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Efficiency at ACEEE – Something New, Something New

By August 20, 2018November 5th, 2021Energy Rant

Last week, I participated in ACEEE’s Summer Study for Buildings in Pacific Grove. This week’s Rant features themes of our industry’s direction as described by the hundreds of papers presented at the conference. Most of what I’ve been writing about in recent months is happening in many places. Hurray!

EISApcolypse?  Bring It!

EISA (you say ee-suh, I say I-suh), otherwise known as the Energy Independence and Security Act, will in 2020 mandate the use of light emitting diodes as the standard for applications.

While EISA may not mandate LEDs, or even mandate LED-level efficacy[1], the horse has left the barn. The ship has sailed. The president can do nothing to reel in the success of LED lighting technology, not even with a coal-burning lamp. The point is, lighting retrofits will soon be in the rearview mirror.

Be careful of what you wish. Some states have naïve lawmakers and commissions who believe the end of lighting retrofits is the end of efficiency improvements. Pack the tent; dispose the rubbish in its proper place. It is time to declare victory and go home. This is like saying the telephone, after taking over the telegraph and Morse Code, is as good as it will get; never mind television, radio, cable TV, the internet, satellite radio, online shopping at 40,000 feet, streaming anything whenever you want it, blockchain, and whatever is to come.

Let us instead consider some bounties that remain.

The Incandescent Light Bulb of HVAC: Rooftop Units

The ubiquitous rooftop unit has slid past any and all efficiency codes for decades. This has to end. The cheap and crappy[2] rooftop unit is the pox of our industry. Is there an ARTUA[3] conspiracy blocking any attempt to bring these equivalents of a 454 cubic-inch, four-barrel, hydrocarbon-spewing throwbacks to justice?

They heat with 80% natural-gas efficiency and cool with a 13 mile-per-gallon equivalent of efficiency – and they condition 60% of commercial floor space in the United States! What can we do with these hogs?

First, we can install decent controls, with variable speed fans, demand controlled ventilation, and with 24/7/365 monitoring to make sure their economizers (think open windows on a cool fall evening) are working.

Second, can we please deliver the 40-year-old technology of condensing heating efficiency more than 90%?

Third, replace them with state of the art energy recovery and distributed cold-weather heat pump technology. The savings potential from one paper with a statistically significant sample was over 30% at a retrofit cost of about $18 per square foot versus $10 per square foot for the 454 four-barrel.

Strategic Energy Management

Strategic energy management continues to build and is now mainstream in leading regions of the country, especially the Northwest. This is a welcome development as the industry moves away from the widget world of light bulbs and electric motors. In fact, it was six years ago when I coined the term widgetman and widgetitis. I must have heard the terms widget, post-widget, and non-widget a thousand times during the conference. You’re welcome.

Efficiency as a Resource

There was an entire conference panel featuring 30 presentations, most of which included something about non-wire alternatives, performance-based incentives for utilities, and the waves of the future. This was pleasing to see, as I have written about the subject many times in recent months. Multiple presentations featured time and location of energy efficiency resources. This too is a big factor in determining the benefits of efficiency as I described recently in The $900 per Gallon Avoided Kilowatt Hour. Supply-side resources are cost-justified when the avoided cost at the margin is huge. What about demand-side resources? See this.

In the chuckle department, an attorney representing the Office of Consumer Advocate from a particular state said during his presentation that people have had enough of the BQDM; that is, the Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management project. Why? Because it’s been covered 4 billion times, and frankly, some people don’t like New Yorkers, he said.


Speaking of blockchain technology, I wrote several weeks ago about prognostications of the shared economy and distributed capitalism. The crux from the cited author was that we would move to a zero-marginal-cost society and that transactions would be decentralized.

On my way to the airport from the ACEEE conference (which included blockchain sessions), I listened to an interview with libertarian George Gilder who predicts the end of Google and other free platforms. I think I wrote this before (jest alert). Of course, they will collapse. Nothing lasts forever. Facebook will go first because they offer less – no search engine and no free word processors and spreadsheets, etc. They are all giant ad companies and data collection rackets. Gilder says they think if they have enough data and fast enough computers, with artificial intelligence, computers will gain consciousness. The driverless car, anyone? That may be the most primitive consciousness.

As I’ve said hundreds of times in my life, “free” sucks. At least when people consume ad-sponsored content like The Food Network, they know what the price is, so to speak.

Think about it. What would you pay for blockchain, which would remove virtually all risk of hackers getting your identity, credit cards, bank accounts, and so forth? When we open ourselves to be mined, we give up that control.

Blockchain is in the embryonic stages, and apparently at some point distributed, but not free, energy and everything else will be here.


In many regions of the country, our industry is blazing forward with phase 2 (post lighting) of efficiency and demand management programming. Now that the lighting retrofit and replacement era is going gone – and let’s face it, most new construction and even some industrial programs were nothing more than lighting programs – we shall hopefully return to load-growth pressure, and demand for the cheapest, cleanest resource – efficiency.

[1] Lighting’s edition of miles per gallon as measured by lumens per Watt.

[2] A term used by an author and presenter at the conference – I was so pleased!

[3] I made this up – American RTU Association

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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