You can, however, load up on silver BB’s.

As far as hearing a varied cast of smart people talking about real (and real big) problems, the first week in April was a bonanza of opportunity. Between our own Baltimore gathering and the subsequent Danfoss symposium in Washington, it was amazing how many little bits of wisdom flew around those rooms in presentation and conversation.

Often, these came in passing while making a different point in a presentation, or even in the course of group conversation. Let’s hit just a few of these highlights in lightning-round fashion.

Use It Or Lose It?

Jeff Harris from the Alliance To Save Energy said that we shouldn’t speak of “first cost” or even “life-cycle cost,” but of “true cost,” factoring in the price of energy consumed by the product/system as well.

Bob Bittner of the Wake County, NC school system spoke about efficiency and retrofits and offered a gem: Using what’s there is the cheapest retrofit. Which is to say, so many of our BAS are underused, in terms of alarm and tracking capability, that a real savings source is often sitting right under our noses for free.

He also offered one of the more memorable asides: “My wife’s a teacher in New Jersey. They keep the windows open all winter, because if they don’t use the energy, they won’t get it in the budget the next year.” There isn’t a technology in the world that can defeat that.

Capital Ideas

A quick train ride later, I was in Washington for a Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium. As described in our “Issues & Events” section, this involved a high-octane roundtable of energy and/or buildings professionals from all sectors. There were extremely practical moments - such as Jean Lupinacci explaining the benefits of attaining the Energy Star for Buildings certification.
Mitzi Wertheim, a Social Entrepreneur(!) at the Pentagon, pointed out that until we truly comprehend how individuals are thinking, feeling, and behaving regarding energy decisions, we cannot get the outcomes we seek. That point reinforced Ms. Lupinacci’s observation that all successful energy awareness programs involve a component about what all employees can do at home as well as at work. Improve the mindset, and the policies take care of themselves.

Robert Thompson of Pasadena Power & Light presented on his groundbreaking rebate program. But as for our current habits, infrastructure reality, and energy security issues, he also said it’s like “the asteroid is right outside the window, and everyone thinks that if we pull the shades, it won’t hit us.”

Similarly, there were three separate “silver bullet” references on the day, but all to argue that none exists. Darrell Beschen, a chief economist in energy efficiency at DOE, pointed out, however, that while there is no silver bullet, there is a mountain of “silver BB’s.”

He’s got that right. Pockets of progress abound, and mountains of opportunity remain. Improvements add up. But Michael Oldak of Edison Electric Institute asserted we need to think in terms of “transformation, not transition.” The buildings side of things is not used to that kind of pace, as many of you can attest, and yet the looming energy and grid concerns do not care. The folks studying this for a living get it. And in that sense, when it comes to the need for collaboration and innovation, the week of disparate backgrounds and perspectives produced a common two-word theme.

Faster, please.ES