When Words Become Action

by Jerry Duvall

As the American public realizes that the energy problems they are beginning to feel won’t be solved simply by lowering the price of gasoline, entire new businesses, service lines and terminology have developed to work with utilities worldwide to deal with the generation vs. efficiency/conservation conundrum.

We are witnessing the synergy, communication and creativity unleashed when words become actions. Not since the oil embargo and subsequent energy crises in the mid-70s has the public conversation turned to reducing consumption, energy and water efficiency, paying a premium for energy from renewable sources and giving consumers the knowledge and capability to control their own usage.

Steve Bartley, deputy general manager of CPS Energy and keynote speaker at CS Week Conference 32 in San Antonio, referred to the tremendous cost to utilities–and ratepayers– when more generating capacity must be built. When TXU became Luminant last year, the company’s private equity management worked with Lone Star Sierra Club, eventually cancelling plans to build eight of 11 proposed coal-fired plants. For its part, CPS is maximizing its investment in cleaner, safer and more renewable sources of energy as well as mobilizing its customers for energy efficiency, a growing trend and strategic necessity nationwide.

As I write this, it is five years to the day since the biggest blackout in U.S. history cut off power to 50 million people in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. plus the province of Ontario, Canada. Unlike the 1995 blackout that affected New York City, no one giggled about “blackout babies” in 2003. The vulnerability of energy resources and services had struck home. Words were turning into action.

AMI and MDM have turned technology into a workhorse as the elements of energy management and efficiency come into sharper focus and prove their worth. The next steps to turn words into action require teaming up technology and service to deliver the customer support the future is going to demand.

In 2008, we see photovoltaic users selling excess power back to the grid. Many utilities implemented programs to switch customers to CFL light bulbs to bring them into the larger conversation about demand management. Smart metering as a means to match consumption with generation is being talked about, promoted and encouraged, essentially at great expense up front for the utilities but one more tactical tool heading forward.

Anyone can take steps to minimize his or her own carbon footprint. One step we’ve taken this year at CS Week is to switch to Forest Stewardship Council certified paper for our all our general publications. “The FSC label identifies products that come from an environmentally and socially responsible source,” reads the inside of CS Week Newsline. We have yet to reach the point where we can eliminate all paper from the CS Week venues, but a big step for us will be distributing the CS Week exhibitor’s manual on disk rather than by printed copy. At the last event of CS Week 2009, the hot little vehicle in the annual CS Week Giveaway will definitely be a “green” car. Think “smart.”

Words became action at Fall CS Week in Chicago as demand side management became the newest course offered in CS Week College. The instructor was Penni McLean-Conner, CS Week Conference chair and president of the board, and most recently, author of “Energy Efficiency: Principles and Fundamentals,” her second book, to be published by PennWell Books in 2009.

Jerry Duvall, CEO, CS Week

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