By Elisa Wood
April 27, 2011
We’ve been hearing for years that the energy efficiency industry needs to find its equivalent to the cell phone. These days industry folks refer to it as the ‘killer app,” the revolutionary product or service that consumers can’t resist.
But lately, partly because I’m dieting, I’ve been thinking what energy efficiency really needs is something akin to a Weight Watchers dessert.
Let me explain myself.
Saving energy and saving calories share three precepts. They are most palatable to the consumer if they are devoid of self-sacrifice, appear invisible, and offer some element of delight. Weight Watchers has got these down cold. The energy efficiency industry is doing well with the first and second, but not the third.
Weight Watchers is ingenious because it does not describe itself as a diet; it’s a lifestyle, a way of eating. It’s not about self-sacrifice. Sound familiar? The energy efficiency industry over the last decade shook off the ‘conservation’ moniker, much the way Weight Watcher abandoned the term ‘diet.’
The Alliance to Save Energy describes the difference between energy efficiency and conservation beautifully on its website:
But energy efficiency is a far cry from the energy conservation images and practices of old – of doing with less or doing without, of being uncomfortable or less comfortable. Not unlike the tremendous technological strides on the computer, electronics, and other fronts, energy efficiency takes advantage of advances in technology to provide significantly better, smarter services.
Guest Blog by Cara Miale
April 20, 2011
Looking at the list of the most EV-ready cities just released by Ford, it’s no surprise many of them are coastal. On the east and west coasts energy is pricey, so the pressure is on to achieve innovation that will control costs and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
But what’s up with Denver out there in the middle of the map, all by its lonesome?
Government leaders in Colorado, and Denver specifically, have long been committed to sustainability and energy efficiency. Denver has worked hard over the years not only to position itself as a national leader in sustainability, but also to lead by example.
Denver was home to the first “Green Fleet” of city-use vehicles in the early 1990’s, which now includes 138 hybrid electric vehicles. The city hosted the greenest Democratic National Convention to date, and shows continued focus through clean-energy legislation. Its concentration of clean-energy workers and companies is on the rise, and Colorado continues to attract more venture capital financing for clean-tech start-ups than nearly any other state.
And, we’re not so alone after all. Denver is also participating in a U.S.-China “Eco Partnership” sponsored by U.S. Department of the Treasury, which is focused on the implementation of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
On the forefront of the EV-push is the Colorado Plug-In Working Group, which engages communities (like Denver and Boulder), government and private businesses to facilitate EV market growth. Current members are no strangers to the scene: Xcel Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Rocky Mountain Institute, Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition and the Governor’s Energy Office.
In putting together its list of EV-ready cities, Ford looked at several criteria including complementary state and regional activities. Of these, Denver has no shortage:
- Intellectual resources abound. Colorado’s universities are actively researching how to increase efficiency of electricity generation and transmission and testing smart grids, and collaborating with Colorado-based national labs.
- Greenprint Denver was established by then-Mayor Hickenlooper to position Denver as a national leader in sustainability and integrate environmental impact considerations into the city’s programs and policies.
- The Utilities & Transmission Program at the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has its sights set on working with utilities to increase the proportion of demand-side management within their resource portfolios.
- Denver P2 Partners, a pollution prevention program, works with small businesses to increase participation and adoption of sustainable practices that go beyond compliance. It’s developed industry-specific criteria to target environmental issues and concerns specific to auto repair shops. Reducing transportation pollution is one of five criteria that auto repair shop must address to maintain certification through the program. While “educational training on hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle maintenance” is listed as an elective criterion, a partnership with Denver P2 Partners could be easily expanded and used to enlist auto repair shops to support EV implementation.
- Voluntary Ozone Reduction program. The City & County of Denver’s Environmental Transportation Coordinators hit the streets during critical summer months to educate employees about ozone pollution and ways to reduce ozone levels.
- Recharge Colorado Rebate Program has pumped more than $90 million into the Colorado economy since late April 2010.
- A year ago, Colorado company UQM Technologies received a $45 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand operations of its electric motor factory, accelerating electric vehicle projects across Colorado.
By Elisa Wood
April 13, 2011
The renewable energy business has done a remarkable job at positioning itself in the public psyche as the ‘it girl’ of our era. Just about everyone – politicians, celebrities, major industries – likes to be seen as pro-renewable.
But if renewable energy is the girl that everyone wants to be photographed near, energy efficiency is her nerdy tag-along little brother. Ever notice how when politicians say they support renewable energy they quickly throw in the words “and energy efficiency” as if it were a babysitting obligation?
Or consider the excitement with which homeowners talk about their recently installed rooftop solar panels. Does anyone wax on like that about new wall insulation? Let’s be honest, renewable energy is colorful, green to be exact. Energy efficiency, well, it’s “smart” energy.
What’s it going to take for energy efficiency to shed its big glasses and pencil pocket protector?
“Let’s face it; we’re selling to the lunatic fringe of green, the lunatic fringe of efficiency. The market is this small strata right now. And of course we want to grow the market outside of the small strata,” said Paul Holland of Foundation Capital, when he spoke recently at the ACI Home Energy Summit in San Francisco, Calif. “We need less kumbaya in this industry and less expectation. We preach to each other, when we really need to become better marketers.”
Speaking at the same conference, Sheeraz Hiji, CEO of Cleantech Group, pointed out that part of the problem is dollars and cents. The solar industry wisely has figured out how to make it very easy for homeowners to finance solar panels on homes. The energy efficiency industry has not been as successful.
By Elisa Wood
April 6, 2011
Once upon a time, joking about ‘how many it takes to screw in a light bulb’ was a great way to poke fun at people’s intelligence. After all, what could be easier than screwing in a light bulb? Any idiot could do it.
Not so any more. Lighting has exploded into a sophisticated business. And for those who manage commercial buildings it can be downright intimidating.
Figuring out the difference between LEDs and CFLs is just the start. Then there are a whole range of dimmers, sensors, data loggers and controllers, both wired and wireless, and computer software to bring it all together. There are considerations to be made about light harvesting, interior space planning, and human behavior. And while learning all of this, the building manager is constantly wondering, ‘Will I really save energy? Will my utility bills drop enough to justify the investment?”
Clanton & Associates, a Boulder, Colorado company, is trying to help answer the big cost questions in a newly released, six-month study of life cycle costs for lighting control systems and technologies. Researchers looked at buildings in Boston and Los Angeles that had installed efficient lighting systems.
Dane Sanders, professional engineer at Clanton & Associates, says his company was trying to address the “fear factor” that exists for building owners when it comes to lighting projects. “The growth of these types of systems is happening so fast that keeping up with the technology is difficult,” he said. “This helps people understand the real benefits of advanced lighting control, and gives some basis for people to make decisions about what lighting control systems best suit their ends.”