Climate Compass Blog

Conference Shines a Compact Fluorescent Spotlight on Energy Efficiency

Our corporate energy efficiency conference opened by answering the big question: What actions should businesses take to reduce energy use?

  • Don't just set goals, set big hairy audacious ones even if you may not know exactly how to achieve them, asserted PepsiCo.
  • Efficiency is done better together – you have to get all your business units moving forward on efficiency, advised IBM
  • Make the data visible – quarterly scorecards on efficiency measures lead to shared knowledge, clear measures against goals and the ability to hold leaders accountable and reward those who deliver results, suggested Dow Chemical
  • Show them the money – you need to show everyone from the board room to the boiler room that energy efficiency is good for business, stressed Toyota.

So how do you do all this? The solutions-oriented conference provided answers through panels covering the various components of corporate energy efficiency.

The conference marked the launch of our recent report, "From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency" authored by William Prindle, Vice President of ICF International.  Held April 6-7 in Chicago, the two-day conference brought together a diverse audience, including representatives of numerous companies with products ranging from software to soft drinks.

The conference was kicked off with presentations from six companies whose best practices in energy efficiency were highlighted in the report's case studies (Best Buy, Dow Chemical, IBM, PepsiCoToyota, and UTC). Subsequent panels examined issues such as overcoming financial barriers in pursuing energy efficiency projects, gaining senior level support for energy efficiency, engaging employees, suppliers and customers in energy efficiency efforts, and the challenges of gathering and reporting energy efficiency data.

In every panel session there was an abundance of questions, and lively discussions spilled out into the hallways during breaks. Panelists discussing financial barriers to energy efficiency were asked about building a financial case for employee engagement programs, PACE financing, and tradable energy efficiency certificates. Attendees had panelists pondering the idea of a best-of-the-best list within the joint U.S. DOE/U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR program and how to include supply chain efficiency metrics in labeling.  How to keep employees engaged in energy efficiency measures and bringing suppliers into the fold were other key questions asked of conference panelists.

While the discussions mostly focused on what companies can do to be more energy efficient, the broader issue of climate change was not far from everyone's minds. Former Senator John Warner, a keynote speaker, was asked about the right message that would get Congress moving on climate change legislation. And keynotes John Rowe, CEO and Chairman of Exelon, and our President Eileen Claussen both noted that policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions is essential to moving the United States to a low-carbon economy and addressing climate change.

Videos and presentations from the conference are available on our Web site.

Aisha Husain is an Energy Efficiency Fellow.

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Could Help the Grid: Prospects with Frequency Regulation

This is the third post in a three-part series that explores potential impacts of electric vehicles on the electrical grid. Part 1 and Part 2.

Previous posts in this series discussed how the demand for electricity from plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) would affect the grid as well as a potential problem related to clustering. This final post describes an opportunity for these vehicles to help increase the stability of the grid and hold down utility rates for consumers.  As a reminder, a PEV is either an all-electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Could Help the Grid: Following the Crowd

This is the second post in a three-part series that explores some potential impacts of electric vehicles on the electrical grid. Part 1 and Part 3.

In our previous post in this series, we provided evidence that the existing electrical grid has enough spare capacity to accommodate plenty of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), if the right incentives are put in place. In this post, we will discuss a technical problem that has its roots in social behavior.

The transition from traditional powered vehicles to electric vehicles will not be without its hiccups. While the aggregate impact of PEVs on the grid is likely moderate, one concern is clustering, which can be thought of as the realization of the famous comic strip Keeping up with the Joneses. If people buy what their neighbors have, this could lead to a clustering of PEVs in certain neighborhoods which might place excessive demand on local areas of the grid.

Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation Across the Federal Government

Today we released a report on climate change adaptation and the role of the federal government.

As we continue to await Senate action on a comprehensive bill that limits carbon pollution and grows the clean energy economy, the words of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco resonate:

“Climate change is happening now and it's happening in our own backyards and it affects the kinds of things people care about.”

Ambitious greenhouse gas reduction programs are essential to prevent the worst impacts, but some impacts are unavoidable, such as more intense Midwestern heat waves, Western wildfires, and coastal threats from rising sea levels. If you haven’t already, check out this great map from the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s report on climate change impacts across the United States or look at EPA’s recent report on climate change indicators.

GCRP: Climate Change Impacts in U.S.
Source: U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. 2009. http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/usimpacts-brochures.

If we hope to minimize the costs of these impacts we’re going to have to better understand our vulnerabilities to climate change and begin to take steps to adapt.

Monitoring Planet Earth’s Vital Signs

While the Senate’s effort to take up comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation remains on hold awaiting a resolution of when and if an immigration bill will be considered, EPA just issued a new report that sends a loud and clear reminder about why Congressional action is urgent.  The report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States, presents detailed information documenting 24 different ways in which climate change is altering our nation and the world.

This is not your standard climate report with pages and pages of scenarios and model runs projecting out over time what future climate impacts are possible.  Instead, this report looks back and documents biological and physical changes that have already occurred.  It focuses on actual measurements of real conditions – from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations measured in the atmosphere to changes in sea surface temperatures to shifts in the length of growing seasons.