Peter Powell

If I seem to be looking a little green lately, it is because I find myself paying more and more attention to environmental matters. Such talk, especially the regulatory aspect, has been a part of our industry for more than 25 years going back to the days of the Montreal Protocol. But over the years, green has become a larger part of our industry.

Over the past year or so, I’ve found myself even more immersed in the topic. I’ve begun to go to meetings and tours arranged through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) which focuses on structures that are environmentally correct. And I’ve gone to sustainability fairs where some of the newest aspects of what are called alternative energy technologies are shown. These typically relate to solar and wind.

What is happening is that there appears to be a coming together of green buildings and alternative energy. The reason goes that green buildings have as a main selling point that  they are quite energy efficient; that they are using as little energy as possible. We certainly know about that in the HVACR sector, where so much of today’s equipment is promoted as highly energy efficient.

But at the same time, the equipment, for the most part, still runs on electricity, coming off a power grid. For much of the United States, the grid has as its power source the burning of coal, a depleting fossil fuel. It is hardly a renewable energy source.

That’s why so much attention is being given to solar and wind, which are renewable. The current challenge is to generate enough power from solar and wind to offset primary reliance on a coal-fueled power grid. It is being done to some extent; but not to a great extent. And even the cost of doing so raises questions about first-costs and operating expenses. Environmental correctness is a good thing; but at what cost?

While the HVACR industry does its part in energy efficiency; others continue to look at ways to make solar and wind work better. What is interesting is that these paths are often crossing these days. At last fall’s Greenbuild Expo in Chicago, several manufacturers in the HVACR sector had exhibits showing how their latest generation of equipment can work with the assistance of alternative energy sources such as solar.


During the upcoming year, while still remaining refrigeration editor and covering refrigeration in much detail, I’m going to focus more on a broad range of environmental topics including energy efficient and environmentally correct mechanical systems, environmental regulations and mandates, and alternative energy sources.

I see all of them meshing together more and more. I have no idea how it is all going to shake out, but it will be interesting to see how it does. And I believe it will happen, rather than might happen.

What will not be high on my agenda is getting caught up in debates over global warming and climate change. In general, our industry and society overall are starting to embrace those issues as reality. But whether you do or not, here’s the very, very pragmatic point: There is money to be made by positioning yourself as a green company, doing environmentally correct things, and keeping your customers informed as to why you are doing this and, from a regulatory perspective, why you have to.

For now, be aware of me turning a bit more green. My boss is already calling me Mr. Green Jeans. The fact that we both know (while I’ll bet most ofThe NEWSreaders don’t know) that this relates to a character on the old Captain Kangaroo television show that started in the 1950s means we are both showing our age. So maybe we are turning more gray than green.

Publication date:01/31/2011