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How to make energy efficiency sexy for the Twitterverse

May 5, 2016 - “If you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it.” Indeed, installing meters and employing robust measurement and verification methods and protocols is indispensable to building and enhancing the credibility of the entire sustainable energy sector. But another, newer saying may also apply to energy efficiency (EE): “If you can’t tweet about it, then you won’t do it”.


May 5, 2016
By Mathieu Côte
Vancouver

In the world of social media and instant messaging, renewable energy (RE) is often endowed with peaceful images of shiny white wind turbines ensconced among verdant rolling hills or a field of solar PV systems. To drive home the serious effects of climate change, several images showing the Earth as a light bulb are being hotly circulated. In pitiful contrast, EE usually conjures up images of dark, dimly lit mechanical rooms, or rusty, bulky boilers, or greasy pumps and valves.

Simply put, so far, energy efficiency has not looked that sexy on Twitter!

Even a casual survey of speeches, reports, strategies and other energy issue-related documents released by governments unmistakably shows that governments are giving energy efficiency much less spotlight than renewable energy.

In fact, it is hard to identify the logical reason to explain why governments around the world prefer to invest in the long-term development of new technologies and renewable energies as core elements of their climate change-mitigation policies, as energy efficiency is widely recognized as “the cheapest fuel”.

Actually, a widely cited and recognized report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) concludes that the cost of saving each kWh through energy efficiency is merely $0.028 US—far less than any other fuel!

Back here in Canada, quite a few organizations—such as Nova Scotia’s Efficiency One—have set encouraging and inspiring examples of how energy efficiency can play a significant role in our quest toward powering our country with sustainable and cleaner energy.

What’s more, energy efficiency is also by far the quickest action to reduce energy consumption and mitigate climate change. It may take years to achieve the impacts expected from the investments in new technologies. Renewable energy only makes us feel better; we still consume as much as before, though now we’re consuming cleaner energy.

Although renewable energy makes us feel great, it’s still much more expensive than not consuming energy in the first place! Energy efficiency is not bad for the economy; it’s rather a great way of saving money to invest in other sectors.

While Canada is not short on capable energy efficiency professionals (including energy managers, energy auditors, building operators and others) to enable Canada to reap the full benefits from pursuing energy efficiency, two missions must be fulfilled through energy efficiency training, namely:

1. Strengthening these professionals’ energy efficiency knowledge and capacity
2. Quickly increasing the number of qualified energy efficiency professionals.

To fulfil these missions, it will be necessary to develop and offer more and better energy efficiency education programs, and to provide stronger support and better recognition to energy-related continuing education programs.

Those energy efficiency professionals capable of serving as actors of change in energy use must be empowered with the right methods, tools and opportunities to lead the necessary actions aimed at making our buildings, homes, transportation and industrial facilities and operations more energy efficient.

In Canada, some organizations are already providing such strong support to energy efficiency training, such as the incentives offered by Ontario’s IESO under its saveONenergy program.

It is high time the federal government: 1) starts making major investments in energy efficiency through the Office of Energy Efficiency, and 2) takes concrete actions to ensure there are enough qualified energy efficiency professionals in our various economic sectors.

Accomplishing these two goals is expected to help implement our energy efficiency projects effectively with good results. These results will, in turn, build and strengthen the credibility of the energy efficiency sector, which has yet to earn everyone’s trust for investing in intangible, hard-to-grasp energy-saving projects.

Hopefully, with a collective effort backed by government support, energy efficiency’s stronger credibility will breed a prettier image in the Twitter realm, and energy efficiency will settle more comfortably in everyone’s hearts and minds.

— Mathieu Côte is director at the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET), a leading organization in Canada dedicated to offering energy efficiency training and certification programs.