Clearing the Air with Energy Efficiency
EPA Administrator Lays Out New Clean Power Plan at Annual Forum
WASHINGTON — Energy efficiency and renewable energy are key components of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, noted Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, in highlighting the proposal in her keynote speech at the 2014 Energy Efficiency Forum, the 25th anniversary of the event sponsored by Johnson Controls Inc. and the U.S. Energy Association.
“Let’s talk about why waste is wasteful,” began McCarthy. “Can we all agree at least with that?” she joked.
When the president introduced his climate action plan, one of the agencies called to action was the EPA. The recently announced clean power plan laid out by the EPA aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants, said McCarthy, and the plan includes addressing renewable energy and energy-efficiency opportunities.
Energy efficiency will continue to play an important role in our efforts to reduce carbon pollution, McCarthy said. “Recent polls show Americans overwhelmingly want carbon pollution under control.”
Americans realize the health benefits, she said. It reduces asthma, can reduce heart attacks, and it can take a bite out of the effects of climate change. “What they might not realize is that, in the end, our proposal is going to actually reduce consumer energy bills by 2030.”
How? “We will do this through energy efficiency,” she stated.
The clean power plan will help renewable energy and energy efficiency get the investments they need to grow, McCarthy said.
Explaining the EPA proposal, she said the agency looked at where each state is in its own fuel mix. “We did not make a one-size-fits-all decision,” she said. The agency developed state-specific standards that are achievable.
“We’re now going to discuss: ‘Did we get it right?’”
The EPA asked for input in advance of developing its proposal. “We received thousands and thousands of comments before we ever put pen to paper,” she said.
The plan looks to gain meaningful reductions from all avenues. “When we looked at it, what we really began to realize is the value of efficiency,” said McCarthy. “The biggest bang for the buck, by far, is efficiency. It’s getting the waste out of the system, from the power plants to the plugs.”
What the EPA is proposing is nothing new, she said. Many states already have efficiency programs in place. Many states already have renewable portfolios.
With the EPA’s clean power plan, “every state will be able to drive its own destiny moving forward.”
McCarthy concluded by stating, “Let’s stop talking about the dangers of climate change and let’s start doing something about it.”
North Dakota Emerges as Energy Force
Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, noted that, in 2002, North Dakota was the ninth largest oil- and gas-producing state in the nation. North Dakota is now the fastest-growing state and the second largest oil- and gas-producing state in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “We’ve passed every state except Texas,” he said. “Because of our tremendous energy growth, we’ve made a significant contribution to the domestic production of energy in the nation.”
Providing some statistics on the U.S., and how it has evolved, Hoeven said that in 2005 the U.S. produced about 70 percent of its energy needs. Today, the U.S. produces about 84 percent of its energy needs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“We’re moving toward energy independence,” he said. “A better term is energy security.”
Energy efficiency is a very important factor in helping the country reach true energy security, stated Hoeven. Touching on the Shaheen-Portman energy-efficiency bill, he said he expects to see the bill passed either this year or next year.
A modification in the bill eliminates a mandate to phase out fossil fuels for powering federal buildings by 2030. “I don’t think the legislation would pass without this provision,” he said. “Instead of prohibiting the use of fossil fuels, we believe we should rely on all of our energy resources while still maintaining our energy-efficiency goals.”
Wrapping up with his final thoughts on efficiency, Hoeven said: “A kilowatt saved is essentially a free kilowatt. And you can’t get any more affordable than that.”
A New Electric Utility Model
Roger Duncan, former general manager of Austin Energy; research fellow, Energy Institute, University of Texas-Austin; and chairman of the board, Pecan Street Project, talked about the need for new electric utility business models to accommodate energy efficiency, renewable energy, and distributed generation.
These business models suggest utilities move from being a seller of a commodity to become more of a service provider, said Duncan. “They’re working as more of a partner with the customer to develop new programs in energy efficiency and demand response, and to integrate renewable energy.”
The benefit for customers is reduced energy costs. The benefit for utilities is avoided future costs — avoiding building new power plants.
“I think solar is reaching a tipping point,” noted Duncan. It is growing significantly. As the amount of solar grows, the value of solar to the utility grows. It can help with peak load in the afternoon and shift it to the evening.
Energy-Efficiency Indicator Survey
Clay Nesler, vice president, global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls Inc., highlighted the results of the company’s 2014 Energy Efficiency Indicator survey.
“In 2007, 15 percent of North American executives said energy management was extremely important to their organizations,” he said. This year, 53 percent said energy management is extremely important.
Sixty-eight percent of executives plan to increase investment in energy efficiency or renewable energy, compared to 42 percent last year.
Looking at green buildings, “it appears as though they’re becoming mainstream,” said Nesler. Forty-four percent of respondents have certified at least one green building prior to 2014, and 25 percent plan to certify at least one of their buildings in the future.
The next trend appears to be achieving near-zero or net-zero buildings. Sixty-eight percent said they plan to achieve this for one or more buildings in the future.
Another major theme in the 2014 survey, Nesler said, is distributed energy. Fifty-eight percent of organizations plan to have at least one facility that can operate off the grid.
Energy-Efficiency Technology and Policy
The forum included two panel discussions — one on energy-efficiency technology and one on policy. In the technology discussion, Rick Fioravanti, head of services, Distributed Energy Resources, DNV GL Energy, stated energy storage is an enabler of demand response and renewable energy. “It is not future technology,” he said. “It is here and now.”
Lawrence E. Jones, vice president, utility innovations and infrastructure resilience, Alstom Grid North America, noted the importance of leveraging all the data generated. “What if each of us could get a signal on our mobile devices and our response would be to reduce energy?”
In the policy discussion, Steven Nadel, executive director, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), said electricity use has been declining not only in the recent recession, but afterwards, too. A study by ACEEE has shown utility sales are only declining very slightly. However, “utilities need to look at other services,” said Nadel. They can “use energy efficiency as a gateway service.”
Distributed generation is another service that can be offered.
From a policy point of view, Nadel said utility regulators need to promote energy efficiency and provide incentives for shareholders for efficiency goals.
Maria Vargas, director, Better Buildings Challenge, and senior program advisor, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), explained that the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge urges organizations to pursue a 20 percent energy reduction in their facilities by 2020. “And you must share how you did it so others can learn from it,” she said.
Other organizations can see successful solutions and develop their own solution. “Nothing sells like success,” said Vargas. “Organizations are finding tremendous success with energy efficiency.”
HUD Advances Efficiency, Solar
Trisha Miller, senior advisor, Office of Economic Resilience, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), said: “We’re making an unprecedented commitment, along with the Department of Energy and EPA, to greening our nation’s homes. We’ve partnered with the Department of Energy to retrofit 1.8 million homes over the last five years.”
Miller pointed out that DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge was extended to the multifamily sector and, in just the last few months, more than 60 organizations have joined.
HUD also wants to advance solar and renewables in the affordable housing sector, Miller said. “We know renewable energy is a big leap, and we’re working to remove barriers and leverage partnerships and financing.”
An Efficient Navy
For many of the conflicts around the world, energy is a key component. In the Department of the Navy, “we take energy very seriously,” said Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy, energy, installations and environment. “We need to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of every source of energy.”
McGinn said the Navy wants to understand every resource available that it can utilize to increase efficiency and diversity in its energy portfolio. It is now ordering biofuel blends for the first time.
During World War II, everyone knew that rationing was essential to the war effort, said McGinn. “We have to remind ourselves that energy efficiency is a patriotic thing to do.”
Publication date: 8/11/2014