Pursue Efficiency First

May 12, 2008
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Stationary solid oxide fuel cells are one technology that shows tremendous potential in helping meet this country’s energy needs, according to U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). Here a researcher prepares to test a solid oxide fuel cell stack. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.)


WASHINGTON - With a lineup of speakers made up of two senators and three representatives as well as various government and business leaders, the Great Energy Efficiency Day event, put on by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, showed that energy issues are top of mind on Capitol Hill and in the business world. This is especially true with soaring oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel prices. The consensus among the speakers was that energy efficiency should be the first approach in addressing the nation’s energy problems.

The program began with the presentation of the Alliance’s Unsung Hero Awards. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) presented the award to Franz Wuerfmannsdobler, a staff member on the Senate Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee as well as senior energy policy advisor to Dorgan.

In his remarks, Dorgan noted that oil had closed at approximately $114 a barrel the day before. When it comes to energy, “we are chained to our habits,” he said. The United States has been and remains highly dependent on oil, but we are now trying to do different things to become more energy efficient and reduce our dependence.

“We need to do the easy things first,” said Dorgan. Making our buildings more efficient “represents the biggest bang for the buck.”

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) then presented the Unsung Hero Award to John Jimison, counsel, Energy & Commerce Committee, U.S. House of Representatives.

Boucher said that he is currently working on climate change legislation with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). “Our goal is to develop a consensus,” he said, and include all stakeholders in the process. They are looking for bipartisan support and industry support, he stated. “It takes time to build that kind of consensus,” but “we’re nearing the point where we can put pen to paper.”

Addressing the specific topic of energy efficiency, Boucher remarked, “Renewables are the sizzle, but efficiency is the steak.” He cited the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 - which Jimison was instrumental in creating - as legislation that will improve efficiency as well as cut emissions.

CONSERVATION IS JOB ONE

The first congressional keynote speaker, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), said that right now, for every member of Congress, “Somebody’s going to stop you and gnaw on you about gas prices.” He said he tells his colleagues, “Conservation is job one.”

The United States needs to be proactive and be leaders in the world on energy, Wamp said, but we must also urge other major countries, such as China, to come along. “Everybody in their right mind knows energy is national security,” he said. “We need to look at all solutions and we need long-term incentives to address energy issues.”

Wamp commented that there is tremendous potential with stationary solid oxide fuel cells. With these fuel cells, you can have your own independent source of electricity and be more energy secure. He said there is an initiative called “Greening the Capitol,” and as part of that he believes we should “throw the ball deep” and replace the Capitol’s powerhouse with stationary solid oxide fuel cells to demonstrate energy technology leadership.

In the panel discussion “Energy Efficiency: Implications for U.S. National Security,” Douglas Hengel, deputy assistant secretary for energy, Sanctions and Commodities, U.S. Department of State, said that world energy prices are at historic highs. Demand is growing quite dramatically. Energy efficiency is something we can implement now to address the increase in demand. Efficiency is “the cheapest, most abundant source of energy that we can access,” Hengel said.

Energy demand growth is being driven strongly from abroad, he related, and the United States is assisting other countries, including India and China, in various energy initiatives.

Karen Harbert, executive vice president and managing director, Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said energy demand will increase 50 percent by 2030 with 70 percent of that coming from the developing world. Difficulties in meeting demand include:

• Access to reserves is limited.

• Rising importance of national oil companies, which own 30 percent of reserves.

• Lack of investment in exploration.

What we need to do, Harbert said, is diversify as well as increase our supply. “We need it all” - coal, nuclear, every type of energy. Efficiency is even more important, she said, in addressing growth and climate change.

Frank Verrastro, director and senior fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that what we have in the current market is tight supplies, growing demand, and higher prices. “This is an unsustainable future,” he said. “Efficiency represents the best and least cost option for moving things forward.”

Regarding energy supplies, he agreed with Harbert that we need everything, including alternative energy sources, to meet our needs.

“Renewables are the sizzle, but efficiency is the steak,” said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).

HOW MUCH CAN EFFICIENCY BUY

The panel “Energy Efficiency: How Much Can It Buy in a Carbon Constrained World?” looked at what is achievable in the energy arena. Scott Nyquist, director, McKinsey & Co., said that there are “large energy productivity improvement opportunities” in most end-use sectors. In the commercial sector, however, 73 percent of users will disregard energy-efficiency investments with a payback time above two years. But many efficiency investments have a six- to 12-year payback. This barrier has to be overcome.

Nyquist said federal, state, and local leadership is required, including incentives for customers and utilities, to change behavior and promote efficiency.

Arshad Mansoor, vice president, Power Delivery & Utilization, Electric Power Research Institute, remarked that there are opportunities for end-to-end energy efficiency. But the biggest bang for the buck is on the end-use side.

Codes and standards have been important in increasing the efficiency of electric loads, he said, pointing to how standards for furnaces, central a/c, and refrigerators have reduced their energy use over the years. But a major challenge is that consumers will buy a 46-inch plasma TV and wipe out any gains achieved by energy efficiency elsewhere.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) then spoke about the new lighting standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which will phaseout the use of inefficient incandescent light bulbs and require more efficient lighting. One concern is that the compact fluorescent lights currently being touted contain mercury. Harman said halogen bulbs are available now that are 30 percent more efficient than conventional light bulbs and contain no mercury.

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Co.) said that energy efficiency is about environmental security as well as national security. Congress is now going to address climate change. “This is not a fad,” he said. “It will succeed into the next administration.”

Salazar said he told his constituents that he wants to build a house of energy independence. The first step is to go after energy efficiency, the low hanging fruit. This includes heating, cooling, and water heating.

The next step is renewable energy. He noted that Colorado now has six ethanol plants. “And as we continue to use the energy resources we presently have, we must use them more effectively to reduce emissions,” Salazar said.

John Conover, president, Trane Americas, described some projects where energy efficient technologies are being applied, including a thermal storage system at Morgan Stanley and a major geothermal heating and cooling system at the Fort Knox army base.

BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE

In the final panel discussion, “Building for the Future: The Elements of Success,” Kaj den Daas, chairman, Philips Lighting North America, CEO, BU Lamps North America, and executive vice president, Philips Lighting B.V., noted, “You need retrofittable solutions. You can’t expect people to make a wholesale change to new technology. Products have to work in existing homes and businesses.”

John Conover, president, Trane Americas, asserted that energy-efficient building solutions are here today. “We have the technology to make this happen now.”

Energy use in buildings is projected to continue to grow, Conover noted. And, he said, “We pay for energy waste twice.” Waste heat from lighting adds to the load that the air conditioning system must handle.

“The largest consumer of energy in buildings is HVAC,” he said - operating HVAC systems use 15 to 25 percent of total U.S. energy consumption.

Energy-efficient technologies we have available today, he related, include high-efficiency chilled water systems, energy recovery systems, district cooling/heating systems, geothermal heat pump systems, and thermal storage systems.

Conover then mentioned some projects where these technologies are being applied. Morgan Stanley, for example, is using thermal storage in a building in Westchester, N.Y., to make ice at night during off-peak hours and then utilize that ice for cooling during peak hours.

In order to achieve a mandate to reduce energy use by 35 percent by 2010, the Fort Knox army base installed a major geothermal heating and cooling system via a performance contract. The base is on target to meet its energy reduction goals, and also expects to cut emissions by one-third.

Finally, Jeff Harris, vice president for programs, Alliance to Save Energy, talked about laying the foundation for net-zero energy buildings. A net-zero energy building, he said, is designed, constructed, and operated to “greatly reduce energy use (approximately 80 percent) where the remaining energy needs can come from renewable sources.”

The path to net-zero energy buildings, he said, requires a stable level of R&D funding to advance technology, research to better understand how consumers will accept energy-saving technologies, strategic demonstrations, and new models of collaboration. Harris also said that “we need to make code advancement the norm” and prepare for each code step with incentives and training.

Publication date: 05/12/2008

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