An army of advocates assembled in Washington last month for the 7th annual Energy Efficiency Global Forum, hosted by the Alliance to Save Energy. Their mission? To double U.S. energy productivity by 2030 by “galvanizing action” in the private sector and by federal, state and local governments.
It’s a worthy goal – and one that policymakers should support. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) know this all too well, having spearheaded bipartisan legislation that could accelerate energy efficiency investment while creating advanced manufacturing jobs.
Presenting at the global forum, the Senator from New Hampshire said that she and Sen. Portman “won’t give up” on getting their bill through Congress, and made a clear, compelling case for why it’s needed:
In the last 40 years we have saved more through energy efficiency in this country than we have produced through fossil fuels and nuclear power combined. So there is huge potential benefit in energy efficiency, and it is important for us to figure out a way to move this legislation forward.
3 ways chemistry is part of the energy efficiency mission
1. Nearly every energy-saving product depends on chemistry.
Innovations in chemistry have led to many of the products that help Americans save energy, such as lithium-ion batteries power our laptops and mobile phones and will drive the next generation of electric cars and strong yet lightweight plastic packaging that allows more products to be shipped with less weight.
2. Chemistry helps society achieve real energy savings.
An ACC study found that chemistry in energy-saving products and technologies helps save up to 10.9 quadrillion Btus of energy annually, enough to power 56 million households or run up to 135 million vehicles each year. Building insulation alone can save up to 40 times the energy used to manufacture it. Another study found that for every unit of CO2 emitted in the manufacturing of the products of chemistry, two units of CO2 are saved through energy savings enabled by those products.
3. Chemistry relies on plentiful, affordable energy to create energy-saving solutions.
As Dow Solar Vice President Jane Palmieri explained, U.S. chemical manufacturers rely on low-cost electricity and natural gas – the industry’s main feedstock – to create next-generation products that help society save energy. Stretching natural gas and electricity supplies through improved energy efficiency is vital to the chemistry industry’s continued expansion in the U.S.
3 energy efficiency strategies to get behind
Helen Burt, senior vice president and chief customer officer at Pacific Gas & Electric, declared at the ASE event that “we need to figure out the utility of the future.” Rick Tempchin, executive director of retail energy services at Edison Electric Institute, said that we need to make sure everyone is eligible for utility energy efficiency programs. And forum host and ASE President Kateri Callahan said the U.S. simply needs better policies to take advantage of energy efficiency.
1. Greater use of combined heat and power systems
Clean energy pioneer Jigar Shah noted that the chemical industry “excels at energy efficiency,” though our use of industrial parks and enhanced process integration.
One way the business of chemistry is improving energy efficiency is through the use of combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration. CHP is the simultaneous generation of electricity and heat from a facility that is located very close to the manufacturing facility. Because most CHP facilities use natural gas and create two forms of energy (electric power and steam) with the same amount of fuel, they are often twice as efficient as older coal-burning electric utilities.
The U.S. could meet 20 percent of its electricity needs from high-efficiency CHP units by 2030.
ACC believes the nation should strive to double electricity output generated from combined heat and power and waste heat recovery systems. Policymakers must remove artificial barriers to distributed electricity generation, including industrial CHP.
2. Updating energy efficient building codes
According to the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 report, the building sector is directly or indirectly responsible for about 32 percent of global energy consumption. In the U.S., individual states have primary responsibility for adopting codes that encourage more energy efficient buildings. By adopting, implementing, and enforcing the latest International Energy Conservation Code and by passing laws that automatically adopt updated codes, states can dramatically reduce energy use and realize the economic and environmental benefits.
Improving energy productivity will be critical as the nation considers new guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. A recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recommended the use of model energy building codes and combined heat and power systems, among others.
3. Making energy efficiency part of home mortgages
Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) came up with an inventive, bipartisan and cost-effective approach to improving energy efficiency with the Sensible Accounting to Value Energy (SAVE) Act. Energy costs are among the biggest expenses of home ownership, and the SAVE Act will help families reduce their mortgage expenses and utility bills, year after year – at no cost to taxpayers. When it was first introduced in 2011, the SAVE Act won the support of U.S. chemical manufacturers and leading environmental groups.
Responsible Care® helps ACC member companies improve EE
During one of the Government Leadership sessions, EE Global participants discussed the major policy barriers to industrial energy efficiency and what can be done to remove them. Mr. Shah advised that for industrial energy efficiency programs to be effective, EE must be a core value at a company and be integrated into operations. He encouraged companies to be transparent about their performance.
ACC supports those recommendations. ACC and its members are committed to sustainability and improved energy efficiency through Responsible Care, the industry’s comprehensive environmental, health, safety, and security performance initiative. It’s mandatory for ACC membership. Just last month, ACC presented the 2014 Responsible Care Energy Efficiency Awards to 16 member companies that have achieved energy efficiency improvements at their companies and facilities.
Energy efficiency is fundamental to the business of chemistry — it drives innovation, provides cost savings, and reduces emissions. Thanks to events like EE Global, energy efficiency is getting some of the positive attention it deserves.