CHICAGO – Author Bracken Hendricks of the Center for American Progress thinks the momentum energy efficiency is experiencing is the result of its transition from a field driven primarily by public programs to a robust industry that has become part of our nation’s energy system.
“The cheapest, cleanest energy we can bring online is the energy we never have to use,” he said.
Bracken joined energy efficiency leaders gathered in Chicago last week for the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (MEEA) ninth annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference. The theme of this year’s conference – Seizing the Momentum! – focused on how we can ramp up existing energy efficiency programs and continue to build off the jobs and investments created by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
The momentum was also apparent at the conference itself, which set new highs for attendance and sponsorship.
The largest event of its kind in the Midwest, MEEA’s conference brings together a broad range of private- and public-sector thought leaders from across the country.
“We have everyone from government employees to retailers and public utility representatives,” said MEEA Acting Executive Director Jay Wrobel. “The common thread is that everyone here shares a true passion for energy efficiency.”
That includes people like conference panelist and self-admitted “energy geek” Pete Curtice of OPOWER, who pays his 11-year-old son to read their neighbors’ electric meters in the summer. According to Curtice, the results show energy use in his neighborhood ranges from $100 to $350 per month in homes of comparable size. (“It’s great cocktail party talk,” he says).
The three-day conference kicked off on Wednesday, January 12th at the Chicago Hotel InterContinental with a keynote address by ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore that spotlighted the increasing customer demand for energy efficiency programs.
Other highlights from this year’s conference included:
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
- The National Energy Policy update, which featured a discussion by representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and the Alliance to Save Energy on the status of energy policies in Congress. Panelists highlighted the need to educate Congress’s 112 new members on energy efficiency, and also touched on several innovative ideas, including the possibility of Congress establishing a “green bank” to fund energy efficiency projects.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
- The second-day keynote address by BrackenHendricks with the Center for American Progress, which covered his findings from Efficiency Works: Creating Good Jobs and New Markets through Energy Efficiency. According to Bracken, the conversation about energy efficiency projects can and should be framed around “laying the groundwork for a new economy.” He says bipartisan support is necessary to keep pace with the energy efficiency progress of United States’ international competitors, such as China and South Korea.
- The break-out session on Creating Lasting Impacts: Behavior Change, Consumer Marketing and Claimed Savings, which covered real-time pricing programs and explored how to motivate consumers to take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities. Surprisingly, one of the most effective tools has proven to be the decidedly “low-tech” - home energy reports that some utilities mail to their customers. Research shows people are more likely to read the report and share its findings with their neighbors and family members. According to panelist Pete Curtice, 10 million households – or nearly 10 percent of Americans – will receive a home energy report in 2011.
- The session on Leveraging Retailers to Cost Effectively Deliver Energy Efficient Product Programs, which covered the success of recent retail programs such as Illinois’ Energy Star appliance rebate, and explored retailers’ potential role as energy efficiency’s next emerging partner. Panelist Jon Lanning of Best Buy suggested we are on the cusp of a huge demand for home energy management devices such as “smart meters.”
- The 2011 Inspiring Efficiency Awards dinner and gala, which feted industry leaders who have delivered innovative advancements in energy efficiency. Winning programs ranged from an eBay-like online reverse auction for energy efficiency grants in the State of Missouri to a program that helped Detroit’s small, independent grocers reduce their energy costs while improving access to fresh produce for the city’s residents.
Friday, January 14, 2011
- The Keys to Achieving Savings from Home Retrofit Programs breakout discussion, which outlined strategies to convince consumers to retrofit or weatherize their homes, and boost participation in programs such as the U.S. EPA’s Home Performance with Energy Star program. The panel also touched on another theme that ran throughout the conference – the influence of one’s peers. “People are incredibly influenced by those around them,” said panelist Merrian Fuller, of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. “They want to see someone else do it first.”
More information about the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference and the 2011 Inspiring Efficiency Awards can be found at www.meeaconference.org
Editor’s Note: For more information or to arrange interviews with conference presenters, award winners or MEEA representatives, contact Tim Frisbie at email@example.com or 312-251-9913.
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About Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance – The Source on Energy Efficiency
The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (www.mwalliance.org) is a collaborative network advancing energy efficiency in the Midwest to support sustainable economic development and environmental preservation. MEEA bridges the gap between policy adoption and program implementation.
MEEA promotes the market transformation of energy efficiency technologies, processes and best practices within a 13-state area, through policy advocacy, program design and facilitation and piloting of energy technologies. Energy efficiency is the critical first step in meeting our nation's myriad energy challenges due to low entry costs, proven and emerging technologies, ease of implementation, fast return on investment and measurable results.
Through our diverse network of members and regional allies, MEEA possesses the practical experience and informed vision to effect positive change today by supporting the region's stakeholders to achieve their efficiency goals for the future.