Reflections on the 2006 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings

Blog Post | October 02, 2006 - 8:00 pm

By Bill Prindle

The "Buildings Summer Study" at Asilomar in California has long been a beloved tradition in the energy efficiency community. This year, many of us left Asilomar with a sense that a new era for energy efficiency is unfolding. With the growing strains on supply systems, historic energy prices with no sign of returning to the low levels of the past two decades, and a sharply heightened sense of urgency on global warming, we found ourselves less complacent and more committed to "taking our game up a notch." We came away with impressions that the world is going to be asking a lot of us, which means that we need to expand our thinking and our effectiveness if we are to meet the unprecedented energy challenges of this century.

As a beloved tradition spanning more than two decades, one might wonder whether the "Buildings Summer Study," indeed the whole issue of energy efficiency in buildings, has passed its peak. Have we exhausted the potential for talking about energy efficiency, let alone applying it in the marketplace.? There are those who profess that energy efficiency has done all it can for the United States and other developed countries, that it's time to move on to entirely new energy systems and their attendant issues.

Summer Study 2006 showed that energy efficiency is not only NOT past its peak, but that it is also being embraced more widely and more seriously than ever. Consider this evidence:

  • Record attendance—nearly 800 people attended (796 to be exact).
  • New people—first-time attendees comprised about one-third of all attendees.
  • More variety in topics—we had sessions on integrating renewables with efficiency; community-scale efficiency, including land use and transportation; and several "out-of-the-box" sessions ranging from constructing solar water heaters from scratch to rethinking the long-term potential for energy efficiency.

Summer Study also reflected new and growing commitments to energy efficiency across the U.S. These included evidence of chronic strains on our energy supply systems; California's record new commitments to efficiency resource acquisition; USEPA and USDOE's National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, engaging utilities and state utility commissions in a new wave of state focus on this issue; and state and regional climate initiatives that use energy efficiency as a core component.

The highlight of the conference, as always, was the 282 peer-reviewed papers presented in formal sessions every morning. For a look at the complete Session Schedule and the list of papers presented, visit the 2006 ACEEE Summer Study site. The papers have been published in CD-ROM format. Copies of the proceedings may be ordered online from ACEEE or by calling 202-429-0063.

Four Champion of Energy Efficiency awards were presented by ACEEE during the conference. The winners are:

  • Cheryl Harrington, Director, Regulatory Assistance Project, for her lifelong leadership on energy efficiency policies in the utility field.
  • The Bonneville Power Administration for its long-term and renewed commitment to energy efficiency as an electricity resource. Bonneville Vice President Mike Weedall, particularly cited, is responsible for many of the organization's innovations over the last 25 years.
  • The Champions of Power Supply Efficiency: Chris Calwell, Ecos Consulting; Andrew Fanara, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Noah Horowitz, Natural Resources Defense Council; and John Wilson, California Energy Commission for their research, advocacy, management, and partnership abilities in working to transform a key technology market.
  • Don Fisher, Fisher-Nickel, Inc., for his leadership in changing national markets for energy-efficient food service technologies.

View photos of all of the award winners.

Global climate change dominated the conference plenaries' topics. Surabi Menon, LNBL and James Hanson, NASA presented The Threat to the Planet: Actions Required to Avert Dangerous Climate Change on Sunday (read more in Monday's Grapevine, p. 2), followed by Monday's plenary Policy Innovations at the State Level: Greenhouse Gas and Energy Efficiency Performance Targets. The latter topic was presented by Dian M. Grueneich, California Public Utilities Commission and Richard Sedano, Regulatory Assistance Project (read more in Tuesday's Grapevine, p. 2). On Tuesday, Thomas E. Princen, University of Michigan focused on Efficiency, Sufficiency, and Economy; read more on page 4 of Wednesday's Grapevine.

To discover or to relive the full flavor of the 2006 Summer Study, read all six issues of The Grapevine. All of the informal sessions organized onsite are listed, as well as the poster/display presentations held on Tuesday and Thursday.

We are already looking forward to our next "Buildings Summer Study" in 2008. Mark your calendars now: August 17 – 22, 2008 at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. See you then!