In December's issue, my column focused on the role HVACR contractors can and should play in the global energy conversation. Part of that discussion revolved around legislation and how it might be doing more to hold back the energy conversation than opening it up to more out-of-the-box thinking. I suggested that all the members of the HVACR Industry value chain need to think outside of traditional thinking on the subject to find creative solutions to energy issues.
In the February 28th edition of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), another special report on energy appeared. This one caught me off guard. It was focused on innovations in energy and presented a case to not look for one overriding solution, but to combine many small solutions into one that could very much be the answer we're all looking for.
You can read the entire report here: http://on.wsj.com/energy_rpt.
Editor Lawrence Rout wrote, "Let's assume, for a moment, that there is no energy miracle anytime soon. No magic bullet that will drastically increase energy production, or drastically reduce the amount of energy we consume.
"Instead, assume that we need to get the same increases and reductions with a host of semi-magic bullets—innovative ideas that alone won't do the trick, but together could help make a big difference."
Among some of the semi-magic bullets mentioned in the report was the future role of nuclear energy (using something called a travelling wave reactor, which is being partialy financed by Bill Gates of Microsoft fame), advances in kinetic energy (using the energy released by braking automobiles to produce electricity), ocean-thermal energy conversion and osmosis (energy is released when cold, salty ocean water mixes with warm, salty ocean water), as well as lessons learned from the first green buildings built. It calls for utility plans that pay big energy users for NOT using energy, presents ideas on residential energy-financing plans, and of course, talks about smart-meter technology.
From an HVACR contractor perspective, some of these ideas may seem a bit out there, but others play right into the products and services you already offer. For example, one of the articles focused on the lesson learned from a Design/Build construction project in Golden, CO. This project was the U.S. Department of Energy's new research facility, and the builders and contractors truly found out quite a bit about what green technologies worked and didn’t work. Read about it here: http://on.wsj.com/Green_Lessons.
Then there's the idea of financing energy savings. This should be something that's easy for contractors to adopt into their service offerings, because many of you already offer financing for equipment purchases and installations. What if there were financing programs that allowed residential homeowners and commercial building owners to upgrade, to be more energy efficient without having to dole out big bucks up front?
WSJ Reporter Liam Pleven explores energy efficiency agreements, managed energy service agreements, on-bill financing, and municipal financing programs (http://on.wsj.com/Pay_Later) — all could be incorporated into a service agreement package that you sell to your customers.
Consumer intelligence continues to gain ground, and your customers are learning more about the advantages of new technologies in energy use than at any other time in history. This includes the features and benefits of smart meter technology. Once the utilities figure out how to create the right incentives using this technology, consumers can and will feel more in control of their energy destinies. Russell Gold's, "The Power of Knowledge (http://on.wsj.com/Cut_Electric)," explores the ramifications of this.
The point is, the energy conversation opens the door to creative thinking on many different levels. The ideas espoused in the WSJ report aren't necessarily new, but are being viewed in a new light. These aren't magic bullets by themselves, but together, along with your ingenuity and application expertise, can be the best part of the 21st Century energy conversation.