How can governments drive increases in energy efficiency through regulations and federal climate plans?

Government leaders from Europe and the U.S. addressed the changes needed in government policies and regulations in order to fully integrate efficiency into their respective countries’ climate action plans.  Thought leaders from the House of Representatives and the Council on Environmental Quality highlighted that President Obama continues to promote energy efficiency through standards, partnerships, and leading by example. Representatives from Europe encouraged attendees to go beyond regulation to build capacity and financial resources that will work in tandem with governments.

How can energy usage data influence consumer behavioral change?

Panelists discussed how energy usage data can influence consumer behavior through behavior science in the form of normative messages, and products or software that give consumers information necessary to self-regulate their habits, energy use data and the distribution of the data itself is impacting the residential sector. The benefits of energy use data in the commercial buildings sector are the ability to make real time adjustments in operations. In the industrial sector, particularly in manufacturing intensive countries like China, the use of data can help operation managers tackle the energy efficiency learning curve.  The successful distribution and messaging of how the data itself is transmitted depends on the culture and proposition value by sector.  Accurate measuring and verification are key to backing up how we interpret energy data.

What are the best energy efficiency building practices from around the world? And how do they differ between climates?

The panelists were from a diverse geographical climate; ranging from the arid United Arab Emirates (UAE) to arctic Canada. UAE follows a mandatory sustainability building codes.    In Singapore the public sector leads the private sector by example in investing and incentivizing companies that adhere to the energy efficiency practices. Furthermore in Germany investing in energy efficiency has incentives for both the private and public sectors. As a matter of fact hospitals are guaranteed 40% in energy saving expenses if they invest in energy efficiency practices. The panelist agreed on holistic approach and broad based investment to encourage energy efficient practices. Moreover, raising public and policy makers awareness was outlined as one of the tipping point for driving investment in energy efficiency.

What is needed to encourage small & medium enterprises to invest in and adopt energy efficiency?

Panelists discussed the various barriers facing SMEs in achieving energy efficiency at the shop-floor and corporate level. Everyone on the panel agreed that the major barriers are lack of awareness in terms of energy efficiency education and proper packaging of monetary benefits associated with energy efficiency measures, and lack of resources which includes skills, financing options and time. An important factor that was stressed with regards to building system management is the owner-tenant syndrome where small businesses that are on short to medium term leasing options are less inclined to adopt energy efficiency due to the limitations of ownership. With two members of the panel from Germany and Laos and three from within the United States, an overall approach to energy efficiency in Europe and North America was discussed. While Adam stressed the complexity of participation in energy efficiency in the United States, Henning shares the bold energy efficiency targets by Germany to drive to renewables up to 80% by 2050 and further increase energy productivity by 2.1% every year. The panel also discussed how to attract customers and businesses, appropriate legislations  ongoing in the United States and Germany, capability building in energy efficiency delivery to SMEs, and low-interest loan options to help smaller businesses who are short of cash achieve energy efficiency.

What are the major policy barriers impeding industrial energy efficiency? And how can we remove them?

Panelists discussed the major policy barriers impeding industrial energy efficiency and talked about ways to remove them. In that regard, specialists in what they called “clean energy manufacturing” exposed the main concerns their field has relating to making their companies energy efficient. They made the point that the major barrier was a systemic one, starting from the production phase, and proposed as a solution making every process of the company “energy-efficient”. In addition, they emphasized the component level, and talked about how important was to focus on also having the best widget in order to be truly energy-efficient.

What does the 21st-century utility look like? And where does energy efficiency fit in?

In the last five years, we’ve seen many dynamic changes in the power sector. The grid is going digital with the deployment of smart meters. Our power sources are changing. Natural gas’ share in power generation mix is increasing. More renewables are integrated into our grid system. Consumers are taking a more active role in curbing energy use.  Energy productivity is a driver for the 21st- century utility.  In emerging countries where government subsidies help alleviate energy poverty, smart subsidies and targeted programs are needed. Social equity plays a role in the U.S. as well. A segment of the population– those below the median income group, is an important target market to realize energy savings.

The Building as an Organism: How can we holistically approach buildings and their management systems?

Given that buildings account for approximately 40% of our yearly energy use, the panelists and attendees discussed the potential for significant energy savings in our commercial buildings.  Roland Risser of DOE highlighted technologies including solid state lighting and high efficiency HVAC systems which can significantly reduce building electric and subsequent energy use. The panelists and attendees were interested in how to encourage consumers to decide on higher efficiency building technologies, and how to get regulators and policy drivers on the same page to advance building efficiency.

How are innovative financing mechanisms being used to scale up EE projects and improvements?

Thought leaders shared innovative ‘end-use’ EE finance mechanisms that can be replicated and employed in both developing and developed countries to scale up projects across sectors from buildings to imports-exports.  Most agreed that financing is obviously necessary, but not always sufficient.  Innovative ideas included recruiting local bank guarantors, linking programs to market demand, and shifting to bulk financing to aggregate projects.

Did energy efficiency and clean energy stimulus money just get us through a slump or did they transform markets?

The panel explored whether or not the stimulus money was a temporary solution, or if it truly transformed the clean energy market. The consensus was that while the stimulus money certainly transformed the market, great needs and opportunities for investment remain. Panelists pointed to the fact that clean energy is a self-sustaining investment market, and that $1 million in clean energy investment has led to $4 million in economic impact and nearly 18 full time jobs.

What strategies are cities utilizing as they seek to create highly-efficient urban areas? And why?

From California, Washington D.C. and New York, cities are using a variety of mechanisms to incentivize energy efficiency worldwide. Focusing on collaboration, good data, and local leadership, many municipalities are exceeding the demands of customers to make cities more livable, all the while under tighter budgets and deadlines.

What is the tipping point for driving investment in energy efficiency?

Experts in the energy finance field from private, public and international perspectives gave advice on the factors that drive investment in energy efficiency. In that regard, panelists discussed how the market is really important for investors before deciding to finance an energy efficiency startup, which at the same time is a major challenge. Panelists agreed that you need proof of performance, rather than potential in a startup company that works with energy efficiency.  It is more important for a startup to be a “doubles” rather than the promise of a “home run”.