Evolution of the Energy Economy

Aug. 27, 2002
A Recap of the 13th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum
What happens when demand exceeds supply? Asking this question, with respect to traditional energy sources, has some very real and very frightening repercussions. “According to the estimates of our department’s Energy Information Administration, in just two decades we’ll need 175 quads of energy to meet anticipated demand based on expected growth in this country, both population as well as economy.In other words, that’s three-quarters more demand than Americans consume today,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham during the 13th annual Energy Efficiency Forum. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Energy Association, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, WI-based Johnson Controls Inc., the June 12, 2002 forum titled “Evolution of the Energy Economy: Ensuring Security and Stability” discussed a myriad of topics – everything from energy conservation incentives and renewable resources to public policy issues – at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.Of special interest to building owner and facility management professionals was an announcement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman: “I’m very pleased today to be able to announce that we are expanding our EnergyStar® performance ratings to the hotel industry. Thanks to a cooperative effort among EPA and some of the leading hotel operators in the country, we have developed benchmarking tools for that industry.”Enhancing the EnergyStar program even further, energy performance indicator tools have been expanded for manufacturing plants. “The new automobile assembly plant indicators are the first in what I hope will be a long line of new EnergyStar tools that will improve energy efficiency across a broad spectrum of manufacturing facilities,” explains Whitman.Whitman also highlighted the Climate Leaders program during her presentation, citing the importance of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, and the voluntary effort by companies to work toward this goal.New technology, the future of renewable sources, and the availability of energy-efficient products and solutions for both residential and commercial buildings were points of discussion during Abraham’s presentation. The U.S. Secretary of Energy noted the advances of solar building technology research that may one day result in “zero net energy buildings” or buildings that are able to generate on average as much energy as they demand.Lighting was another significant topic. “Nationwide lighting consumes 7 quadrillion BTUs or more in a given year, which is about 7 percent of our entire energy usage in this country. On top of that, less-efficient incandescent bulbs produce huge amounts of heat that our climate control systems of course in turn must manage so we pay an additional energy penalty as well,” he explains. Abraham demonstrated an inorganic light-emitting diode – new technology so revolutionary that he compared it to the invention of the automobile. “Items like this one use solid-state technology to perform more work while using just a fraction of the energy that current lighting does,” he says.In an effort to lead by example, the government has taken considerable measures to reduce energy usage in federal buildings. However, Abraham acknowledges the challenge of weighing initial costs with return on investment (ROI). “We are promoting life-cycle cost analysis for new federal buildings. This is a difficult challenge since budget constraints often force project managers to cut corners on energy-efficiency features that might cost a little more upfront but do, of course, pay for themselves many times over during the life of the building,” he says. For more information on the 13th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum or to review the transcripts, visit (www.eeforum.net).Jana J. Madsen ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.

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