Category Archives: Utilities

Primer on energy efficiency

At the encouragement of the younger people in our lives to become more social media savvy, The Mendota Group, LLC is launching this Blog.  The aim is to muse about issues and items related to the work we do.  The hope is that this doesn’t devolve into excessive amounts of navel gazing (great term btw) and instead provides useful information and possibly a dialogue with readers. These days we primarily work in the energy efficiency (aka “EE”) realm and this first blog post will be about just that.  Of note, more broadly, we work in the area (fairly newly termed) of Distributed Energy Resources (DER).*

This post is a primer of sorts about the world of energy efficiency.  The Lawrence Berkeley Lab definition at the provided link is a good one.  The primary notion is that, with energy consuming equipment (broadly defined to include buildings, appliances, etc.), it’s entirely possible (and very often preferable) to derive the same amount of services (work, utils, benefits, etc.) while reducing energy requirements.  Energy efficiency is to be distinguished from energy conservation, which achieves reduced energy requirements by reducing services (work, utils, benefits).  Former Pres. Jimmy Carter turning down the thermostat in the White House and wearing cardigan sweaters is a classic example of conservation because Carter sacrificed to reduce the WH’s energy consumption.  Although there’s nothing wrong with conservation, it often gets a bad rap because it equates with sacrifice or compromise, and we Americans don’t much like to sacrifice.  Of course, conservation is often much less expensive to implement because implementing energy efficient alternatives generally having higher up-front costs (although they pay themselves back through energy savings).  But, and this is key, the other reason conservation gets a negative knock is that it’s not generally as easily sustained.  The day after his Report to the Nation on Energy, Pres. Carter could have simply jacked up his thermostat, ditched his cardigan and ignored his own advice.  However, if he had instead invested in a more efficient furnace (the energy efficient alternative), ditching the cardigan wouldn’t have been a problem because he still would have reduced energy consumption and the reductions would be “permanent” (or at least, they would be sustained for the life of the furnace).

With that out of the way, we thought it might be useful to help guide the energy efficiency advocacy newbie to organizations and publications that can prove helpful in becoming educated and keeping informed.  To begin with, two organizations based in Washington, D.C. are a great source of information on energy efficiency: the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and the Alliance to Save Energy. There are a host of other organizations and agencies that are also great sources of info, although most of these extend well beyond energy efficiency.  These include: The Regulatory Assistance Project, the aforementioned Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the International Energy Agency (lest we seem too U.S.-centric).

We also find that membership organizations like the Association of Energy Service Professionals and the “regional” energy efficiency alliances: the Midwest Energy Efficiency AllianceNorthwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance cover energy efficiency topics nicely and can help keep one current.

Finally, we subscribe to a number of free publications that help keep us up-to-date on EE topics. Fierce Energy, the various Utility Dive pubs, EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com, Energy Central, and Zondits give good current info.  Lastly, for paid publications, we receive Public Utilities Fortnightly and The Electricity Journal. Although these paid pubs are not focused on energy efficiency, they provide valuable insights about the evolving electric and natural gas industries.  E-Source is a paid service with a wealth of data about EE and renewables.

There are likely other sources of information that we’re missing but this should provide a good overview/introduction to the world of energy efficiency.  As The Mendota Group evolves, so too will the topics this blog attempts to cover.  Please feel free to reach out and suggest information we’re missing or suggest topics.

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* DER, oh by the way, seeks to encompass all of the “smaller” (compared to central station power plants), customer-sided, grid-connected resources including EE, demand response (DR), renewable [and non-renewable] resources, and energy storage, among others (big file).  There is some debate over whether EE and DR are included in the def, but we’ll assume they are. top