Interestingly, several things collided last week resulting in a loud voice saying, “talk about the fuuuuture”, Yoda style. First we began by discussing our marketing theme for this fall’s AESP conference in Dallas. If you don’t have your tickets yet, get with the program! Next, came the stepping down of Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. Finally, it was a follow up email from the IEPEC conference (see last week’s rant for details). What do these have in common? Read on.
The first topic and actually the theme of this post is change. Like it or not, we live in globally competitive world. What many are doing today for a living will not exist or be needed at some point in the future. Manual labor is especially under constant assault because machines are a hell of a lot less expensive and more reliable than humans.
Some occupations replaced by machines in recent years include those providing the following services/needs: buying plane tickets, checking in at the airport, paying tolls, reserving anything, banking, milking cows, picking orders in warehouses, filling the gas tank, checking out of grocery and retail stores with your merchandise, and all kinds of manufacturing positions. I’m firmly convinced this country can lead in manufacturing (one could say we still do) but it won’t include return to peak manufacturing employment. It will be led by innovation and automation – like the amazing Barilla plant tour I had a few years ago in Ames. It seemed like about five people kept several lines of varying types of pasta churning 24/7 by the ton.
Americans tend to whine about the good old days but as my Navy roommate used to say, these ARE the good old days. People who don’t like change will play second fiddle their entire lives. People who operate out of their comfort zone at every opportunity typically will not.
One of the IEPEC keynote speakers, Gary Golden is a “Professional Futurist”. His topic was interesting; especially the part where he explained indirectly that none of us in attendance would be needed as a result of potential new power generating technology. You can view his presentation here, but more importantly I urge you to watch the 4 minute talk by Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlet Packard, cancer survivor, and US senate candidate. She explains that people in power want to maintain the status quo to stay in power. That may be the case, especially in politics, but as my basketball coach said, there is always somebody better than you and that applies to everything you do – even if you don’t know of anyone, they’re out there.
In the free world, successful people are not successful and rich because they cling to power. They are successful because they are relentlessly competitive, innovative, and not afraid of failure, colossal failure. Which brings me to Steve Jobs.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board published a great tribute to Steve Jobs. Jobs created the Apple I (which I don’t remember), the Apple II (which I do remember), Lisa (a total flop), then the Mac. After that he went on to found another computer company, which was an epic bomb. He rejoined Apple in the late 1990s and then things really got crazy as you know. Under Jobs’ control, Apple produced the iPod and iTunes, allowing consumers to get away from their clunky Sony Walkman and Walkman wannabees. Then came the iPhone and I thought, what the hell is all the rage about this stupid phone – until I saw one in action, and I won an iPod Touch at an AESP conference drawing. Instantly, I would say it was like comparing the Joint Strike Fighter to a WWI biplane. It was way expensive, but it didn’t matter – now THAT is where you want to be.
Suddenly everyone else was in a sprint to catch up, maybe adding a bell or whistle to be worth buying. Like the iPod, the iPhone transformed the entire market with all kinds of wannabee makes and models, few of which come close in quality, but they are getting there. In the past year for example, I ditched my Windows phone – a heavy, clunky, pokey kludge. The Android phone I now have is to the MS phone as my Dell 4200 laptop is to the Compaq boat anchor sitting in my basement somewhere.
Jobs was successful because he failed, learned, succeeded, failed, learned more, thrown in the heap of has-beens, and ultimately lead the creation of products people didn’t know they wanted.
I learned something from the aforementioned Wall Street Journal piece: Say’s Law – that supply can create demand. Too bad Washington doesn’t understand this as they keep pushing the cooked noodle of consumer demand to spark the economy. It has always failed. It always WILL fail. But unfortunately, university egghead economists don’t understand this and refuse to acknowledge failure and instead rationalize it with bogus excuses. They blow it for us and flee back to the safety of their university posts where they indoctrinate another generation of wrong headed drones – like the marching men in the 1984 Mac ad.
The lesson: clearly, the first part of learning from failure is RECOGNIZING FAILURE!
This brings me back to the first item mentioned at the outset: our marketing plan for this fall. Energy efficiency programs have since the dawn of the concept relied very very heavily on lighting programs. Solid state lighting is coming and in time, lighting will become like the PC and laptop, it’s virtually perfected and commoditized.
Then what? Regulators, don’t back down. Efficiency potential is huge sans lighting. Innovation in our industry is badly lacking primarily, I believe, because people can get away with it, but more formidable is the fear of veering from the status quo as Ms. Fiorina describes.
We have had the good fortune to evaluate many new utility program portfolios in states relatively new to energy efficiency. When I read program backgrounds/summaries, yy –aa – ww – nn. Efficient equipment, lighting, direct install, low income weatherization, and maybe a new construction program – which produces mainly bogus savings. This is all fine for a while.
Regulators need to support change as well. For example, allowing utilities to make money implementing energy efficiency has proven to be a real winner – I’m not talking about decoupling, bonuses for exceeding goals, or cost recovery mechanisms. I mean revenue and profit from EE. There is nothing wrong with utilities profiting from EE, while programs are cost effective for customers. It’s a real motivator.
Utilities need to be open to change. In Fly High and Jump! just a couple weeks ago, I talked about customers wanting to cut here and chop there off their energy efficiency plan. It doesn’t work. A car with no fuel tank is no good. Utilities have similar inclinations. Present them with a proven program, unconventional, outside the box with about five key elements, and they’ll want to remove two of them. Can’t do that – like jumping out of the airplane with not enough altitude for the chute to open. Splat.
So the question to utilities is, what are you going to do when the lighting gravy train runs off the tracks and your programs can barely keep up with codes and standards, which are slowly but surely and asymptotically approaching perfection? Most “perfect” (reasonably optimal) components still use a lot of energy and there remains huge potential in system waste, sloppy controls, and appropriate technology applications.
About 1984: Michaels Engineering was founded in 1984 – whoa!
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
I spent last week at the International Energy Program Evaluation Conference, IEPEC, as in, I-E-P-E-C to hard core evaluators or I-Peck for the rest of us.
Ninety-five percent of the conference including content and networking was great. Of course with this being the Energy Rant, I will beat on the remaining 5%.
Recapping, there are generally two portions of program evaluation: impact and process. Impact evaluation, which is what we at Michaels do, involves the assessment of savings (impacts) programs achieve, including what the measure actually saves (gross savings) and what impact the program had on the savings (net savings). For example, my mother started buying LED Christmas lights and practically replaced her Las Vegas scale lighting system with LEDs in one year. She then showed me forms she could submit to get cash back from the utility. Mom loves the lights. The cash was just a handout. Gross savings may have been decent for a residential end user. Net savings were zero because she already bought them without knowledge of the incentives or program.
Per the California Evaluation Framework, 2004, process evaluation is a systematic assessment of an energy efficiency program for the purposes of (1) documenting program operations at the time of the examination, and (2) identifying and recommending improvements that can be made to the program to increase the program’s efficiency or effectiveness for acquiring energy resources while maintaining high levels of participant satisfaction. The term “program’s efficiency and effectiveness” refers to dollars spent on programs. Are they achieving real impacts or just handing out money?
The conference is dominated by process evaluators and their counterparts on the utility and government (state and federal) side of things. Many (10-30%?) of these people I think have orbited a little too far from earth and spun off to other galaxies. They live in a galaxy far away and they argue about things like Zeno’s Paradox, except more obtuse, nebulous, and alien than our pal, Zeno. From here on I’ll refer to life forms as ETs, as in extraterrestrials.
I’m sending out a call to program implementers – utilities and third party implementers – you need to get involved with these evaluation conferences because I think you might be surprised at what you hear. For example, the keynote speaker Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science, talked; well let’s just say the title of her book is “Merchants of Doubt” (about global warming). Her message involved the history of deniers going back to the end of the cold war, later risks of tobacco, and so on up to global warming. It was interesting but as you know, I have doubts about significant human derived global warming and the conference itself perpetuates the basis of my doubts. I believe the reason it isn’t getting traction is people do not perceive any climate changes or adverse effects. Change is normal. On the other hand in the tobacco fight, black rotten lungs and people dying a heinous cancerous death are clearly eye openers.
Like climate science, the conference is supposed to be based on engineering, science, social behavior, decision making processes and the like. But in a large sense, to some it has turned into an advocacy group for policies to mitigate climate change and the philosophy of evaluation is starting to look like the philosophy of climate change as presented by the ETs. Papers for the conference have the same “peer review” process that the climate scientists supposedly have. In fact, as moderator, I peer reviewed three papers for my session and those papers focused on subjects relative to program evaluation, including how do customer perceptions of their lighting hours match reality as determined by logged data. What are the market effects of high bay lighting in California relative to a control group of states with no programs? This was interesting stuff and the papers were informative. I learned a lot and even referenced some of the findings already in proposals. To be sure, other sessions presented much pertinent useful information.
However, some latter sessions were really whacko fringe stuff that had nothing whatsoever to do with program evaluation. I attended one session that I swear to my maker was a doomsday cult session. People were pounding away on their smart phones during the session, possibly to book flights to Guyana?? In fact, I was thinking of shooting off an email to my loved ones saying that it’s been great knowing you and thank you for everything, Mom. The presenter was talking about how megatons of methane locked up in silt from a Siberian river flowing into the arctic ocean was going to be released and temperatures would rise 20 degrees or so in 20 years and a billion people would die from drought and famine. No kidding! Sounds like the makings of a Superman IIX movie. And this guy was absolutely convinced this is about to happen and absolutely sure what the precise effects would be. He spoke factually and in reading his paper he speaks of certain things to come – i.e., he was not saying,” could”, “may”, or “worst case” – it was “will” for all claims.
The only “will” there is about the future is, I will die, and I will pay taxes.
At the same conference there were panels of ETs who would debate things for which I could not understand whatsoever. When a guy (me) who’s been in the business for 16 years doesn’t understand the message, the message is miserably and hopelessly off course. The ring leader would say, “so and so is a contrarian and the other three panelists are believers” [in something?]. I don’t know what. They are so far out in left field you have to remember the seven time zones difference to ask them a question so you wake them up in the middle of the night. Finally, one woman in the session – an implementer – stood up and commented that we need to start talking the language of ISOs (independent system operators that control the grid), power suppliers and utilities or we will lose relevance not only for EE and policy, but for evaluation as well. I was about to give her a standing-O right there for COMMON SENSE. The first words out of one of the panelists mouth was, “I disagree.” Boooooooooo! What is wrong with these ETs?
The day before this there was a panel of mostly ETs to discuss politics of evaluation, which turned into politics of global warming of course. Note that probably most old timers still inhabit our planet and they are clear thinking people with their eye on the ball, which is improving programs. They didn’t all arrive at Boston Harbor in the starship lollipop. Moving on, each of the panelists gave their sermons and then it was turned over to ETs in the audience voice their proposed chapters to the holy book. I actually had to leave before it was over. The typical rant would start with, “I just have a couple quick comments.” Five minutes later they were talking about chicken farming on a nickel a day in Kenya. They would babble incoherently like someone who had been dropped on their head and doped up on maximum doses of morphine prescribed by their doctor. Anyone home? Is there a question in there somewhere? Perhaps a comment regarding our industry? Have you ever been introduced to concise?
Many ETs argue that we cannot quantify the true impacts of EE programs so just fuggedaboutit. We cannot treat EE or demand response as a resource so fuggedaboutit. What the? Then why have these programs? They know for sure that they need plane tickets to Guyana but we can’t even come close on program impacts? See what I mean? Does this make sense? The juxtaposition with program evaluation and climate change seems to be, believe. We can’t really measure it. We know neither the day nor the hour. It is going to kill us and these programs are cost effective. Just keep the money coming.
As it turns out, I was not the only flat earther in attendance. Numerous other heretics including one who had been away from these conferences for 10 years said the same thing, unsolicited. “It has become a religion,” one elder statesperson said. Well, heeeyah!
Let’s get rid of the underlying stealth agenda and crap papers and refill with good stuff and save the ET rants for the lollipop ride back to planet Koozebane.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
Natural gas utilities tend to howl about making EE goals because it is much more difficult to capture savings for natural gas than it is for electricity. With one giant exception, lighting, this isn’t really true and I do not agree. Lighting retrofit/replacement is indeed easy for a number of reasons:
- Utility DSM product managers and account managers understand it.
- Customers understand it.
- Lighting upgrades improve lighting brightness and color rendering.
- Some level of investigative analytical study is NOT required.
- With the exception of early T8 electronic ballast technologies, maintenance is reduced, at minimum because the customer has new equipment after implementation.
- Design services are not needed.
- Impacts are relatively easy to quantify.
- Evaluation-verified savings generally result in high realization rates.
- Everyone else is doing it so why don’t we, from the customer perspective.
Now consider custom efficiency, where huge potential exists; potential that is far greater than lighting in commercial and industrial facilities. Let’s apply the characteristics above to custom efficiency.
- If done right, which is too often not the case, custom measures can improve comfort.
- Yes, investigation/analysis is required.
- If done right, which is too often not the case.
- Yes, design should occur for success.
- Not for the typical program implementer.
- Not typically.
A few weeks ago the post was It’s Knowledge, Stupid! A GREAT deal of knowledge is required for custom efficiency projects. This is a ginormous barrier. Risk aversion is another huge barrier and that’s what I’ll get to in this rant. Lack of capital is another barrier but probably not in the way you are thinking exactly.
Implementing custom efficiency is a bit like skydiving, which I’ve never done. The risk-plus-hassle to reward ratio for that doesn’t pass my test. But anyway, everyone agrees that jumping off a concrete block is less risky than jumping off the back of a pickup truck, right? (yes – just work with me) As jumping height increases, risk of injury obviously increases. Then there is a huge range of heights that are off limits because it’s too high without parachute, but not high enough for parachute deployment and sufficient deceleration prior to getting your feet on the ground.
Customers that implement custom efficiency measures are scared of heights and typically don’t want to pay for an instructor, or a guy to jump in tandem with (which is what I would do), and they don’t want to pay for an extra few minutes and another couple gallons of fuel to fly to a safe altitude over an open field. The result is a twisted ankle and a bad experience at best, broken bones, death, or possibly worse – completely incapacitated vegetation. Yes. This is the range of possibilities for how a custom EE project could turn out. Many programs lack the airplane to even get off the ground.
Customers think they know what they want at the outset but when the rubber hits the road it’s with the brakes locked or heavily depressed. Sometimes customers will invest in the energy assessment with their own money, wanting to cut energy costs by 15% or some other aggressive target (more than one can get by janitors being vigilant about turning lights out in unoccupied spaces at cleaning time). They are presented with the information that gives them just what they asked for: more than 15% savings from measures with return on investment they require. Now they are frozen because they actually have something to act on. They can’t decide what to do next because… I’m not sure. Fear of the unknown? Risk aversion? They agree, we gave them exactly what they wanted. These people are like taking the ground course for skydiving but can’t get on the plane. They paid for the class but they are looking at more cost for the flight (design) and then actually doing something (jumping = implementation). So they strand the funds invested in the energy assessments.
The next type of customer doesn’t want to pay for anything; ANYTHING. They think since they pay the utility gobs of money, the utility should just invest their own capital to erode the return on the utility’s capital and give them everything, including the cost of implementation. They agree to have an investigative analysis of their facility to identify and evaluate measures available in their facility. The study includes the cost to do everything right – design, budget cost estimates from a contractor, and post-implementation functional testing the measures to ensure measure integrity. Once the study is completed and it’s time for decision making they start recoiling because it isn’t lighting replacement they are used to. Even though ALL the costs to do it right are rolled into the cost-effective measures, they want to start carving stuff out and chopping the measure list down and neutering the ones they sheepishly move forward with. We identify 20% energy cost savings with a 2 year payback and they end up retrofitting some lighting and adding a few points to their energy management system for savings of 4% – because they don’t want to pay for a damn thing, even though all the costs to do it right are in the measures that meet their criteria. These guys get their skydiving ground course paid for by the utility then they ride the plane to the end of the runway takeoff and jump out there and stub their toe – go through the motions and do as little as possible.
These guys who jump out at the end of the runway are the most frustrating. They have enormous opportunity but don’t want to pay for anything. They don’t pay for independent design firms to design their systems either. They have contractors do everything each in their own bubble. The HVAC vendor is told to provide a rooftop unit for 60,000 square feet of sales floor but this a grocery store. The vendor looks up 60,000 square feet in their table for, say Syracuse, NY and it says they need 150 tons of cooling and 1.2 million Btu/hour. Ok. Give me one of those. Wait a minute! You have 80 tons of cold in the store in the form of refrigeration. What about that? There is no integration whatsoever in the facility design and as a result this customer type pays way too much initially, they have a system that performs like crap because it’s way oversized, and it’s an energy hog. Penny “wise” and brick of gold bullion foolish.
Then there is the miracle customer that does things right. They pay for the study almost entirely out of their pocket because their utility has minimal EE funding. The report indicates 30% saving potential from measures meeting their financial criteria. The board, lead by the district administrator discusses how to free up capital to do the project. They don’t have cash lying around or a huge endowment to tap. Creatively on one month’s time they carve out the capital they need to do the project and they are ready to go. The board approves moving forward with the measures, including paying for decent design documents. Measures are implemented and then tested per the initial study scope and cost. Wouldn’t you know it – they end up with 40% savings and a 2.7 year payback rather than the study-predicted 3.7 year payback. Serious, decisive, creative, bold, confident, and fully committed result in huge savings that exceed huge expectations, all in a timeframe of barely 7 months from start of study to final implementation test. These guys take their skydiving class, fly to 4,000 feet, jump in tandem and have a blast. Next step: Everest.
A couple weeks ago in It’s Knowledge, Stupid!, I was ripping the EPA a new one for paving over a farm field 20 miles from Kansas City for their new facility, leaving their old one which was in the urban center where they tell us to live and work. Do as I say but don’t expect us to follow. I mentioned some ridiculous costly regulations they are in the process of rolling out. Well Touché. Such regs would cause Nebraska Public Power District with a million people served a billion dollars, a thousand dollars per head served. Yeow! I’ll have to study risk mitigation by the reduced emissions versus cost for a future rant.
Lastly, don’t look now but the goofy right wingers may have a point about the price of CFLs soaring after incandescent lamps are taken off the market. Wow. That would cause a massive backlash which would be very damaging to the EE industry. Be careful what you wish for.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
As administrations and congresses come and go, one thing remains the same: “there is no clear energy policy”, and “we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil”. Neither one is ever addressed.
First, what the heck is a clear energy policy anyway and are we sure we want one? When the government messes with any market, the result is always negative for consumers and in some cases bordering on catastrophe. The only exception I see is utilities, which lend themselves to monopolistic efficiency. You may need to lie down after that head-spinning oxymoron. But seriously, in order to have economies of scale, it makes sense to create giant, relatively efficient power plants where fuel can be hauled by the trainload of coal equivalent and power distributed inexpensively to end users. So the government regulates these monopolies I would say with success as energy costs are dirt cheap.
Most other government interventions I can think of result in disaster. Consider the current pathetically weak economy. First off, the reason for the deep, deep recession we fell into three years ago was fueled like monsoon rains fuel future wildfires in the deserts of AZ and CA – by the government. In the 1990s congress was pushing for home ownership for every American. Add to this Fannie Freddie Mae Mac, which socialized the risk (taxpayers) and privatized the benefit (home buyers). On top of this add politically motivated easy money by the federal reserve. The result was exactly as I say – a growing stock of fuel for a massive fire to crash and burn. Entities from the government, financial institutions, and individuals contributed to the massive bubble that popped with a horrific bang. We are in the third year of a housing hangover – imagine a three-day hangover from a bender you may have enjoyed in your wild and crazy youth.
WARNING: What you are about to read may cause severe brain damage. Position yourself to protect your head or don a helmet before reading.
From a resource preservation perspective, the “energy policy” we’ve had over the years has been good for energy conservation. Why? Because if there is one thing that motivates people more than anything, it’s money. Conservationists and greenies say our energy prices are artificially low because of government subsidy. I disagree, totally. 100%. If we REALLY wanted low energy prices, including electricity and petrol, we could have it by tomorrow afternoon, theoretically. We could collapse the oil prices immediately by passing bills and signing into law the domestic production of more oil in addition to importing from our friends, the Canadians. Last time increased domestic production was discussed the argument was that it wouldn’t have an impact for 10 years and then it would be minimal. Wrong! As I mentioned before, people are not rats. We prepare for, hedge and bet on future to reduce and take advantage of risk. Announcing future substantial domestic production increases would have an immediate effect. Conversely, the strategic oil reserve, if I remember correctly includes a month of US consumption and is not even worth talking about with regard to easing prices.
There are an estimated 3 trillion barrels of oil locked up in shale and a huge chunk of that is under mountain states of the United States. Incidentally, at today’s consumption rate, shale oil alone would last nearly 100 years (worldwide).
We could also go forward with the pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. The tar sands hold an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels; enough to fuel the United States for over 200 years per my calculations. With roughly 300 years of oil supply along the Rocky Mountains of North America alone, I think I can skip the flood of offshore oil available in the Gulf and up and down the east and west coasts of the country. Peak oil? Sure. Sometime a few hundred years down the road. It depends on what you call reserves.
Similarly, we have glut of natural gas like we haven’t experienced in my lifetime due to: (1) hydraulic fracturing technology and (2) horizontal drilling technology. Without investigating exact numbers and areas, this vast trove runs from Ohio through Appalachia to New York with a bunch of states in between and around (as just one deposit). And we already know the U.S. is the “Saudi Arabia” of coal.
The North American Oil stocks discussed above are under federal government control. The oil shale in the west is mostly under U.S. government property. We could build the pipeline from the tar sands to refineries all over the country if Washington chose to do so.
I almost forgot. We are running low on oil from the North Slope of Alaska – that is, oil from the permitted area of the North Slope. Flows are becoming too low to maintain enough temperature for the oil to flow freely from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. If more land isn’t opened for drilling, this fortune in assets, the pipeline, may need to be mothballed.
So we have an “energy policy”, consisting of greatly constrained domestic production in lieu of buying oil from the most volatile regions of the planet and in some cases, directly from dictators who will and do mow down their own people if they get out of line. The “subsidies” include tax deductions for depleting reserves, like depreciation every other business uses, plus gobs of military spending to keep the “peace” in these volatile regions. You may call that a big fat subsidy. I call it a choice.
We are paying dearly for this energy policy: Tax dollars for defense, policy-driven HIGH energy prices, human lives, higher prices for renewable energy, higher prices for alternate fuels, e.g., natural gas versus coal, higher food prices because 40% of our largest crop is used to make fuel – one of the stupidest policies imaginable, and so on.
It isn’t all bad although there are mistakes along the way and shortages of honesty and full disclosure. One positive byproduct is sustainability (except for ethanol) in reducing energy consumption today for use by future generations. That is a good thing. I most highly prefer to cut waste and not drill and mine willy nilly.
Ironically, it isn’t for altruism for future generations but out of selfishness that this is happening. It’s selfish because Americans want tolerably priced energy but they don’t want look at its production or transport in any way, shape, or form – literally. We therefore choose to go make messes in others’ countries. On top of this, in the US where renewable energy is generated on the Great Plains and nobody there complains about it, greenies in the cities don’t even want transmission lines through the country to charge their frivolous Nissan Leafs with it. We should force them to decide where they want their power from. They don’t want anything, except energy – by Merlin the magician.
If you have read many of these posts you would know I’m a blasphemous heretic with respect to climate change (or probably more of an out-of-the-closet loud mouth). For a few samples, you may be interested in seeing Green Jacket, Cigar, Gold Rings and Disneyland, This is not Tee-Ball, and Law of Gravity, Repealed. Without recapping any of that, this week I came across one more detail that screams don’t bother. Manmade CO2 emissions are three percent (3%) of total CO2 emissions with nature making up the other 97%. So if we spend a gazillion dollars and all sacrifice our firstborn we can reduce total CO2 emissions by maybe 1%. Also, according to recently released analysis of NASA data by Ph.D. climate scientists, climate computer sims, upon which all the hype is based, far underestimate re-irradiation of heat back to space. In English, the earth dumps heat through the atmosphere at much greater rates than the computers predict. I have 14 trillion reasons we should instead be focusing on a far more irrefutable, immanent disaster we can actually do something about.
This just in: The EPA, FDA and other sundry alphabet soup shills for business have declared the evil Bisphenol A (BPA) plastic is more or less harmless.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
I’ve spent most of my career in energy efficiency marketing and selling energy efficiency to clients and anyone who might listen. Come to think of it, I marketed and sold to a lot of people who didn’t listen, to be sure. So no one is safe. A major component is removing barriers; also known as excuses, and sometimes bad ones.
Selling EE is very challenging but rewarding and it’s the way it should be rather than jamming laws down the gizzards of the public by the dysfunctional, corrupt, and clueless bunch in Washington. Last week a guy actually presented a bill to ban the installation and even the purchase of compact fluorescent lamps for the federal government. What happened to right wing consumer choice line? I had to read it twice to believe my eyes. What a sophomoric ideologue. Meanwhile, Rome continues to burn as they can’t agree to cut spending in any substantial way whatsoever.
This week I bounced across this report by the Environmental Defense Fund regarding barriers to EE and maybe how to overcome them. So I took a look to see if I was missing anything. It includes the usual laundry list: lack of capital, risk aversion, and split incentives for leaser/leasee.
My first rant from this document regards one so-called barrier for municipal, university, school, and hospital (MUSH) facility owners. Ironically, I first came across this acronym last week in a position listing for an ESCO (performance contractor). It said they needed people skilled in dealing with MUSH. I thought MUSH possibly meant the substance in the craniums of federal bureaucrats.
Anyway, back to the MUSH barriers – the report says one barrier for MUSH that for-profit enterprises don’t have to deal with is shortage of staff. I about sprayed my nutty nuggets and milk all over my laptop. That is a clueless statement. You’ve heard the statement, “Caution, Men Leaning on Shovels Next Two Miles” for government road guys. Since both state/county governments, as well as for-profit companies, do major roadwork like resurfacing highways, I always observe the workers and I can generally tell whether they work for government or for a contractor. Workers for contractors stand in one place to drink water but that’s about it. Have you ever seen a backhoe with a couple guys in the hole its digging and four or five other guys making sure it’s being done right? Those guys work for the government.
Even ten years ago I would listen to government facility people responsible for energy efficiency sit and bellyache while they watched Bob Barker during their half hour morning break. “Gotta do the same work now with four guys that a dozen used to do.” Blah, blah, blah…
Want to know where this is true and the workload has actually increased? Utilities. Utility sales people or account managers as they may be known have been RIF’d (let go) en masse in the past 10-20 years – in some cases as many as 75% of them are gone. It is not unusual for a utility that had 50 account managers twelve years ago now has 12 or 15. Meanwhile demand for energy keeps increasing. The storms go on. The outages, while rare, continue to occur. And EE goals sure as heck have not gone down, but rather have increased substantially.
Another barrier for manufacturing that I don’t see in the document: TIME. Lack of time is a major barrier to EE in manufacturing facilities. You’ve heard of the “jobless recovery”. Many companies are making a lot of money and hoarding cash but they are not hiring people, and Washington can’t figure this out. There is a name for this (making more money with the same head count): productivity. I know this is Greek as hell (pun intended) to a Washington. For-profit enterprises are in business to make money. Hiring workers is a necessary downside, except in consulting where people are the product. Bottom line: they don’t have people standing around leaning on shovels that can be freed up to deal with EE projects.
The other major barrier to EE the paper seems to omit is a major one: lack of knowledge or understanding energy efficiency and how to determine return on investment. I put forth that most Americans cannot calculate a 4th grade “word problem” (remember those when you were in grade school?). For example, how much money would Timmy save per year if he trades in his 18 mpg SUV for a 28 mpg vehicle of some sort. That’s as easy as it gets. It’s easier than determining savings from a CFL I bet, because people don’t know what a kWh is let alone what a kWh costs. Consider some other ingenious and much more complex energy project bungles and follies we have experienced with custom efficiency program evaluations:
- Water was being pumped several hundred feet vertically to a reservoir that supplied a water treatment station for distribution to end users. The treatment plant was on an elevation near the source from where the water was pumped to the reservoir. Probably like right here in La Crosse. At one point somebody had a great idea. Take advantage of the water’s elevation to generate electricity ala hydro-electric generation as the water flows back “downhill”. But that wasn’t the project at hand. The turbine had already been installed years ago. The project at hand was to take the turbine out and actually use the elevation as a source of water pressure for the plant rather than using pumps. Rather than extracting energy with a turbine and adding it back with a pump, both of which have significant inefficiencies and of course maintenance costs, just let gravity do all the work! Awesome!
- A chilled water system for a large healthcare campus has problems. A new large building is added to the plant, but the system can’t meet the loads due to a pumping system problem. The chillers have plenty of capacity. Chilled water is being short circuited they say, and the buildings are not getting enough flow, somehow (our investigation is underway now). Savings are achieved by shutting a chiller down because now the load can be met by fewer, more loaded chillers. Major chunks of piping are being replaced. Pumps are being idled. Savings equal nameplate kW. That’s not how it works. At all. First, this has engineering boondoggle written all over it. Either the system was designed and approved by someone who doesn’t understand fluid dynamics, or system control is the problem. I would bet on the latter and I would question the need to spend hundreds of thousands on piping replacement. It may be as simple as the new building is moving so much water that flow reversal in the chiller water loop is occurring and this can be fixed, possibly with controls. At any rate, this was an engineering screw up. Should ratepayers help pay for the fix? It’s a good question.
- A cereal-making process cannot tolerate high relative humidity as this makes sugar and other powdery stuff clump up and make a mess. The process guys shut down the outdoor air on the air handlers that condition the space. What about the massive exhaust fans? They made the problem worse by drawing in gobs of untreated air with exhaust sucking humid outdoor into the facility. The stupid exhaust fans! Don’t blow off the exhaust fans! They can cause a lot of problems like frozen pipes and frozen water coils, comfort problems, and process problems.
The bottom line is, there is huge opportunity for EE in commercial and industrial facilities but there are no neon signs, blaze orange paint, or a tipoff like an incandescent light bulb – or textbooks pointing out how to recognize and achieve the savings. Lack of knowledge and expertise to make systems function properly AND save energy is an enormous barrier.
If you are interested in reading more on barriers – Christopher Russell pretty well nails it.
Outrage of the Week
The EPA, the organization substantially responsible for scaring the dickens out of industry and business, the ones with the new insane proposed ozone limits, the ones who implement their own policies with an end-around on congress, the ones largely responsible for your electric bills going up… Is moving their Region 7 HQ in Kansas City from their current downtown urban center location to 20 miles out, paving over farmland and having their workers poison us all with their weapons of mass destruction on four wheels. Nice job Lisa Jackson. This guy from the National Resources Defense Council is pissed!
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP