needs to get smarter.

Thus far, I just feel like my neighbors are looking at me and saying, “he’s the one who leaves his porch lights on all night – D+!”  What about you? Did you get one of these? what are you doing with the information?

And they say it couldnt happen here. Due diligence – part one.

16 Jul 2013

Often, we hear clients say, “Well, sure contamination is a risk with property used in the 1940’s or even the 1960’s but it isn’t happening today.”  I think of A Civil Action which talks about tannery wastes dating back to the early 1800’s.   The movie, Erin Brockovitch dealt with contamination caused in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Due diligence isn’t as important on a property of recent vintage, right?

A recent story from San Francisco and stories from Delaware and from North Carolina indicate that just isn’t so.  As you can see, homeowners and employees are still learning about exposures to a known carcinogen which was used as an industrial degreaser and solvent for years.

The lesson that the business community should take away from this is – environmental due diligence is not a do-it-yourself proposition.  Any businessperson looking to buy or lease any property should ask their attorney to:

1. help hire the environmental consultant to be sure she is getting what she needs; and

2. read the environmental reports and discuss them with the consultant to be sure that she got what she needed.

Any proper environmental phase I is going to look not only at the past use of the property in question but also the current and past use of the surrounding area.  In the coming weeks, we will summarize how this process works; what is and is not included in it and how best to maximize its use.