Michael Baechler, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richard Brown, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Scaling Up: Building Tomorrow's Solutions
The 2008 ACEEE Summer Study was the 14th biennial ACEEE conference on Energy Efficiency in Buildings and was held August 17–22, 2008. A diverse group of energy efficiency professionals from around the world gathered at this pre-eminent meeting to discuss the technological basis for, and practical implementation of, reducing energy use in buildings. Presentations and discussions related to the theme, "Scaling Up: Building Tomorrow's Solutions." What started out at the Summer Study nearly three decades ago as a fringe activity is now mainstream: energy efficiency in buildings. Energy efficiency now represents our best hope to avoid the worst consequences of global warming and energy resource depletion. But to achieve this potential, the energy efficiency "engine" has to be greatly expanded. New programs, technologies, and financing sources need to be developed. A new generation of energy efficiency practitioners, researchers, and policymakers needs to be trained and deployed to solve the problems we face. Some of the leading thinkers, visionaries, and luminaries in the field exchanged ideas while experiencing the magnificent natural setting that is Asilomar.
Nearly 1,000 participants gathered at Asilomar Conference Center in California for the 2008 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, making the conference a major success. The biennial meeting, held August 17-22, broke the previous attendance record by more than 100 people; many would-be registrants had to be turned away due to lack of space.
The 2008 Summer Study was co-chaired by Michael Baechler, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Richard Brown, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who chose the theme “Scaling Up: Building Tomorrow’s Solutions” in order to address such topics as using energy efficiency to address global warming, high energy prices, and the need for energy resources. Participants voiced widespread agreement that energy efficiency can do much to address these problems, but that efficiency alone will not solve them.
Plenary talks helped set the mood at Summer Study. Hal Harvey from the Climate Works Foundation opened the conference with a discussion about how we need to dramatically increase energy efficiency efforts to address climate change. He noted the large savings that are needed in major regions (e.g., U.S., EU, China, and India) and in all major sectors. He further noted that we need to achieve these savings very rapidly in order to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C.
In his plenary, Dan Sosland, Executive Director of ENE (Environment Northeast), talked about how many of the states from New England are seeking to double or triple their energy efficiency efforts. These states believe they can actually bring future electric demand below current levels.
Kevin Dowling, VP Innovation, Philips Solid State Lighting, highlighted the tremendous savings possible from emerging LED lighting solutions in his plenary. He noted that efficiency is improving 35% per year and prices are declining 20% per year. He expects LEDs to eventually be 50-100% more efficient than the best fluorescent lamps and last an average of about 35 years.
In the final plenary, James Cascio, Institute for the Future, offered several possible visions of the future, with energy efficiency playing a prominent role in most of these scenarios.
A couple of significant themes at Summer Study emerged: “how quickly can we ramp up?” and “what level of savings can be achieved and sustained?” On the former, there were discussions that leading states were trying to at least double their programs over periods of about 3-4 years, while states that are just getting started will probably need a little longer in order to join the leaders. On the latter, there was general agreement that at least 20-30% energy efficiency savings relative to predicted energy use are probably achievable and cost-effective with current technologies—more with new technologies. Leading states and utilities are now reducing energy use by about 1.5% for each year of program operation (e.g., 3% savings after 2 years, 4.5% savings after 3 years). Some wondered if these levels could be reached in other states and could be sustained over time. Others said that even higher targets were possible. For example, David Goldstein, Natural Resources Defense Council, gave a heavily attended talk on Extreme Efficiency: How Far Can We Go If We Really Need To? that argued that most studies on efficiency potential use conservative methodologies and do not account for whole-system design or a wealth of innovations and policies that are likely to result as society collectively responds to climate change.
Pervasive discussion about what to expect from a new U.S. President and Congress revealed significant optimism on this front, since both major Presidential candidates have pledged to address global warming. However, many sounded cautionary notes since any major legislation will require at least 60 votes in the U.S. Senate.
Given the many programs that are ramping up, participants engaged in a lot of discussion about how to staff the coming energy efficiency boom. Many organizations noted that they are hiring rapidly, and sometimes are having difficulty attracting the number of qualified people they need. There was general agreement that substantial efforts are needed to train staff, ranging from vocational and community college training for technicians to increased efforts to train energy efficiency analysts, engineers, and program managers at the college/university level as well as shorter programs for those who already have degrees in related fields.
The highlight of the Summer Study, as always, was the 302 peer-reviewed papers presented in formal sessions every morning. The complete proceedings are available online.
Another sign of the unprecedented interest in energy efficiency and the 2008 Summer Study was the 75 nominations received fro the 2008 Champion of Energy Efficiency awards, the highest-ever number of submissions. From the outstanding nominees, four were selected by the Awards Committee of the ACEEE Board of Directors. Read the press release about the 2008 Champions.
To discover or to relive the excitement of the 2008 Summer Study, read all six issues of The Grapevine published every day during the conference. All of the informal sessions that were organized during the week are listed, as well as the poster/display presentations held on Tuesday and Thursday.