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Thursday, June 30, 2011

UNIDO: Does energy efficiency lead to increased energy consumption?

In the pages of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)'s Making It quarterly magazine, I and my colleague and Breakthrough Institute Senior Fellow Harry Saunders published an article explaining the impact and implications of the energy demand "rebound effect" spurred on by energy efficiency.

The article builds upon the Breakthrough Institute's "Energy Emergence: Rebound and Backfire as Emergent Phenomena," a comprehensive literature review pointing to the expert consensus and evidence that below-cost energy efficiency measures drive a rebound in energy consumption that can erode much of expected energy savings.

Read the full article: "Hot topic: Does energy efficiency lead to increased energy consumption?," Making It June, 2011

In the article, we argue:

Truly cost-effective energy efficiency measures lower the effective price of the services derived from fuel consumption - heating, cooling, transportation, industrial processes, etc. - leading consumers and industry alike to demand more of these services. There are other indirect and economy-wide effects as well, as consumers re-spend money saved through efficiency on other energy-consuming goods and services, industrial sectors adjust to changes in the relative prices of final and intermediate goods, and greater energy productivity causes the economy as a whole to grow. Collectively, these economic mechanisms drive a rebound in demand for energy services that can erode much - and in some cases all - of the expected reductions in total energy use, along with much-hoped-for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, rebound effects are often most pronounced in the productive sectors of the economy, including industry and agriculture, as well as throughout the world's emerging economies.


Conventional climate mitigation strategies count on energy efficiency to do a great deal of work. For example, the IEA in a global climate stabilization scenario published by the agency in December 2009, estimates that efficiency measures could account for roughly half of the emissions reductions needed. Yet, from a climate or global resource conservation perspective, rebound effects mean that for every two steps forward taken through greater efficiency, rebounds take us one (or more) steps backwards. This is particularly true throughout the developing world, and in the productive sectors of the global economy.

A clear understanding of rebound effects therefore demands a fundamental re-assessment of energy efficiency’s role in global climate mitigation efforts.

A continued failure to accurately and rigorously account for rebound effects risks an over-reliance on the ability of efficiency to deliver lasting reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Without a greater emphasis on the other key climate mitigation lever at our disposal – the de-carbonization of global energy supplies through the deployment and improvement of low-carbon energy sources – the global community will fall dangerously short of climate mitigation goals.

At the same time, however, we can re-affirm the role of energy efficiency efforts in expanding human welfare and fueling global economic development. Unlocking the full potential of efficiency may very well mean the difference between a richer, more efficient world, and a poorer, less efficient world. The former is clearly the desirable case – even if the world uses more or less the same amount of energy in either scenario.

The pursuit of any and all cost-effective efficiency opportunities should thus continue as a key component of an efficient course for global development, even as we reconsider the degree to which these measures can contribute to climate mitigation efforts.
You can also find an introductory FAQ on the rebound effect here.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

5 Reasons I Love the Solar Panel Industry

Its funny how a simple thing like a computer virus can make take a step back appreciate your business. This morning a virus shut down my computer and let me have some time to just think about the business I have. (Anyone else notice how useless you are without a computer these days?)

And in thinking about my business I was able to break down what I love about this industry and why.

1. The People
The people in the solar power industry are different. They get it. Sure there are some jerks and scam artists, but for the most part they people in this business are here because they are passionate about renewable energy and want their work to make a difference. And this translates to how they relate to others and conduct themselves. And the customers that are interested in solar panels usually share the enthusiasm and become infected by it.

2. The Purpose
In my previous business I owned a concrete and excavation company. And my purpose was to make as much money as possible. I wanted to do good work, and provide a living for my employees, but at the end of the day there was very little satisfaction. With solar, I know that even a little system is going to provide clean energy instead of using fossil fuels, and that is very satisfying. Knowing that I can make a good living and help people and the planet? Slam dunk.

3. The Science
I’ll admit it, I’m no genius. How solar power actually works is still a bit of a mystery to me. I know the basics of photons and electrons and yada yada. But how this wonderful science came to be and how we actually turn sunshine into power still amazes me. Making something powerful and wonderful out of something you can’t really see sounds like the stuff of children’s books, and the child in me loves it for that reason.

4. The Technology
I love it that this business changes, if even a little, everyday. All over the world, at any given moment, someone is having a ‘Eureka’ moment in a lab somewhere that will improve how solar power works for us. Whether its more efficient solar panels, racking systems, inverter technology or even financing, millions of people worldwide are working their butts off to make this technology more viable and more affordable.

5. The Future
I’ve never had a business where I could look into the future and say “In 10 years, this industry will be lightyears ahead of where we are now”. Whether its rules requiring solar panels on all buildings (eg in Japan), costs being cut in half, or just widespread acceptance of solar as an alternative to dirty fuels, the future is bright. There will be bumps and misses and setbacks, but the future belongs to solar.

Kriss Bergethon is an entrepreneur and solar writer from Colorado, visit his site at Solar Panels for more information.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Webinar - Fukushima and Nuclear Power: Can we live without it?

Live Webcast June 29, 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT

Following the earthquake and tsunamis that tragically impacted Japan in March, the unfolding crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has captured public attention for months. Energy experts are now questioning the long term impact of the Fukushima disaster on nuclear policy, international power generation, and the global carbon picture:

  • How has the Fukushima crisis impacted public opinion and policy debates about nuclear energy?
  • What do countries like Japan and Germany stand to gain or lose by giving up nuclear power generation?
  • What is the carbon cost of giving up nuclear plants?
  • How will countries that move away from nuclear make up that power elsewhere?
  • Has the demise of the nuclear industry been exaggerated? While some countries are taking aggressive steps away from nuclear, some accounts suggest that overall, the number of nuclear plants continues to grow.

  • Join The Energy Collective's latest webcast as we seek answers to these questions and discuss nuclear power's role in our energy future. Register here today.

    You'll hear from:

    Matthew Wald is a Reporter for the Washington Bureau at The New York Times, covering environmental and energy issues, as well as transportation, aviation and highway safety. Having joined The Times in October 1976 as a news clerk in the newspaper’s Washington bureau, Wald held positions at the New York metropolitan desk, the State Capitol in Hartford, and as a national correspondent, covering a variety of areas including housing and nuclear power, before joining the Washington bureau in September 1996. Wald has covered the Fukushima crisis extensively in the New York Times.

    Edward Kee is a VP at NERA Economic Consulting and a specialist in the electricity industry with experience in nuclear power, electricity markets, restructuring, regulation, private power, and related issues. For more than 20 years, he has provided testimony as an expert witness on a range of electricity industry issues in state and federal courts, before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and before other legal and regulatory bodies in the US and around the world. Mr. Kee also provides strategic advice to companies and governments on issues related to the nuclear and electricity industries. Mr. Kee holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BS in Systems Engineering from the US Naval Academy.

    Jesse Jenkins is Director of Energy and Climate Policy at theBreakthrough Institute, and is one of the country's leading energy and climate policy analysts and advocates. He is the co-author with Devon Swezey of the "Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant" report on global clean energy competitiveness strategies, and is currently working on an update to the report. Jesse has written for publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Baltimore Sun, Yale Environment 360,, and, and his published works on energy policy have been cited by many more. He is founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary and a featured writer at the Energy Collective.

    Marc Gunther is a veteran journalist, speaker, writer and consultant whose focus is business and sustainability. Marc is a contributing editor at FORTUNE magazine, a senior writer, and a lead blogger at The Energy Collective. He's also a husband and father, a lover of the outdoors and a marathon runner. Marc is the author or co-author of four books, including Faith and Fortune: How Compassionate Capitalism is Transforming American Business. He's a graduate of Yale who lives in Bethesda, MD.

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    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    ACE students offer White House fresh ideas to spur energy efficiency

    Shreya Indukuri and Daniela Lapidous, ACE Youth Advisory Board members and juniors at the Harker School in San Jose, CA, paid a visit to the White House yesterday, but they didn't just go for a tour. Through working with ACE, this energy-smart duo is scaling up their efforts to spur efficient energy use in America’s high schools – and sharing their ideas with America’s leaders.

    Yesterday, in front of an invite-only audience of CEOs, White House advisors, and utility industry leaders, Shreya and Daniela shared the story of how they reduced their school’s energy use by 13 percent and founded their own non-profit, SmartPowerEd.

    They shared a stage with U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu; Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack; Director of the Office of Science and Technology, John Holdren; and Chairperson of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley.

    In their talk, they let our leaders know that young people care about the future and energy use, and that they are ready to get involved with solutions. They closed with two questions for Secretary Chu and others: how are you going to harness the potential of young people? How are you going to prioritize energy education and inspire young people to act?

    You can see a video of their talk with White House officials here. More to come from ACE's Emily Adler, who accompanied Shreya and Daniela to the event. What a day!

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