Past Meetup

Can Energy Efficiency Help Solve Our National and Global Problems?

This Meetup is past

15 people went


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.

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.

YouTube playlist on Energy Efficiency which I compiled with 38 videos totaling 35 hours ( Energy Efficiency Technologies Panel (91m video) ( Energy Efficiency Research and Education at MIT (95m video) ( Opportunities for Energy Efficiency in Buildings — Prof. Leon Glicksman (58m video) ( 349 page report from the National Academies entitled "Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States" ( 112 page report from The American Physical Society report entitled "Energy Future: Think Efficiency" ( 165 page report from McKinsey entitled "Unlocking energy efficiency in the US economy" ( 110 page report from California entitled "Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan" (

See all Meetups from Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society