To achieve long-term sustainability goals, realize the promise of smart grid technology and capitalize on opportunities presented by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the nation must develop a collaborative, comprehensive energy management strategy, according to a panel of experts announced at a National Press Club Newsmakers panel in Washington, D.C.

Representatives of Eaton Corp., the U.S. Department of Energy, University of Pittsburgh, and Bayer MaterialScience LLC outlined the case for moving toward a more strategic approach to improving the capability, reliability and safety of the nation’s electrical infrastructure.

“The ARRA creates an unprecedented opportunity to accomplish energy efficiency, smart grid, eco-commercial building and sustainability objectives,” said Thomas S. Gross, vice chairman and chief operating officer – Electrical Sector, Eaton Corp. “Traditional energy-use practices and purchasing patterns must be improved if we want to create a more energy efficient and sustainable world. Energy reduction is merely the starting point. We must now begin to build a nationwide energy-efficiency culture.”

The economic and environmental benefits of an energy-efficiency culture could be astronomical. A comprehensive, holistic approach to energy efficiency offers the potential to realize gross energy savings worth more than $1.2 trillion, well above the $520 billion needed through 2020 for upfront investment in efficiency measures (not including program costs), according to management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. Comprehensive programs to help accomplish this holistic approach could reduce end-use energy consumption in 2020 by 9.1 quadrillion BTUs, roughly 23 percent of projected demand, potentially abating up to 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases annually.

While the U.S. economy has demonstrated a broad commitment to energy reduction, the panel noted that the public and private sectors must now make strategic, long-term investments in their electrical infrastructure. Providing their perspectives and new imperatives for energy efficiency were:

  • Richard Kidd, program manager, Federal Energy Management Program, U.S. Department of Energy, who set the stage by outlining the federal government’s objectives for the reduction of greenhouse gases as outlined in Executive Order 13514, which sets in place standards for all federal facilities and provides a roadmap for major public and private institutions.
  • Dr. Gregory Reed, director and associate professor, Power and Energy Initiative, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, who presented the challenges and opportunities in the power and energy sector, highlighting the need for strategic collaboration between industry, government, and academia as the key to solutions, innovation and talent development required to achieve energy independence and our nation’s long-term sustainability goals.
  • Paul Platte, head, EcoCommercial Building Program, NAFTA, Bayer MaterialScience LLC, who presented opportunities regarding sustainable buildings, the role high-performance materials will play in enabling the technology required to drive ecological and economical solutions, and Bayer’s collaborative approach to the design and construction of commercial buildings.
  • Paul Cody, vice president and general manager, Electrical Service and Systems Division, Eaton Corporation, who provided an overview of the specific steps required of a more strategic approach to energy management, and how public and private institutions can leverage emerging technologies and solutions.

“From a position at the forefront of research and workforce development, we know we can generate a positive economic impact through greater energy efficiency,” said Gregory Reed from the University of Pittsburgh. “As this panel of experts has demonstrated, we can accomplish this only through strategic energy management and the collaboration of the public sector, industry, and academia.”

Gross, from Eaton Corp., added: “The spirit of collaboration exists, the federal government has provided the incentive, and proven technology is available. The time to act is now.”