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!