On April 30th, OurEnergyPolicy.org and The University of Texas at Austin co-hosted “American Perspectives on Energy Efficiency,” a panel discussion about energy efficiency at The National Press Club. The panel of thought-leaders provided insight into energy efficiency policy issues and explored the results of two recent sister surveys that reveal Americans’ and energy professionals’ perspectives on energy efficiency.
Please see below for an abridged version of the transcript and a full video recording of the event. You can view or download the full transcript here.
Opening remarks: Bill Squadron, President, OurEnergyPolicy.org
Presentation of survey results: Sheril Kirshenbaum, Director of The Energy Poll, University of Texas at Austin
- Marilyn Brown (moderator), Professor of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology
- Judi Greenwald, Deputy Director for Climate, Environment, and Energy Efficiency, U.S. Department of Energy
- Michael Webber, Deputy Director of The Energy Institute, The University of Texas at Austin
- Lisa Wood, Executive Director, Institute for Electric Innovation VP, The Edison Foundation
Sheril Kirschenbaum introduced dual energy surveys conducted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Poll and OurEnergyPolicy.org that surveyed the American public and energy professionals, respectively. Both surveys spotlighted energy efficiency. Ms. Kirschenbaum highlighted interesting comparisons between the two surveys, including responses to questions regarding the priority level of energy efficiency, trust of sources of information on energy efficiency, and responsibility for driving energy efficiency measures. See a sample of the results here and stay tuned for the forthcoming reports from the UT Energy Poll and OurEnergyPolicy.org for a comprehensive analysis.
The panel went on to discuss a number of pressing energy efficiency topics, including the following:
- Lisa Wood stressed that energy efficiency is an extremely cost effective resource that we could be using a lot more of. She also expressed her opinion that the most efficient way to move forward with energy efficiency is through building codes and equipment efficiency standards.
- According to Michael Webber, energy efficiency is often an inherent financial tradeoff between capital expenses today for operational savings downstream, and that aligning capital markets with energy efficiency decisions is a possible solution to this problem.
- Judi Greenwald provided an overview of the federal government’s activities in energy efficiency and explained the government’s role in R&D, as a regulator, enabler of best practices, and as a large customer influencing energy efficiency markets.
- Panelists discussed their perceptions of key barriers to energy efficiency: insufficient information about the energy efficiency of buildings in the marketplace, split incentives for implementing energy efficiency measures, a lack of visibility around energy use, and insufficient research and development.
- The need to improve energy literacy and education was another key theme. Many Americans view energy as complicated and very technical, and they don’t know where to obtain information about it. Panelists mentioned high school and college courses, books and publications on energy, utility bills, and even massive online open courses (MOOCs) as mechanisms that are currently being used but could be expanded.
- Another topic of the sister surveys and panel discussion centered on who is responsible for driving energy efficiency in America. While 46% of energy professionals and a slightly lower percentage of Americans said it should be principally the responsibility of the federal government, panelists noted that while the government can be highly influential, there must be outside action, since most energy infrastructure is privately owned. Additionally, panelists noted that regulatory structures have given states and localities significant authority, and states have been taking actions to promote energy efficiency and establish efficiency resources standards.
- The discussion wrapped up with a conversation about the role of energy efficiency in grid reliability. Michael Webber explained that overall, energy efficiency can improve grid reliability, because reduced consumption will strain the grid less. However, increasing energy efficiency too much while failing to accommodate power factors of power quality could disrupt grid reliability. But, according to the panelists, if these issues are accounted for and energy efficiency is implemented in a thoughtful way, a tight connection between resilience and efficiency remains, and there are tremendous opportunities for improving our systems.
What points or questions about energy efficiency would you add to the conversation held by the panelists? What are the most important or pressing energy efficiency issues that policymakers should address? How should energy efficiency fit into an all-of-the-above energy strategy?