Industrialized nations worldwide must profoundly change their energy supply and demand habits, in part to better use available resources and maintain prosperity, but also to reduce carbon emissions and avoid negative consequences of climate change. Recognizing this need, the Obama administration recently set a 2050 goal of reducing U.S. CO2 emissions by 83% relative to 2005 levels. Improving how we produce and distribute energy is a necessary step toward achieving this goal, but we must also reduce the energy consumed by our building, industry, and transportation sectors.
Eighteen years ago, some of the attendees at this year’s Summer Study contributed to a U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) report, which suggested that efficiency measures in buildings could enable a one-third reduction in energy consumption by 2015. More recent reports by the McKinsey Global Institute and the National Academies’ reinforce this position: in terms of marginal costs associated with carbon emission abatement, they concluded that building efficiency measures should be pursued before new energy supply options. The OTA report also presented the many challenges that inhibit adopting energy efficiency measures, such as who makes the purchasing decision, first cost versus life-cycle cost, payback times, technology complexity, and perceived comfort issues. Many of these issues remain today, but the impetus to resolve them is stronger than ever.
We must continue to pursue traditional energy efficiency improvements in areas such as the building envelope, lighting, and HVAC equipment. These measures alone, however, will not enable the “deep” savings that a broader set with a systems approach can provide and that we need. For example, we must target increasing miscellaneous plug loads, consider inter-sector synergies, and embrace opportunities at the community-scale. We must also create performance-based codes and standards, pricing strategies, and training programs that facilitate and encourage energy efficiency “retrofits” and system integration in existing buildings. Together, these actions will result in a cleaner, more sustainable environment while paying dividends in terms of job growth related to energy efficiency. Achieving aggressive goals rapidly on a large scale will require well-coordinated, multi-disciplinary public-private partnerships and substantial investments in research, development, and deployment.
At this year’s Summer Study, ACEEE celebrates 30 years of activities with awards, plenary talks, and a few surprises too. We’ll once again discuss state-of-the art technology, policy, and regulatory options for increasing energy efficiency in the built environment. Keynote speakers will likely challenge conventional wisdom surrounding our theme this year: “The Climate for Efficiency is Now.” The Summer Study is possible because of tremendous efforts by the panel co-leaders, the paper authors, and the peer reviewers who worked with the largest number of abstracts and final papers in the history of the Summer Study. We’d like to thank the dedicated ACEEE staff, in particular Rebecca Lunetta, Glee Murray, and Lori Nachman, who along with Steve Nadel and many others helped assure that all who attend the Summer Study are given every opportunity to participate, learn, and network with the very best in the energy efficiency business.