Can Energy Efficiency Help Solve Our National and Global Problems?

This discussion will explore whether and how energy efficiency can help us solve some of the problems we face including energy independence, mitigation from oil price shocks, basic pocketbook issues of wealth and profit, social issues of justice and equality, and climate change from greenhouse gases.  What is this elusive yet fundamental concept?  How can we conceptualize efficiency?  How do we measure it?  What are its potentialities?

"Efficiency is the fastest, cheapest, most widely available source of energy we've got today and it's significantly underutilized." --- John Sterman, MIT

Negenergy or negative energy is the mining of less energy resources through not needing them in the first place, that is, through energy efficiency.  Mining negenergy or energy efficiency is unusual in everyday thinking: we typically think of the energy we use and harvest.  However, our economy has been mining, on average, an exponentially growing 1% per year improvement in energy efficiency for at least 150 years.  All evidence suggests that there is so much low hanging fruit for energy efficiency that if we developed this resource diligently, we might soon see decreasing energy consumption patterns emerge for the first time in history (epoch making change)!!!  Still we think of quality of life as proportional to our energy use.  Can we reconceive of standard of living in terms of negenergy?  Or, perhaps, in terms of functionality or capabilities, that is, independent of the amount of energy needed.  Is this is a deep sociological transformation?  Is it imminent?

This discussion will survey energy efficiency quite broadly.  We will look at some new technologies such as LED lighting, zero net energy buildings, the relationship between water and energy, the role of policy, and more.  Whether your interest is in security from foreign wars fought for hegemony over energy rich nations, improvements in health and lifestyle around the world, energy security, climate change, or even simply to put more dollars into the pocket of yourself or your organization, energy efficiency is the most abundant energy resource we have.  Yet the concept is so subtle that it is invisible to most of us.  As a result we have not pursued energy efficiency with the vigor that we develop our oil, shale gas, wind or solar energy harvesting efforts.  That will be the dialectic centering this discussion.

Resources
To prepare for this meetup, I watched about 40 videos over the past year and skimmed the three major national studies on energy efficiency as well as California's strategic plan.  I hope these resources are useful.  During the week before the meetup I will highlight the most important videos to help anyone lacking the infinite amount of time it would otherwise take to review all of these resources.

 

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  • CJ F.

    Last year the US used less energy than we did in 1999!!! Despite economic growth of 25%!! The 21st century may be the moment in human history when global energy use starts to decline after some 2 million years of ever increasing use of energy! This could be big. What do you think?

    This OpEd in the NY Times explains the trends and recommends how to keep improving them.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/opinion/how-we-learned-not-to-guzzle.html

    September 13, 2013

  • CJ F.

    I found the video that argues that in the late 70s we improved our energy intensity (that is, energy user per dollar of GDP) by 5% per year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCcG_22Mrf4

    Richard Muller (whose course "Physics for Future Presidents" I have blogged about http://blog.cjfearnley.com/2011/02/24/the-most-important-video-course-on-line-physics-c10ls-c70v-at-berkeley/ and led a meetup on http://www.meetup.com/thinkingsociety/events/23612601) suggests we should be able to increase it from the 1% per year (where it has been for 150 years) to 2% per year. Let's do it!

    May 13, 2013

  • Michael K.

    2) One key to energy efficiency is changing the mindset of society. This could be done through education, or changing current perceptions society has: that saving energy is a liberal but not conservative value, that wasting resources is a sign of wealth, or making people aware that we overestimate short term costs and underestimate long term savings.

    1 · May 12, 2013

    • CJ F.

      J. Michael McQuade is the first speaker in this 90 minute video. He is the one who reports that we tend to overestimate the cost of energy efficiency solutions by a factor 4-5 and underestimate the savings by a factor 3-4. Which implies we can do at least 12 times better than we think. The second speaker is also excellent. The third speaker provides a flowchart heavy overview of the research and development process which didn't interest me so much. http://www.youtube.co...­

      May 13, 2013

  • Michael K.

    Sorry for the mutliple posts. I'm having difficulty posting here from a mobile device. Also, my first sentence seems to have dissapeared, which explained that I had a good time, felt very welcome, and wanted to highlight a couple of the ideas that struck me the most today.

    May 12, 2013

  • Michael K.

    1) Looking at energy efficiency in purely economic terms as many consumers do, does not provide a proper measure of all the effects a particular product or technology may have on society (e.g. negative environmental effects, etc.)

    May 12, 2013

  • Michael K.

    I really enjoyed today. As a new member, I felt very welcome, and thought the conversation was very stimulating. there were a few thoughts that we hit upon that struck me in particular.

    May 12, 2013

  • Michael K.

    I really enjoyed this group. Interesting conversation, no over-inflated egos, accepting of newcomers.

    1 · May 12, 2013

  • Welmanee Anna P.

    At the Gate of the Ghost - Set during the Lanna period, a mysterious murder takes place in the woods. But it's not the killing itself that sparks the controversy but the strange trial that ensues where the event is told from the different perspective of three witnesses; a monk, a woodcutter and an undertaker. With contradicting versions of what happened.
    http://www.1channel.ch/watch-2732919-The-Outrage

    Okay.....I think I may have over did it a bit. You can find me on facebook if you would like to discuss any of the movies in detail or request a different genre. Thai horror is also well known, probably second from Japan's.

    May 12, 2013

  • Welmanee Anna P.

    The Siam Renaissance - A mirror joins two worlds, modern-day Bangkok and Bangkok under Rama IV, together. Maneechan, a diplomat investigating recently uncovered documents in France concerning ancient Thailand, learns the story behind them first-hand as she travels back in time through the mirror. (Adapted from a novel written by one of my fave thai authors)
    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7f8neA1EFb5R1OIUDXEAc4xuNxuknafa

    Jan Dara (The Beginning) - Based on a famous Thai erotic novel, the film tells the story of Jan, a boy who grows up in a house lorded over by his sadistic and debauched father, Luang Wisnan. Set in the 1930s the story recounts the growing pains of Jan, whose mother dies while giving birth to him and who's intensely hated by his father.
    http://www.1channel.ch/watch-2738719-Jan-Dara-the-Beginning

    May 12, 2013

  • Welmanee Anna P.

    Inspirational:
    Top Secret Billionaire - It tells the story of a guy who at the age of nineteen, dropped out from university to launch a packaged fried seaweed business that is now Taokaenoi Food & Marketing and became one of Thailand's youngest (baht) billionaires. Credits to Wiki. (One of my faves)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-S2RlH623og

    The Legend of Suriyothai - tells the story of Queen Suriyothai, who died in a battle in 1548 (the Burmese–Siamese War of 1548) against Burmese invaders. Credits to Wiki.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oF_sRwtJYl8

    *******
    Shambhala - In this Thai movie, two estranged brothers take a road trip through Tibet together. In that high-altitude country, the younger brother, Wut, is looking for a mythical place called Shambhala with the belief that its magical power will help cure his dying girlfriend. His older brother, Tin, has a painful past and assuages his soul by heavy drinking. Credits to EnjoyThaiMovies
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAc9TtQCUnk

    May 12, 2013

  • Welmanee Anna P.

    I am really glad that I tried something new today. I actually like the fact that I did not only leave this meetup with just answers, but with more questions as well. Love everyone's input and I cannot wait for the next meetup to happen. I hope someone can comment on CJ's question. *********

    Completely off topic, but this is what we were talking about after everyone left: (I will break it down by genres)

    Romance:
    A Crazy Little Thing Called Love - It is about a young girl who uses love to make herself better in order to be suitable for her first love.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8u6AIXcEkBI

    Fabulous 30 - A woman in her 30s had everything going for her (career, love, life) until all in one day everything just goes downhill. Then she meets someone that is THE ONE, but he is significantly younger than her.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QumgQkZHGXo

    May 12, 2013

  • CJ F.

    I was really impressed with all the interesting directions you all took the conversation. I achieved my goal of exploring the topic broadly, however, afterwards I'm disappointed that I didn't prepare any "concluding questions" to ask some "take away questions". I think the big question is "how can we accelerate the effort to harvest all the energy efficiency fruit that is available? So far humanity is only increasing efficiency at a 1% per year rate (but we've been doing that for at least 150 years!). After the oil crises in the 70s, we had a few years with 3% (or was it 5%) efficiency improvement (refrigerators have improved 5% per year for 30 years and counting: replace your old fridge, it will make a huge difference!). How can we bake in a 2% or 3% per year rate of improvement at least until all the low-hanging fruit is harvested?

    May 12, 2013

  • Andrew C.

    Though I accidentally stumbled into your group while looking for the data science meetup, I really enjoyed the conversation and hearing everyone's ideas. I'll have to go to another of your meetups!

    On the renewable energy side here's an online textbook that I've found very clear and informative: http://www.withouthotair.com/

    2 · May 12, 2013

  • Will B.

    Well, it did have a practical side. I now have a better idea of which light bulbs to buy and what it up with electric cars at this time. I think it would have been more helpful to have called this meeting "Considerations regarding Energy Efficiency in the 21st. century-and expectations would have been realistically reduced to those present when you buy a copy of "Scientific American" or "Popular Mechanics?" As far as "National and Global Problems", I suppose there lies a wonderful opportunity to discuss the political, social, economic issues generated by the disparity of distribution of energy between the first and third world countries. Obviously, there are people whose culture and societies lack basic necessities due to this distribution and its relationship to what might be called the "energy marketplace". It was a great topic and indeed should be discussed sometime soon. Great preparation and delivery of the topic that was discussed, however!

    1 · May 12, 2013

  • Christine

    Really well lead, with nice and valuable preparation by CJ. Thank you! It definitely advanced my thinking on this subject.

    1 · May 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry for last minute change. Helping a friend with his move.

    1 · May 11, 2013

  • Katie

    Sorry for the last minute change. I'm not feeling well

    1 · May 11, 2013

  • CJ F.

    Art Rosenfeld is a luminary in the field of energy efficiency. Many of the videos that I cited in the event description mention his contributions. In this 1 hour video, he surveys his work and its impact: he shows how we are saving hundreds of billions of dollars per year with energy efficiency: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcaHxKVROR4 or you could watch on the UCTV web site directly: http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=11832

    May 11, 2013

  • CJ F.

    If you thought LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a great idea by providing a point based rating system to help improve the energy efficiency of new buildings, then you'll love the winner of the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge (a $100,000 prize honoring bold design solutions to humanity's greatest challenges).

    The Living Building Challenge (http://living-future.org/node/117) goes way beyond LEED to advocate a profound reorientation of our built environment toward improving ecological health instead of simply reducing the harm our buildings impose on the environment. It is a poignant vision for our troubled times.

    2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge citation: http://challenge.bfi.org/2012Finalist_Living_Challenge

    Full disclosure: after learning about the Living Building Challenge and hearing Jason F. McLennan speak last Fall in Asheville, NC, I was impressed enough to become a member last year.

    May 10, 2013

    • Michael T.

      Even though I am LEED accredited. I am not its biggest fan. It has its positives, but it doesn't address some of the most important and valuable ways we can be sustainable in our development. While I didn't have a lot of time to review the websites posted above, I couldn't find the actually ranking system, but judging by the projects and the small summaries they look just as myopic about the issue. Architects are often overly concerned about their individual building rather than the whole system in which they are apart. If we are going to do what CJ suggests in the summary, mine energy by being most efficient then we must take this wider view. It reveals some startling truths and ways we can all be most sustainable. That is what I would like to present this weekend.

      1 · May 10, 2013

    • CJ F.

      I focused on the gross overview documents above. This is a 50 page PDF documenting the requirements in much more detail: http://living-future....­

      The landing page that gets you there is at http://living-future....­

      May 10, 2013

  • CJ F.

    This is a fascinating 44 minute video "What the National Energy Efficiency Studies Haven't Told You" on how all three of the national Energy Efficiency studies (I have linked to the three studies in the Resources section of the description. They include the 349 page report from the National Academies, the 112 page report from the American Physical Society, and the 165 page report from McKinsey) are failing to identify and advocate for taping our full capacity to harvest energy from efficiency. And by watching this video you can save yourself from reading 600 pages of reports!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HnAtY1NHQ4

    May 9, 2013

  • CJ F.

    One of the most interesting videos in the series is Michael Webber's brilliantly incisive 1 hour talk "A Thirst for Power: The Global Nexus of Energy and Water". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah8kDqCtX8o

    I learned so much and took a page of notes.

    I was excited to learn that Webber is going to teach the free, on-line class "Energy 101" starting on September 15th: https://www.edx.org/courses/UTAustinX/UT.1.01x/2013_Sept/about

    I signed up because he was so brilliant in this talk and the subject is so vitally interesting. Join me in taking that class!

    May 8, 2013

  • CJ F.

    I learned several things from this hour and 20 minute video "Windows as Oil Wells" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzJt7vyHMyo

    I learned that windows are now better than many insulated walls! Low-E (low thermal emissivity) coatings and gas filling are the technological bases for this turnaround. In the 70s people put in tiny windows because they were so inefficient. Now windows are good as they provide daylighting and the cost for the advanced features is tolerable.

    http://efficientwindows.org gives help in choosing replacement residential windows.

    May 7, 2013

  • CJ F.

    One of the big, new improvements in Energy Efficiency that has only become cost effective in the past few years is LED lighting. LEDs (Light-Emitting Diode) are "rocks that glow when applying 3 volts" or so this good video explains. The benefits over traditional bulbs include longer life, lower heat dissipation, no toxic substances, smaller packaging with no glass, no filaments, and versatility. Switching to LEDs is one of the most cost effective ways to save energy available. The fourth speaker told a great story about how Hollywood used LEDs in the 2009 James Bond flick. Watch this 58 minute video to learn about LEDs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnGPsIVB9yQ

    May 6, 2013

  • CJ F.

    Yesterday, I added a Resources section to the "energy efficiency" discussion description. Since it includes more than 40 videos totalling more than 35 hours as well as more than 700 pages in PDF documents, I will identify the most important ones in comments here so that motivated participants can pick a few good ones. Hopefully the full list will be useful for anyone who wants to be an expert.

    One of the most eloquent speakers on energy efficiency is Amory Lovins. His talk "Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era" gives a good overview of the subject. I particularly like his idea that no matter what you are concerned about: profits, jobs, competitive advantage, national security, energy independence, environmental stewardship, climate protection, or public health. Finding a path to increase energy efficiency to end our addiction on fossil fuels and nuclear power is a critically important task.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2IfEUwbSKg

    May 5, 2013

  • Mahawa K.

    Hopefully this will be my first time meeting with this group, I am excited and looking farward to it.

    1 · April 29, 2013

    • CJ F.

      Muhawa, I do not see your RSVP. Please go to http://www.meetup.com...­
      and RSVP. Thanks. I look forward to meeting you on the 12th.

      May 5, 2013

  • Welmanee Anna P.

    This is quite interesting. I would love to be there to listen in on the discussion.

    1 · April 25, 2013

    • CJ F.

      Welmanee, RSVPs for this meetup have opened. If you can attend, go to the event page http://www.meetup.com...­ and RSVP. I look forward to meeting you.

      April 28, 2013

  • Michael T.

    I am a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional. and have done some independent research on this topic. I hope that I can get time to make this meeting.

    1 · April 25, 2013

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