Washington, D.C., June 21, 2010 — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and other leading policymakers and business executives provided insights into “Energy Efficiency: Innovative Approaches, Proven Solutions” during the 21st Annual Energy Efficiency Forum.
The event, co-sponsored by Johnson Controls and the U.S. Energy Association, was held this week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and webcast online through the Virtual Energy Forum.
Outlining the Forum’s discussion by tying technology to policy and economy, Sec. Locke warned, “The United States currently consumes more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, and yet we only have two percent of the world’s reserves. If we fail to develop new sources of clean energy, and transform the way we use energy across our economy, we know the future waiting for us.”
“Our challenge is to write a different story. Our challenge is to convince people that the development of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies could spur one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.”
Thousands of attendees around the globe listened as David Sandalow, assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, U.S. Department of Energy; Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.); and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm provided insights. Influence author and OPower Chief Scientist Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.; Mason Emnett, associate director of the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund, continued the discussion.
Rep. Israel summarized the need for energy efficiency by saying, “This is our new Sputnik moment. And we will be judged by how we respond. We’ve got to make the case to the American people that energy efficiency is about our environmental security. It’s about our economic security. It’s also about our national security.”
“Our purchase of overseas oil is the biggest component of our foreign trade shortfall,” Sen. Merkley elaborated. “It’s a real national security problem, but there are several other ideas passing around that I think are well worth pursuing. I would like to see a 10 percent Energy Efficiency Resource Standard separate from the Renewable Energy Standard so that one is not being traded off against the other. I’d like to see that a third of the pre allowances allocated to natural gas and electric utilities go to invest in energy efficiency. I’d like to see us fund industrial energy efficiency more effectively. And I’d like to see more funds for state energy efficiency programs. All of those are things that can be done within the framework of the conversation we’re having right now.”
Granholm, who used the state of Michigan as a point of reference in highlighting the successful ability to create jobs and bring overseas manufacturing home to the United States, said: “We create a weak nation if we don’t focus on energy independence like a laser. This issue of energy independence is an issue of American patriotism.”
Attendees gained additional insight as two panels discussed business and energy efficiency. Stephen Stokes, vice president of research at AMR Research, moderated a panel discussion on the “Innovative Solutions at the Intersection of Technology and Efficiency.” Panelists included: Richard Lechner, vice president, energy and environment, IBM Corporation; Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist, Microsoft; and Neil McPhail, senior vice president and general manager, New Business Solutions Group, Best Buy Company, Inc.
All three panelists focused on the efficiency of America’s buildings and homes, the ability to advance the technologies and, most importantly, the issue of changing behaviors. Lechner addressed IBM’s top-down approach stating, “To improve the sustainability of an organization, a society, a country, a planet requires taking a systemic approach [“] and it does mean approaching a public-private partnership.” Microsoft’s Bernard furthered one of the Forum’s key points, commenting, “The tools that we need are here today, and they will get better, but we have the information that we need to go and address this problem right now.”
A second panel, “Taking Charge of the Clean Transportation Industry,” was moderated by Mary Ann Wright, vice president, global technology and innovation accelerator for Johnson Controls Power Solutions. Panelists included: Scott Harrison, chief executive officer, Azure Dynamics; Robbie Diamond, founder and president, Securing America’s Future Energy; Thomas Reddoch, Ph.D., executive director, Energy Utilization, Electric Power Research Institute; and Richard Lowenthal, founder and CEO, Coulomb Technologies.
While this panel changed the focus from energy-efficient buildings to energy-efficient transportation, it continued to emphasize the idea that the U.S. is in need of a behavioral change. “Because we’re revolutionizing the transportation industry and, any time we have a major turnover like that, as human beings we’re desperate to see examples—examples from people that we’re familiar with, I think the notion of funding projects that demonstrate the effectiveness of this new technology could be really very vital in the whole mix,” Reddoch said.