Wolf agreed to talk with The News about the panel discussion and comment further on the issues raised. "While the focus was on manufacturing, we also emphasized HVAC and brought general buildings into the discussion," said Wolf. "A lot of technology exists today that can be utilized to implement high energy efficiency processes in buildings," he noted.
"There's been significant progress made in the last three decades in the efficiency of equipment. We've improved our efficiency to where products are available now with 35 percent-plus better operating efficiency than in the past. We can actually build buildings that use 50 percent less energy today than what has been the minimum building code standard."
There's a lot of opportunity to improve efficiency, he said. "It's a matter of creating an awareness that the technology exists and what the total ownership cost is."
Regarding the cost of energy, three decades ago oil cost $2.50 a barrel; now we're over $50 a barrel, he said. "That is beginning to create an awareness of the importance of energy, and is helping to drive the interest in reducing energy use."
Wolf commented that we don't need any more mandatory requirements regarding efficiency. "Incentives and education could go a long way - with increased cost of energy - to help drive a change in people's purchasing habits."
Basically, he said, when you buy on a life-cycle basis and consider the total ownership cost, "you're buying energy efficiency that's good for you and also good for the environment."
In a lot of commercial projects, Wolf related, we're finding that we can sell up on energy efficiency. "When you're talking about hospitals, schools, government buildings, manufacturing plants, and large office buildings, people [formerly] interested in a three to five year payback may now go seven to 10 years.
"We're seeing a trend."
There's also pressure on companies from the investment community to be environmentally conscious, said Wolf. General Electric, for example, just recently announced that by 2010 it will spend $1.5 billion annually in research on cleaner technologies, up from $700 million in 2004.
It plans to double its revenues from products that provide greater efficiency and environmental performance. The company also plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and improve its energy efficiency. "So they have really put a stake in the ground saying energy use is important and they're going to be one of the leaders."
"Tax incentives to do things like replacing old, inefficient equipment could make sense. Maybe accelerated depreciation would make some sense." But this is not a total, long-term solution, he conceded. This should be done just to stimulate the market.
With large facilities, there's more interest in combined heat and power (CHP), but "it's an incremental situation," he said. Worldwide, there's more interest in central plant installations.
In addition, he said, "They need tax incentives ... and then they need an understanding that long-term it's not viable to keep CFC chillers." Accelerated depreciation would also help, as well as utility programs, noted Wolf. "It's got to be an economic benefit to get their attention."
Publication date: 06/27/2005