10,000 Years of Home Comfort | Matt Grocoff | Talks at Google

MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us today to close out our Earth Week with Matt Grocoff, our special guest Matt and I actually met via a tour of his home, which is kind of weird But he has America’s oldest and Michigan’s first net zero energy home And articles about this home have been featured in “USA Today” and “The Atlantic” and numerous other publications Matt is the founding principal of THRIVE Net Zero Energy Consulting Collaborative and the co-founder of Mission Zero Fest And he is an advocate and thought leader on net zero energy building and restorative design So Matt, thanks for being here MATT GROCOFF: This is great, because this is actually the first talk that I’ve gotten to do here Happy first day of spring It comes a little bit later here in Michigan But speaking of spring and temperature and comfort and everything else, we don’t measure our lives in stuff, right? We measure our lives in love, in happiness But comfort is that tool that we use, that zone that we want to put ourselves into in order to provide us that space for love and happiness and joy and friendship and family, and all those other wonderful things that we do measure our lives in But about 10,000 years ago was the first time it became off of the savanna, out from, literally from the treetops, out of caves, places where we were trying to find shelter, and started building our own shelter from other things Only for about 10,000 years So originally, we went around the camp fires and we stayed warm They wouldn’t even sleep 8 hours through the night They would wake up in the middle of the night, dance around the fire to entertain themselves Now we’ve really tried to capitalize ourselves with comfort as much as we possibly can So we’ve got ourselves now we’re entertaining ourselves with the Harlem shake, with Gangnam style We have– originally, we’re pooping out by the tree and now in the outhouse Then we brought in the chamber pot But that obviously wasn’t the real way to go, so we started using indoor toilets, indoor plumbing So we have these things that are flushing 15 gallons of fresh water down the drain But that’s still not enough comfort Because if you’re the toilet trained cat owner, you’ve got to have one for your cat, as well Now for you [INAUDIBLE] out there, this is the ultimate convenience for the toilet trained cat owner I’m assuming they’re talking about the cat, not the owner But here, if you’ve got your own elephant, you gotta have a toilet for that, too It’s not enough just for the indoor animals We can’t serve our own coffee anymore or cut our own hot dogs This one here is my own favorite This is really the symbol of the end of time, as far as I’m concerned This is the proof of the over capitalization of comfort I can’t make this stuff up It’s real You can look this up on Amazon There’s over 2,000 reviews of this product, the Hutzler 571B I think B is for banana, but I’m not sure $2.48 on Amazon And these are real These are reviews Here’s one from Miss Toledo She raves, “this saved my marriage What can I say about the 571B that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin or the iPhone?” And now we’re starting see the consequences of some of this, what I call the over capitalization of comfort This is the number 350 This is parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere This is what Bill McKibben calls the most important number in the world that everybody should know And the reason he says that is because James Hansen determined that above this number, parts per million in the atmosphere, if we keep it above this level for a significant period of time, we can’t sustain the biosphere to which humans have adapted over these 10,000 years We can’t sustain wildlife or any of the living things that adapted to this kind of climate But this is the number that I think is the most important number, zero That’s zero carbon pollution going up into the atmosphere Because this is the number that we can impact in our daily lives every day This is the number we can impact at home 350 is for the scientists Zero carbon emissions out of your office place, from your automobiles, from your homes, completely decarbonizing our economy down to zero carbon going up into the atmosphere, that’s our ultimate goal, and that’s something that we can impact every single day James Hansen gave us that number, 350 He says that stabilizing atmospheric CO2 and climate requires that CO2 emissions approach zero Now this is from a scientific paper They didn’t say it’s a suggestion, they said it’s a requirement It’s a whole lot easier to change the way we use energy than it is to change the laws of physics It is a physical law, a requirement that we have to get to zero carbon emissions

So this is our house Over here on the old West Side in Ann Arbor This picture was taken probably in about 1912 Our house was built in 1901 Since we’ve done a little bit of work to the house, it’s gotten a lot of attention We were in USA Today It was called one of the top greenhouses of 2010 The Atlantic called it sustainable perfection I’m getting calls from around the country for people to– they call me the zero energy master It sounds very dominating I kind of like the term And so I spoke at the World Renewable Energy Forum at Greenbuild and Living Futures Conference next month, and at Google And people are saying, what did you do to this house? How could you get this 112-year-old house to net zero energy? And it’s a really simple story that goes back to 2006, when my wife and I were thinking it might be a really good time to buy a house And the market is going crazy If we buy a house now, imagine what it’s going to be like in 2008 [LAUGHTER] And then we heard on the radio– and this was a true story This was the catalyst We heard that Google was bringing 1,000 new employees to town And my wife called me She said, did you just hear on NPR? Google is coming to town They’re bringing 1,000 employees We’ve got to buy a house now There’s all these people coming from California They don’t know what houses are worth! So this is the house we bought And I’m pointing at the computer, not at the screen This was the house This was our dream house We went in and buy this thing on a July afternoon and said, that is the house we want to live in It’s got everything we could ever want It’s got plywood front porch, asbestos siding, zero insulation in the entire house, except for a layer of newspaper dated 1902 We had lead paint, which everybody wants We had no operable windows, which was really fun Even though they weren’t operable, and you can see some of the little sash locks here are missing, you could still stick a spatula or a screwdriver right through that hole And there was plenty of air going through it, so we weren’t worried about suffocating in the house We had carpet covering hard pine floors that were from trees that were harvested 112 years ago and were probably growing at the time Christopher Columbus sailed for the Americas Certainly worth putting carpet over This was a refrigerator from 1989 inside the kitchen, with the linoleum floors This was the bathroom, with the toilet that flushed 5 gallons every time So we took this much waste and turned it into this much wast And my favorite part of that bathroom, though, is the pink towel curtains sewed together This house didn’t have a shower at the time This was the only bath This was one of only two rooms in the house that had running water in it when we brought in 2006 It did have genuine Formica tile A few times I made the mistake of saying it was fake But no, it’s real Formica The sink was flowing at two or three gallons a minute, two-and-a-half, three gallons a minute This is the Mueller Climatrol furnace from 1957 A little white tag on there shows the date of installation and some inspections that were done over the years This thing operated, it was about 40% efficiency 60% of it was just donations to the utility company And for the privilege of paying that $350 a month to the utility company to run this thing, we got to sleep with two down comforters, fully clothed in sweat pants, sweatshirts, socks and a buckwheat pillow heated up in the microwave and shoved down at the bottom of the bed Barely, barely comfortable, at that So we wanted to create a vision for what we wanted this house to be Because I was a little upset when my mom came into the house and she didn’t just get blown away right away when she saw the asbestos siding and the carbon on the floor I was like, so, what do you think? Check out our new house Really upset with my Jewish mother and she’s like– what, nothing? You’re not going to say a word about the house? It’ll look nice when it’s done What do you mean? It’s beautiful Look at– So we did have a vision Yogi Berra said that if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there And there’s a gentleman in town you might have heard of, Ari Weinzweig, who owns Zimmerman’s Deli, a little $45 million company They talk a lot about vision And he says, vision is not the how Vision is the what And as Sir Mix-a-Lot once said, I like big whats and I cannot lie You want the biggest what you can possibly find Then we figure out how to do it And it was one of the Googlers, either Larry Page or some of the other guys who talks about 10 times versus the 10 percent gain So we wanted to go big We wanted to go to this number here We wanted zero carbon emissions out of a century old house And having no idea that it was impossible But that’s why we knew it was possible This guy over here, from another computer company, he was asked, if he had one wish, what would it be? And he didn’t say, hey, I’d pick the next President of the United States, or I’d bring world peace, or I would come up with a vaccine for malaria

That’s what the Gates Foundation does He didn’t say that He said, instead, that he would reduce global emissions to zero Because we recognized that if we don’t get to that goal of zero carbon emissions, there’s no use in trying to cure diseases or elect the Presidents And there’s a whole bunch of folks jumping on board This small company out of Arkansas, [INAUDIBLE] out in California, and the US Army, all have these mission zero goals of getting to zero carbon emissions from their company, and then some Ultimately, they can be restorative companies So we figured if Walmart could do it, then we could, too So we hired as cheap as laborer as we possibly could, ourselves And we targeted our own mission zero, making the house 100% harvesting our own energy, harvesting all of our own water, creating zero waste And then not only eliminating the harm we’re causing to the community and to the environment around the home, but actually restoring the environment around the home, and actually seeing what we can do to make this a restorative home And we’re on that path towards it now Because we have the ideal as the indicator of success And this the ideal That’s my daughter, Jane She’s four years old now She’s the first generation that will never know what it’s like to grow up in a carbon polluting home She has no idea Because this is the home that she’s getting to grow up in This is the house in 1913 This is Philip and Elizabeth Gouse We bought the house from Gert in 2006 So we’re really the second family to own this house This is the backyard You can see the coal underneath covered with soot, and some of the grape vines they used later during Prohibition And this is 7th Street These are the hydrangeas that are still on the side of our house This is Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, over at the corner of Washington and [INAUDIBLE] Street It was just shortly after this photograph was taken, it became the Philip Gouse Saloon So he would walk out the front door to serve beer to customers over 100 years ago, to the same place that we now go to get beer and French fries But what makes this photograph unique, and the reason it was taken, was this was the day where the Gouse family didn’t have to burn things themselves for their own energy They could flip a light switch, and they would get electricity delivered to their house, with carbon burning somewhere else that they no longer had to see First time in human history that this had ever happened, as soon as we started remotely supplying electricity to homes So Wendell Berry says, when going back make sense, we move forward So we really want to take a look back at what was done right back in the day Now historic preservationists love to say that old buildings are the greenest buildings around And there’s some truth to that They certainly did recognize the patterns of nature You could look at our backyard Again, this is 1915 That’s Robert again in our backyard And you can see some of the things where this house was net zero water when the Gouses’ lived in it This is the cistern cap over here Over to the far right, you could see the well water, where they’d bring in a little fresh water that they needed for the house, to fill up the bath tub or to cook with All the rain water fell off of the roof into the cistern that was used for the gardens, the vegetable gardens in the backyard So a good percentage of their food, up until the 1940’s, about 40% of produce in America was grown in people’s yards Back there, there were chicken coops In the 1950’s, they started making chickens illegal They’re legal again now We have a few in our backyard Then there was a dog house back there for Fido Now Fido’s job was to guard the chickens from the foxes and things that ran around the Old West Side of Ann Arbor The foxes are long gone But they did have the composting toilet, also known as the outhouse So a couple of these things are wonderful to go back to Natural ventilation, harvesting food from our own property, capturing our water, things like that And certainly, composting toilets But that’s probably not the best design I think we could probably do better than that But that these households were perfect is really the myth of the noble house Because the Gouses’ were burning about 1,200 pounds of coal to cook and heat with every single month That’s about 100 pounds of ash alone That’s not a way we’re going to go back to heating or cooking Our streams and our rivers were turned into sewers There were so polluted with chemicals and everything else from all the industrial processes that were going in in Ann Arbor, heavy metal, sewage, you name it, was going straight into the creeks, that in the 1930’s we decided, hey we have the engineering capability of just turning

these natural services into actual sewers And now they’re buried in a concrete pipe And throughout Ann Arbor, just about every one of us every day walks across one of these creeks, without ever knowing that it’s ever existed One of them runs right next door to our house This is the Allen Creek, as it goes underneath Washington Street, right by the YMCA It’s buried under a pipe Before the Gouses’ in the 1700’s, early 1800 ‘s, the primary fuel for cooking and heating was wood Now humans are the only species on earth that have ever burned anything for our own comfort and survival So wood was plentiful In 1799, they wrote that Michigan had inexhaustible hard pine forests, inexhaustible No way you could possibly use it all The canopy of the trees was so thick and dense, they said a squirrel could hop across the canopy from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan all the way down to Northern Florida without ever touching the ground That’s how thick the forests of the East Coast of the United States were But by 1890, this is about how much wood each house was burning at the time, 15 to 20 cord of wood So to give you an idea, that’s 4 feet wide, 16 feet high, up to the top of these ceilings, and the entire width of this hall here Every single home was burning that, just to cook and heat with So by 1890, this was Hermanville, Michigan We had exhausted 95% of all of the forest cover in the state of Michigan in less than 100 years That was before the population of the world had hit 1 billion people So we can’t go back to– I was in a farmer’s market and somebody was selling kale And this guy with dreadlocks said to me, hey, well, we can just go back to living in yurts And I’m like, well, how are you going to heat 130 million yurts in the US? That’s not really a sustainable solution either We can do better than that Lighting Every neighborhood, every city had a place where you could in and buy any kind of liquid that burned, really You had lard oil, camphor, kerosene, whale oil If it was liquid and it burned, they sold it And this is how we lit our homes And I think it’s coming up pretty soon, they call it Earth Hour Earth Hour is where around the globe, we want to bring awareness to the amount of electricity we use And so they have everyone just turn off their lights They turn off the lights that illuminate the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building in New York And everyone gets together and has these really intimate meals We all light candles to put focus on the attention of how much energy we’re using So some enterprising young graduate student decided, well, how much CO2 comes out of a paraffin candle? Can we go back away from the light bulb to the paraffin candle to light our way at night ? And he figured out that the paraffin candle uses 10 times the amount of CO2 of an incandescent light bulb per lumen So we’re not going back to that, either And this is what our electric lights look like at night from space Somebody said once, it looks like the planet’s on fire And in a way, it is Because we’re actually digging up these 100 millions of years of stored solar energy and burning them for electricity, and setting all the particulate matter and all that carbon that was stored in the ground up into the atmosphere And that number rises every single day So here’s the challenge We’ve got 130 million existing homes in America already here So California has said, look, if we’re going to do this, then all new homes from now on, starting about the 2020 Energy Code, they have to be net zero energy And that’s incredibly ambitious And it’s necessary And it’s a wonderful thing they’re doing But if you really think about it, if all new homes and all new buildings are net zero energy They don’t emit a single bit of carbon pollution for their entire life, starting this afternoon, everything new, zero emissions How much does that lower our current carbon output? And the answer is zero We have to do something with the existing building stock So is that really possible? Well, Amory Lovins says if it exists, it must be possible So let me show you what exists These are the numbers from our house The slide’s a little bit outdated This is from October, 2011 through 2012 So this a year’s worth of energy data for our house

On the roof of our house, we produce 95 kilowatt hours of solar We used about 7,500 kilowatts, and we put 2,000 kilowatts back onto the grid, that we weren’t even using This is what a typical energy bill looks like in our house, minus the $8 a month, give or take Sometimes it’s more than that Sometimes it’s in the 100’s, sometimes a little bit less than that So we did some math, and we figured that over 30 years, the life of our mortgage– people go into the house, they know exactly how much taxes they’re going to pay, they know how much the mortgage is going to be And I’ll even give you a chart when you get your loan, what are you going to spend over 30 years with all of that interest But nobody says, what am I going to spend over 30 years to run this house? And this is the number that we came up with, $283,000 of shift in energy costs for us over 30 years Now in fairness, that’s at 7% energy inflation And the coal industry say, well, it’s only going to be 4.3% So if we split the difference, we’re still talking about $234,000 energy swing for us So net zero energy has gotten the financial thumbs up But the coal industry is right And they’ll say, well, look, that’s not fair to say 7%, because we have no idea what the price of energy is going to be like in the future And that’s exactly the point There’s no commodity trader on the planet, not the best ones out there, that will know that in 20 minutes at the close of the Commodity Exchange today, how much the raw cost of coal or petroleum or natural gas is going to be They don’t know it today, tomorrow, five days from now No idea They might get an approximation, but they’ll never get the number right But any 5-year-old can tell you exactly what the raw cost of solar energy or wind energy is going to be 10,000 years from now The only difference in cost is the cost of building the power plant So here’s how you do it It’s a pretty simple formula You lose less, you use less, and then you produce all the energy that you need And what you do is you really try to optimize your comfort Because when we first moved in, and people started writing about our house and the work we were doing, everyone immediately assumed, clearly, they’re hippies bathing in their pasta water This is– [LAUGHTER] But as it turns out, we invite over 1,000 people a year to come through our house And we show them, we have all the same appliances that everybody else has The difference is that they’re always the most efficient appliances, and we control them So right now, our home, I can tell you, without even looking– and I have a little app for that– exactly how much energy we’re using And it’s probably less than 200 watts right now, less than a few of these light bulbs in this room Our entire house is operating off of that right now, because nobody’s home That little thing over there on the corner, that is the one old thing that we still have That was my clock radio that I bought in law school in 1992 And just plugging that in, doing a little math on it, I realized that actually uses more energy throughout the year than the TV set up on the upper right corner So it’s not about sacrificing, saying you can’t watch Gangnam Style on your YouTube, on your smart TV anymore You got to replace the little clock radios and you’ve got to make everything else more efficient, and get better stuff, a little bit more comfort, and you control them to where they’re only using electricity when they’re delivering you a service And that’s the real challenge Lighting You can get the most efficient light bulbs in the world But the best thing you can do is harvest daylight for free It’s better lighting, and there’s not much to it Our house is an old house, so it was built to harvest as much natural daylight as possible without light bulbs Thermostats The world is changing A couple of guys left Apple, the guys, in fact, from the team who created the iPod and the iPhone, left Apple– that was the time to sell your Apple stock– and said they don’t want to make toys anymore So they made that product over on the right side That’s the NEST And actually, Google is a huge investor in the NEST Because they realizes that this little product, with an algorithm that knows the outdoor temperature, indoor temperature, humidity, indoor and outdoors, and it can optimize exactly when you need it to be the temperature that you need it So at 7 o’clock, when your programmable thermostat kicks up to 70 degrees and starts to work, this one will have it at 70 degrees Because at 4 in the morning, it knows it’s 20 degrees outside I need to turn on the heat right now And at 7 o’clock, it’s going to be exactly the temperature you want it to be So you’ve optimized your comfort, but you’ve used as little energy as possible Because the next day, when it’s 30 degrees, just five degrees warmer, it might kick on 15 minutes later, because it knows that And it’s going to know exactly what time to kick on to keep you optimally comfortable So these little tiny devices that are $200, $250, can save huge amounts of energy You can imagine what happens when you put these

into 130 million homes Lighting If there’s a light bulb on in an unoccupied room, you’re paying 100% of the cost, but you’re getting zero benefit Who does that? That’s like leasing a car that you never get to use So California requires all new homes to have occupancy sensors in all the lights And every switch in our home has a sensor Our lives are so much easier, because of it We don’t have to worry about turning lights off when we go out of the kitchen carrying loads of stuff, or going down to the basement with a load of laundry They’ll turn off for us And I don’t have to teach my 4-year-old, go back and turn off the lights She knows how to turn off the lights But if she doesn’t, that’s OK They’re going to turn off by themselves The light bulbs that we put in, we make sure are the most efficient ones available The incandescent light bulb, we won’t talk about it anymore, because it’s infinitely more expensive than the other two options The one in the middle is actually what I call the 8-track cassette of lighting, because that thing’s going to be gone within a couple of years On the right side, that’s already the most affordable light bulb on the planet Because over the life cycle of that light bulb, although it costs $15, the energy you’re going to spend on it, and it’s going to last you in a home over 20, 25 years, a single light bulb It ends up being the cheapest bulb on the planet And you can get them at Home Depot, Lowe’s, any store right now And the prices are coming down every day But the biggest place that we’re losing energy and we’re really getting screwed is in the shower Now I know what you’re thinking, you shouldn’t be using electricity in the shower, anyway But you are That’s all hot water in there So by replacing shower heads with the most optimized water-sense certified, really efficient shower heads, like they’re using at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where instead of using 2.5 gallons a minute, you’re using 1.5 gallons a minute of water, a family of four is now saving 16,000 gallons of hot water just by changing a little $40 device And that’s all energy So the appliances in the house Right now, and that’s actually the stove we have Hopefully, we’re going to be changing this out very quickly, in the next couple of weeks That gas stove operates at 45% efficiency It’s got three pilot lights on it that actually cost us more energy than cooking throughout the year It’s from 1969 It’s totally bad ass It looks really cool But if we replace it with this even bad ass-er looking unit– wait a minute Oh, my God It’s gone No, it’s still there This is an induction cook top Sadly, this one model is only available in the UK right now But the induction cook top operates at 95% efficiency and will use electricity without burning any carbon at all Then we upgrade the water tanks We get the most efficient water tanks And now that we’re all- electric family, Ford decided, hey, we’re going to roll out an all-electric vehicle We’re going to introduce the all-American family They put my wife and I in the centerfold And no jokes about being a centerfold That’s my daughter you’re talking about Now Ford’s going to be a little upset with the next photograph Because that’s the Chevy Volt that we got a few months later So we’re using some of that excess energy to dump into the Volt, where that red arrow is, that’s our electric charging station And right at that moment, it’s drawing power directly off of the solar panels on the roof and filling up with tanks of sunshine right into the car So then we restored all of our own windows We tightened them up as much as possible We did apply for historic preservation tax credits, which meant we had to keep the historic integrity of the house It was not a gut rehab We only put R-13 in the walls And for the non-building geeks, that’s not much It’s not even what current code is But that’s what could fit into the wall So we just put dense packed cellulose into the wall We put minimal insulation, actually, by modern standards, into the attic But we made sure the attic was sealed really well, so we got little air leakage And then, because the house became so tight with the new insulated windows that we were able to weatherstrip the old windows and restore the old ones, rather than replacing them with new materials The house was so tight that we actually went below the standards where you’re required to have mechanical ventilation when the windows are closed So in the attic, we also have an energy recovery ventilator Then in the ground we dug three wells, which you use for a heat exchange for our geothermal system And we have the most efficient heating and cooling system on the planet And then, we put a bunch of solar panels on the roof And we powered nuclear power, but we made sure we put the nuclear power plant 93 million miles away And that’s the only downside, we powered it wirelessly So let’s go back to some of this math that we started with at the beginning 290, that’s the parts per million in the atmosphere for 800,000 years of human history, until about 1751, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution And just about that time, where we start discovering coal and steam engines and everything else,

that number starts to tick up, starts to go above 290 parts per million for the first time in over 800,000 years This is the number, again, that James Hansen says we need to stay under if we’re going to stabilize the planet This is the number where we’re hit yesterday, 398 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere And they’re concerned that it will probably hit 400 by May of this year That correlates to a 1 degree global temperature average Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution So in 100 years, we’ve raised the global temperature, on average, about 1 degree It doesn’t sound like much But to put that in perspective, negative 1 degree Celsius gave us the Ice Age So negative 1 degree gives us the Ice Age And this is what a positive 1 degree gives us PricewaterhouseCoopers is a consulting firm out of the UK Again, not a bunch of hippies bathing in their pasta water, a bunch of conservative, suited business folks who are trying to provide the best data they can to their clients about what they need to be looking for moving forward and what they need to expect, and how they need to change the way they do business And so the numbers they looked at, they said, look, if we’re really going to decarbonize and stay below 450 parts per million, which they say is really the cap You should be at a level below 350, but let’s stay at least below 450, because we’re headed there, that we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 5.1% every single year through the year 2050 Now sadly, from 2010 and 2011, we were only doing that by about 0.7% decline each year that we were reducing our carbon intensity So they did a little study, and they just assumed, all right, let’s say we just do 1.6% reduction of carbon intensity every single year, where will we be by the year 2050? And that’s the number they came up with That’s my daughter Jane She’ll be 42 in the year 2050 Little baby Andrew, who you just saw in the back, will be 37 We know how to do the right thing We know what is possible Google is doing it The US Army is doing it Even Walmart is doing it But we don’t have a lot of time to get there We’ve got to get this right The margin for error here is slim Bill Bryson, in his latest book, “At Home,” said that the greatest possible irony would be that our endless quest to fill our lives with comfort and happiness that we created a world that had neither But I really think that it’s a false choice It’s not a choice between comfort and happiness, nor decarbonization Because the reality is that when we do these things, we really decide what are the things that make us happy? Love, friendship, family, growing your own food, the satisfaction of eating a tomato off the vine, riding your bike, being outdoors, picnicking, these little things, if we really pay attention to those things, rather than just over consumption and waste, those are the things that truly make us happy, that that’s the path that we need to be on Bloomberg did a little calculation, rising that there’s enough rooftops in America, just on residential homes, to power all of our current electricity needs With no further reduction, no efficiency gains, there’s enough rooftop space to give us all the electricity that we need Now that’s just electricity But here’s a project that I’m working on up in Travers City That’s a Habitat for Humanity project Affordable housing 10 homes that will be net zero energy So we’re proving across the country that net zero houses and net zero buildings are available and possible in every single size, in every single climate, and in every single price range This is another home here in Ann Arbor that we’re working on, a 1949 ranch house that will be net zero energy This is a building in San Francisco, the Exploratorium Science Museum

They’ve just restored an old pier down by the wharf that is 300,000 square feet and will be net zero energy And then we’re taking our home even one step further and working with students at the University of Michigan BLUElab to have the house certified as part of the Living Buildings Challenge, which will mean that the house will be able to harvest all of its own water, all of its own energy, have zero waste, and be restorative to the community And there’s a building out in Seattle that was just moved into This is the Bullet Center office building, over 50,000 square feet Again, harvest all its own energy, water and manage all of its own waste And these are buildings that are getting more comfortable and restorative And the exciting thing is, is that if we can do this right here, in Michigan, then anybody can do it And if anybody can do it, that means everybody can do it And that includes you Thanks for having me here [APPLAUSE] MATT GROCOFF: Sure Yeah, yeah Just know that the longer you take for questions, the less time I have to get out to Lake Michigan and go sailing Yeah AUDIENCE: So a lot of the– you talked about a [INAUDIBLE] America Western European countries maybe over the last decade, there have been a lot of subsidies to do retro fits of various types of commercial and residential facilities, with solar energy and things like that Is there any way of calculating how impactful that’s been, how beneficial that’s been, and whether that model works here? How much do you know about how feasible it is to make the rooftops– MATT GROCOFF: Yeah Well, one of the things they’ve done in Germany is that they really democratized the grid As free as we are in this country, we don’t get to own our own energy Because a century ago, we decided that whoever was going to make that grid, it was going to be at great expense So just like the railroads, we gave them monopolies And we’ve been trying to figure out how to manage that ever since So we have this really old, outdated grid system of electricity that’s like a Christmas tree If one part goes out, you lose the entire eastern seaboard, like we did a few years ago If Google wanted to use all of this roof space and sell the energy to some of the other floors or the building next door, you wouldn’t be allowed to do that So the utility company owns the energy If you put excess onto it, they get it We were lucky enough to get into a program that was around just for a couple of years, where DTE was going to buy our solar energy, any excess that we use So we’re benefiting greatly financially And that’s what’s available in Germany, where there was a day this past summer, last year, where Germany, over half of the energy during this day was produced by renewable energy They have a goal to take the entire nation to zero carbon emissions, to be powered completely by renewable energy, not including nuclear, by the year 2030 So they want to decommission all of their nuclear plants by 2030 And that’s a really ambitious goal Well, what’s happenening is, so companies like Google, and the Army, and Walmart, in Germany, who have really bought into this idea, all of a sudden, there’s just an extraordinary amount of innovation profit that’s coming from it, savings that has really sparked all kinds of imagination And people who work for companies that are involved in that report just being happy They actually show up to work more So it certainly is possible here And states here that have been the most progressive, places like California, New Jersey, Ohio, have been really aggressive with this stuff, are getting a lot of solar And Germany, I forgot what the percentage is, but I was just reading this yesterday And I believe it’s– I think it’s almost half of the energy is actually owned by individuals and farmers So that’s an extraordinary model And when that happens, it can really do it And the other thing is to put a price on carbon Because right now, the price we’re paying doesn’t get onto the accounting sheet So that’s all externalized And we have to internalize those costs and pay for what that really costs AUDIENCE: My dad us like– he hates solar energy, for some reason And his argument is always that whenever he reads about these solar cells that they cost more energy to produce than that they get during their lifetime Have you done the calculation? MATT GROCOFF: Yeah, it’s not true It’s not even worth answering

It’s just not true That’s just– honestly, I don’t know what the motives are for that world of people who are trying to debunk these technologies that are proven There are life cycle assessments on all of this stuff And certainly for certain processes Some manufacturers are more efficient than others There’s actually a standard now in California, where this non-profit group is rating solar panels from cradle to grave, of what kind of chemicals they use, what their processes are, how much energy is used to make them, and so on You can use solar energy to make solar panels So it’s just silly AUDIENCE: So how do we get a solar roof, if we want one? MATT GROCOFF: Honestly, it’s tough in Michigan, unless you have the upfront capital to do it Over time, it will absolutely pay itself back There’s no question about that But when the costs are unequalized, and if you’re able to make more energy than you can use, there’s no feed-in tariff in Michigan There’s no real incentives for it to pay for itself in the short-term But it is possible, in fact– who was it I talked to earlier? They were getting some solar panels this week, actually But you can email me and I’ll give you the names of some solar companies right here in the area So there’s definitely plenty I don’t want to discourage you Because there’s plenty of homes that are doing it now And there are ways of doing it You can actually be creative and sell your renewable energy credits in other states, and all this other stuff So it’s getting crazy And the price of solar is dropping like computers It’s the same curve, actually Whereas our was about, I think it was $7 a watt It’s down to $3 a watt, since we put our panels up So a significant reduction AUDIENCE: What’s the total cost of everything you’ve done, and how much of that was subsidized by DTE programs at the time, or– MATT GROCOFF: Yeah Well, actually, the only thing that was really subsidized was the solar We have 30% federal tax credit We got about $19,000 back on the solar rate from DTE upfront So that went directly to the installer Then we get renewable energy credits on the back end So the solar array itself ended up being out of pocket, after all those reductions, only about $15,000 So while our good friends bought a car about the same time we were installing the solar panels, five years later, they have a used car and we have free energy for life And now we have a Volt, too But the whole rehab itself, including the incentives for the solar, was $105,000, because we did a lot of the work ourselves That included an electrician, painters to restore the outside of the house, plumbing, new electric, the solar, the geothermal was a big one But when we put the geothermal in, there was no– it wasn’t even a tax incentive for that But there was still enough of a pay back for us, because we knew we were going to stay in the house, that it was going to be the most efficient and comfortable that we could have And then we did get a historic preservation tax credit, which hopefully will come in the mail this next week, for about a little over $20,000 So that’s the most significant thing we’ve gotten was we were rewarded for restoring a historic house I could do a whole hour lecture on that one, though, because we almost didn’t get it, because of some– AUDIENCE: Could I ask somewhat of a follow-up question to that? It seems like, as you said, the short-term costs are a significant barrier to something that is obviously going to pay for itself over the long run What are your thoughts on models that you think work well And I know there’s been a lot of [INAUDIBLE] subsidies from solar companies that are no longer– I’m trying to think about, it seems like there could be some sort of way that somebody who had a lot of capital could make this a very profitable program to just subsidize– MATT GROCOFF: And they are There are solar leasing programs that are very successful in other states, where they own the solar panels, and they’re leasing you the panel So that way they get around who owns the energy They’re not selling you the energy, they’re selling me the power plant They’re not even selling you the power plant, they own the power plant on your roof You lease it back from them And your payments each month are lower than what you would be paying if you bought electricity from the utility company So that’s one model But all of this really has to change dramatically We can’t just keep throwing money at this company or that company and hoping it works We really have to put a price– the reason solar is at a disadvantage is because the other forms of fossil fuels are artificially cheap, because we

don’t pay for the cost of that You don’t see in the cost of oil spills in the Kalamazoo River or in the Gulf of Mexico You don’t see the cost of the invisible carbon dioxide and methane and everything else that goes up to the atmosphere Nobody pays that That’s just the tragedy of the [INAUDIBLE] So if we actually calculate those costs and see what they really are, then all of a sudden how we create our energy really changes And so that’s why Germany is, really, I think, the best model we’ve got so far for it And they’re on target They’ll do it by 2030 And we could all do it, if we have the political will Anybody else? All right Thanks, y’all [APPLAUSE]