Notes on the session of Technology Opportunities in the Area of preventing climate change
Technology Opportunities in the Area of Preventing Climate Change
George Sakellaris moved to America from Greece over 40 yrs ago and founded Ameresco, a company that has been growing at 80% per year for 5 years, implementing a full range of energy conservation projects from light bulbs to trash.
Clinton mandated conservation in US Gov´t facilities. Conservation is key. In 1979 oil went to over $80 per barrel. He was at New England Power when they chose to promote conservation. He says that transporting steam is a waste. Best to have a lot of mini-boilers than to send steam. But there are barriers to energy conservation – Financial, psychological and institutional. On the financial side what Ameresco is doing is guaranteeing the savings to customers. On the psychological front the key is to show people that conservation does NOT mean to have less. It means to adopt technology that gives you the same results with less energy consumption. There are different type of light bulbs that give the same lumens but require significantly less in the way of energy consumption. Lastly, on the institutional front George Sakellaris believes it is key that the government sets standards to implement savings.
Amory Lovins head of the Rocky Mountain Instititute, starts by saying that he is here to make “George terribly reasonable.” Amory explains that energy conservation is not only good, it is profitable. Energy efficiency is the cheapest resource we have. It is much cheaper than finding and lifting oil. There´s a book Winning the Oil Game, it´s on the web site. It is funded by the Pentagon. We can save half the oil projected by 2025 through conservation, biodiesel and use of natural gas. Oil becomes no longer interesting. You don´t fight more over it. The US would save $70bn per year and no new laws are needed for this. He advocates composite cars which are lighter and safer. SUVs would get 66 miles a gallon if they were hybrid and made of ultralight materials. The US has more marketpower than OPEC if it applies conservation and breaks OPEC. 40% of US electricity could be saved if installations were retrofited. Power sector now is a black hole of capital. Best solution per dollar is how to think of energy consuming devices.
How can we bring the most promising technologies to market?
A great idea I heard: Let´s rebuild New Orleans as the most energy efficient city in the world. Set extremely high energy conservation standards before rebuilding it. New Orleans should set new standards as it rebuilds.
My idea: carbon emmissions are not graphically represented. Everyone knows horse power. Why don´t we have a graphic indication of pollution? Furs, cigarettes, fat, sunlight were once seen as good or harmless. Now for different reasons they are perceived as bad. How? Well, in the case of cigarettes first we learned that they caused cancer and other diseases, and afterwards we changed our view. We once perceived people smoking to be healthy and not to be seen as addicts they are. I believe that the same should be true of energy users. People need to realize how sick the world will get if all of us don´t start conserving. We should show people how disgusting the world will look like if we burn less carbon with rising sea levels, devastating storm on coast line towns, and so on. Carbon numbers should be attached to products. People have to see carbon emissions as DIRT.
Lafarge said that it is not possible to cut emissions by half and grow the world economy by 3% a year.
The US doubled energy and oil productivity in the last 30 years. This productivity has accelerated in the past 10 years so progress is being made. California and Vermont are ahead of the game in energy efficiency.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars