“Energy efficiency, in my judgment, is the fifth fuel. While it might be #5 on the chart, it’s #1 in my heart.”

A little bit CEO and a little bit old-school disc jockey, that’s the perspective James E. Rogers provided in Washington at last month’s 18th Energy Efficiency Forum, sponsored by the United States Energy Association and Johnson Controls. Rogers is the president and CEO of Duke Energy.

The advantage of partaking in that fifth fuel, of course, is that it decreases your costs no matter which of the other four sources (gas, coal, nuclear, renewables) you may use. Rogers extended the idea and the usual megawatt terminology to talk about his save-a-watt concept that utilities like his could employ.

“For every megawatt we reduce,” he explained, “we propose a save-a-watt. We’ll spend the money; we’ll take the risk. And at the end of the year, a third party will determine how many save-a-watts we’ve created.” And in turn, for example, Duke Energy would then earn on the basis of that savings. Rogers argues that that’s cheaper for the consumer, has no carbon footprint, and is cheaper than renewables or building new plants to provide additional capacity.

Rogers considers that a pretty good idea, but he’s open to all the good ideas we can come up with, since he considers procrastination not to be an option when it comes to addressing climate change. “We will have carbon regulation in this country by 2009 or 2010. It’s gonna take decades to solve the problem … we need to get going, we need to get to work. Our greatest challenge is to get people motivated to get working on this issue,” Rogers said. “Every day we delay, the cost goes up.”

Rogers, who also testified to a Congressional energy subcommittee hearing while he was in town this past February, cites save-a-watts as one way to focus on incentives as a path to greater efficiency. Now, Congress is working on extensive energy legislation as we go to press. Within the mechanical realm, we’ll have to see if any successful legislation incorporates or builds on the incentives of the Smart Buildings Act of 2007, introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) in May.

That proposal would carry forth the longstanding efforts of Michigan’s Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) to pass tax incentives for commercial building owners who replace old HVAC with newer, more efficient units sooner rather than simply waiting for existing equipment to reach failure. The proposal would really just shift the current tax depreciation schedule into the realm of reality, making upgrades more affordable by allowing owners to use a depreciation schedule of 20 years instead of 39 years.

Pryor is no stranger to the HVAC industry, since his constituency includes 150,000 industry employees in Fort Smith, AR alone. The city hosts facilities for at least half a dozen familiar names including Trane, Rheem, Carlyle, MesTek, Parker Hannifin, and Airtherm. So Pryor sees the Smart Buildings Act as one more step to economic security in his own state, but with energy efficiency edging more conspicuously into the realm of national security for all fifty states, perhaps the thinking of Mssrs. Rogers and Pryor will get a more welcome, if overdue, reception than in the past.

Last Call for Baltimore

Can’t wrap things up without announcing last call for our next “Need To Know: Owners’ Commissioning & TAB Seminar” on July 18th. The good thing about a location like Baltimore is that with multiple nearby airports and easy train service for those along the Eastern seaboard, almost anyone can get there on short notice.

While it’s simple enough to improvise a trip to the Inner Harbor, it’s more complicated (and expensive) to wing it when it comes to arranging these Cx and TAB services for buildings. The team at RDK Engineers, led by Howard McKew, will be talking to you about how to shop intelligently for these services, how to know what you should expect from people competing for these services, and how to navigate the process despite the lack of industry standards for commissioning.

Come in just for the one-day seminar, or make a little vacation out of it. Either way, owners, property managers, government employees, and institutional facility managers will take home valuable insights and a sample RFP to plug into their next projects.

Like the saying goes, time is money. Spend a little of the former with us in Baltimore and enjoy an attractive ROI for the latter. ES