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"Breaking Out of the Box": Highlights of the 2004 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings

October 5, 2004 - 7:00pm

ACEEE hosted its 13th biennial Summer Study August 22-27, 2004 at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. In what is widely considered to be the preeminent gathering of energy efficiency professionals from around the world, the conference brought together 694 participants representing 39 states and 19 countries (including the U.S.). Co-Chairs for the 2004 Summer Study were Marc Ledbetter, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Aimee McKane, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Breaking Out of the Box" served as the conference theme, which inspired a new breadth of topics and creative new formats for sessions. New topics ranged from community-wide approaches, to energy efficiency, to discussing whether efficiency alone is sufficient to meet global energy and environmental challenges. New formats included debates and roundtables, which encouraged creative dialogues on the key challenges in our field.

The Summer Study opened with a plenary talk by Professor Vivian Loftness, former head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, who talked about six major areas where attention to design can save a substantial amount of energy, ranging from land use to heating, cooling, lighting, and power systems to choice of building materials. She also discussed work she has done to document the key benefits of some specific energy efficiency measures and practices, such as improved worker health and productivity as a result of better lighting or improved user-control over temperatures and lighting in their workspace.

Also featured were four other plenary talks by Alison Silverstein, former senior Advisor to the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Brian Silverstein, Acting Vice President, Transmission Planning, at the Bonneville Power Administration; Marilyn Brown, Director of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Joel Levin, Vice President of the California Climate Action Registry. Alison Silverstein discussed the 2001 blackout, its causes, and steps that can be taken to prevent further blackouts, such as actions to bring peak power demand down to ease pressure on the power-supply system. Brian Silverstein discussed how BPA is using strategies to reduce customer peak demand to postpone major transmission line projects, saving capital and controversy. Marilyn Brown discussed opportunities for substantially reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings. Joel Levin talked about working with businesses to encourage actions and investments to reduce emissions that contribute to global climate change.

Five Champion of Energy Efficiency awards were presented by ACEEE during the conference. These went to:

  • Commissioner Susan Kennedy of the California Public Utilities Commission for her work on increasing utility commitments to energy efficiency;
  • Tom Eckman of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council for many years of effective service in making energy efficiency a keystone of energy policy in that region;
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District for its long record of innovation and success in offering a full range of efficiency programs to customers;
  • Steve Cowell, CEO of Conservation Services Group, for his entrepreneurship in creating and delivering energy efficiency programs; and
  • Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation, for its 25-year record of accomplishment in advocating, designing, and implementing efficiency programs in the Midwest and around the country.

Read the press release.

The core of the conference, as always, was the nearly 300 papers presented in morning formal sessions. These were grouped into eleven topic areas:

  • Residential Buildings: Technologies, Design, Performance Analysis, and Building Industry Trends;
  • Residential Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation;
  • Commercial Buildings: Technologies, Design, Performance Analysis, and Building Industry Trends;
  • Commercial Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation;
  • Utility Regulation and Deregulation: Incentives, Strategies, and Policies
  • Market Transformation: Designing for Lasting Change;
  • Human and Social Dimensions of Energy Use: Trends and Their Implications;
  • Energy and Environmental Policy: Changing the Climate for Energy Efficiency;
  • Efficient Buildings in Efficient Communities
  • Thinking Outside the Box; and
  • Appliances and Equipment

For a look at the complete Session Schedule and the list of papers presented, visit the 2004 ACEEE Summer Study site. The papers have been published in CD-ROM format. Copies of the proceedings may be ordered online from ACEEE or by calling 202-429-0063.

The afternoons featured informal sessions on a variety of topics organized by participants as well as poster presentation sessions and a technology showcase. Among the featured topics were:

  • Consumer electronics and ways to reduce both standby and active power use;
  • Reducing energy use from residential and commercial air conditioners through improved equipment and installation/maintenance practices;
  • Recent rulings by California's Public Utility Commission on energy efficiency program goals and administration;
  • Zero-energy homes (new homes that reduce energy use to low levels and then receive most of their power needs from photovoltaics);
  • Opportunities to leverage the Energy Star and LEED brands;
  • The role of energy conservation in reducing energy waste; emerging technologies and practices to reduce energy use;
  • Relationships between water use and efficiency and energy efficiency; and
  • Equipment efficiency standards, both in the U.S. and abroad.

There was also much discussion about remaining cost-effective efficiency potential in the U.S. and abroad (e.g., common estimates are that about 10-35% of projected energy use can be saved cost-effectively by 2020), as well as global climate change and policies to address this problem. Other discussions dealt with expanding efficiency programs in regions of the U.S. such as the west coast, the southwest, and potentially the southeast, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Overall, participants showed a very high level of energy at the Summer Study, with discussions often going well into the night. On Thursday evening, nearly 60 participants got a real-time glimpse into the dynamics of future electricity markets when they played PowerPlay—the Energy Efficiency Game. The decisions players made as part of a computer-facilitated gaming exercise provided insights into how markets and technology choices might shape future electricity prices, demand, and environmental impacts (read the results of the game). Additional details on the conference can be found at the 2004 ACEEE Summer Study site.

The next ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings will be held in late August, 2006 at the Asilomar Conference Center. Watch for an announcement soon about the specific dates.