Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Eco Trends Explained (continued)

Today we’ll examine the last five remaining 2009 trends we expect to find according to this wonderful trend map.  We touch on some of my favorite today:

Negawatts (my personal favorite)
Energy dashboards
Nuclear Power
Green Cities
The Good – I’ve talked about Negawatts here before.  The basic idea of a Negawatt is that instead of producing more electricity, if we invest in efficiency we in essences are creating energy by saving it or at the very least removing the need to create more.  The Negawatt is a term used to measure this reduction in consumption.  Sometimes called the 5th fuel by ambitious policy makers, energy efficiency has the ability to meet a large part of our growing energy demand.
The Bad –So if Negawatts are so great why aren’t we trading them en masse?  Lack of incentive mostly, with the price of energy still relatively low most consumers opt to pay premiums for a lack of efficiency.  Often when replacing home equipment we demand a ROI of 3 years or less, otherwise we stick with the old boiler. Too often consumers are poorly informed as well, I mean it is no easy task figuring out which air conditioner is the most efficient, buying, and installing it.    
The Ugly – The most dismal part of whole thing is financing energy efficiency projects.  EVO is doing its part by producing measurement protocols, but these projects are mostly done at schools and government buildings.  The margins are too high and the savings too low in the residential sector to interest any bank in financing them
My Take – Most of the energy efficiency project that are done are use the ESCo method where all costs are deferred and the Energy Service Company slowly pays back the loan and it’s self.   So here is my next million dollar idea:  We needs to figure out a way to do micro ESCo project for the residential sector, perhaps by lumping who cities together and giving the money back via a municipal tax or such. If you make it happen let me know!
Energy Dashboards
The Good – When they say “Energy Dashboards” I think they are talking more about “In Home Displays”, because I think that that is much more of an emerging trend.  What is the difference you ask?  Not much really, dashboard would most likely be online/emailed, and would target businesses more then anything else.  In home displays would be the residential version. Because most people are still not super online savvy, it makes sense to have a separate display (on that would replace your thermostat control  for example).  This new control/display would control your house temperature but also give you feed back on your efficiency levels and make suggestions on when you should use more energy.  They would almost certainly encourage time of use pricing and elective demand response.  
The Bad – For the moment most serious efforts are very utility centric, leaving the residential consumer to fend for themselves, striped down versions of these in-home displays cost from $100 - $300, and more if you get more bells and whistles.
The Ugly – You could save your self from 10 -15 percent of your energy bill with this type of information available if you took proper energy efficiency measures, but the real saving in dollars would come because of load displacement from utility sponsored programs EVO recently commented on the demand response measurement and verification standards that are to come out soon. 
My Take – I don’t think we will be seeing a lot of in-home displays this year, but after the utilities start updating at a faster rate, which should happen thanks to Obama, 2010-2011 look pretty possible.
Nuclear Power
The Good – I smell a comeback…  After Chernobyl Nuclear Power suffered a serious PR problem that it still has not recovered from. Yet it is completely emission free, relatively cheap, and safe. 20% of US electricity is generated via nuclear power.  
The Bad –There is still radioactive waste, radioactive contamination, and nuclear proliferation, but even considering these risks the track record in the US and Europe (almost all of France is powered by nuclear energy) is pretty darn good.
The Ugly – What is really stopping the advancement of nuclear energy for all is public opinion.  I found these myths specifically interesting.
My Take – I think Nuclear Power just needs a good PR firm, there are some down sides but, not more then coal.
Green Cities
The Good – I don’t know of any official criteria for a city to be considered green, but I do know that the Clinton Climate Incentive (one of EVO working partners) has been working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors for almost 2 years with energy efficiency and clean energy goals in mind.
The Bad – I think that this is going to be an important buzz word, but not much more.  With out any key performance indicator to track, I don’t see huge advancement coming along, there just isn’t any incentive for it.  Hopefully the new administration in Washington will address this and come up with some creative ways to incite cities to reduce carbon emission, reduce costs, and create jobs.
The Ugly – What would really help is a commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, or the trickled down legislation that would have to be passed to be compliant.  Although Canada signed it, and that didn’t really stop them from ignoring it, ask any of the cities in Alberta.
My Take – I like the idea of green cities, but it doesn’t really mean much right now, with the last popularization of all things green, some of the importance gets lost when everything is green in one manner or another.
The Good – Urbanisation in the migration of people to large cities in search of better jobs and higher standard of living.  This is the first time in history that the majority of the world’s populating is living in urban areas.  While this affords many economic advantages, it also presents many challenges.
The Bad – While a problem in the US, our infrastructure is pretty good compared to some growing cities who are ill equipped to deal with the seeming sudden influx of people.  Lack of funding and smart grown plans often makes casualties out of bio-diversity, clean air and water, and the standard of living that drove people to the city in the first place.
The Ugly – China's urban population will expand from 572 million in 2005 to 926 million in 2025 and hit the one billion mark by 2030.  They plan to try to control this move with policy while trying to reduce GHGs.
My Take – We are going to have to change the way we think of a city, start building cities in sustainable manners like everything else.  Plus, I prefer Urbanization my self, but who’s keeping track.

I hope you enjoyed my explanation of these emerging trends and terms, please let me know if you’d like to know more about anything.  You can contact me by email or by commenting here.
Nathan Shetterley (
EVO New Media Director