For several years, the pages of our newspapers and magazines have espoused the concept of the need to save energy, to be better caretakers of our environment, and in the process, become more focused on recycling and reusing our resources. In a word — to be green. The governments of the world have, at first, fought the idea of green — in favor of commerce and trade (read that as profits — not a bad thing). Now, they embrace this idea and look to impose rules and regulations to make green the norm (also not a bad thing).

However, the job of making the world greener is just limping along. Sure, in our industry, manufacturers have ramped up to produce CFC-free air conditioning and refrigeration systems, and have tweaked and continue to tweak the technology to squeeze every drop of efficiency out of the energy the American consuming public uses in their comfort systems. They've also begun the expensive process of changing how they manufacturer these products, to reduce the impact of the waste by-products on the environment.

But from a global perspective, the process of creating guidelines and rules is doing more to hold back the green movement than nurture it. In the November 29th edition of the Wall Street Journal, there was a very interesting Journal Report on what they call, "the energy conversation."

This report really struck a chord with me. It talked about the need for government, business, and society in general to move away from traditional thinking that sought carbon taxes, strict emission controls, rich nations’ responsibility for poor nations' climate change development, and the need for United Nations-brokered energy agreements. Interestingly, the report called for us to move toward thinking in terms of investing in making clean energy technologies less expensive, on modest emissions reductions, by replacing outdated technologies with more efficient ones (something the HVAC industry has been trying to accomplish with its chiller replacement/upgrade programs brokered through AHRI), and encouraging "development aid that helps poorer countries deal with the effects of droughts or flooding, no matter the cause." The report goes on to call for the government to focus on an energy agreement among the world’s 20 largest economies.

In other words, thinking outside the box — moving away from language that forces emissions caps and focuses more on innovations, like those demonstrated by the manufacturers in this industry, and the contractors who seek to implement that technology in ways that save their customers money, energy, and time — is really the order of the day.

What does this mean for HVAC contractors? For one, it requires you to really stay abreast of changing technologies and understand their impact on the environment and on customers' wallets. It also means that you need the best trained and certified personnel in the field, just to break even. It means you have to think more like a retailer and educator than ever before. It means paying attention not only to the energy and conservation issues that impact your immediate locale, but to watch what is happening nationally and globally.

Of particular interest is all the talk surrounding the "Smart Grid." For those of you who don't know, the Smart Grid is defined as intelligence applied to our electric power grid. According to Mike Oldak, vice president and general manager for a California-based association known as the Utilities Telecom Council, the Smart Grid is an advanced telecommunications/electric grid with sensors and smart devices linked to all aspects of the power grid — from the power generator to the consumer — that delivers enhanced operational capabilities allowing consumers to control their use and cost, enable efficient use of the grid, and enhance it's reliability, while integrating emerging technologies.

That's a mouthful. The question is, how do you, the HVAC contractor, fit into this realm? You need to think outside the norm. You need to enter into the new global energy conversation. I'm interested in your thoughts on this issue.

(mike.weil@penton.com)