Last week, hundreds of energy leaders from nearly 50 countries joined the Alliance to Save Energy in Copenhagen for the 11th annual Energy Efficiency Global Forum. Here are some highlights from the event.

The “Leaking Bathtub” and the Biggest Market in the World

The biggest market in the world. That’s the opportunity businesses and governments have in transforming the global energy system, and energy efficiency should be center stage, speakers told the opening day’s plenary session.

“We need this pioneering spirit. We need a sense of exploration,” said Dr. Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation, who regularly emphasizes the pivotal role of energy efficiency in the success of his pioneering flight around the world without fossil fuels. Piccard said the world’s approach to energy is like continuing to fill a leaking bathtub instead of fixing the leak. “We always want to produce energy when instead the goal should be to consume less,” he said. But “it’s clear that the biggest market today in the world is to replace the outdated systems we use with clean new technologies.”

Other speakers echoed his call to action. “Energy efficiency is center stage,” said Susanne Hyldelund, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs state secretary for trade. “We need more global partnerships … and we need them faster.”

Piccard was awarded this year’s EE Visionary Award, recognizing outstanding contributions to the advancement of energy efficiency, for his efforts launching the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, which will be selecting 1,000 solutions that protect the environment in a profitable way. The solutions will be presented to world leaders at the COP24 climate talks in December to encourage the adoption of more ambitious environmental targets and energy policies.

Innovation at Work

Plenary session attendees also heard quick “Take 10” presentations from corporate leaders at Microsoft, thyssenkrupp Elevator – MULTI, and E.ON-Denmark, a mobility company, about the work they’re doing to develop these markets. Bert Van Hoof, a partner at Microsoft and an Alliance board member, noted that the world will have 1 million devices coming online per hour by 2020. Michael Cesarz, CEO of thyssenkrupp Elevator – MULTI, said globally we’re constructing the building equivalent of a new Manhattan every day. This level of growth presents tremendous challenge and opportunity around managing energy consumption. Van Hoof said the key is “getting to scalable and repeatable solutions that are profitable and economically viable.”

Intensive Learning Sessions Spur Conversations

Attendees spread across the state-of-the-art UN City campus for intensive learning sessions on various efficiency trends, with a focus on financing, investment and global markets.

During the session on “Spurring a Building Efficiency Movement: Connecting Global Platforms to Create Change,” the Alliance and the World Resources Institute hosted a roundtable discussion on how the building efficiency community can leverage existing global platforms and partnerships to create an effective global building efficiency movement. Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls facilitated the discussion, challenging the roomful of public and private sector building efficiency experts and participants from international campaigns to define success, and to identify a pathway toward developing a strong political agenda to bring about transformational change for building efficiency.

Benoit Lebot (IPEEC), Jenny Calder (WWF), Anthony Eggert (ClimateWorks Foundation) and Mark Radka (UN Environment) described key characteristics of successful campaigns, including relevant messaging backed up by credible data and technical support; simple and achievable “asks”; and mutually reinforcing activities. Alliance President Jason Hartke discussed the need to address competing costs of capital; Gabby Dreyfus of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program challenged the room to “show me the lever” for motivating different audiences to support a building efficiency movement; and Bertrand Piccard of Solar Impulse and Carl Elefante of the American Institute of Architects responded, focusing on energy efficiency as a means to provide for human needs while delivering profits. The Alliance and WRI plan to host follow-up discussions over the coming months.

Day 2: Hartke Takes the Stage

Day Two of EE Global started with a call to action from Alliance President Jason Hartke. Representing the Alliance for the first time on the global stage, Hartke told hundreds of energy leaders gathered at Copenhagen’s elegant Odd Fellow Palace that “energy efficiency is the answer and the opportunity” for addressing carbon emissions. But, he said, “the change we need won’t happen by accident. We need the right policy in place.”

Hartke then moderated a discussion on efficiency initiatives taking hold around the globe with Santiago Creuheras Diaz, Director General, Energy Efficiency & Sustainability, Mexico Energy Ministry; Alliance Board Member and California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister; and Mechthild Wörsdörfer, Director, Renewables, Research and Innovation, Energy Efficiency, European Commission.

A second panel moderated by IEA Head of Energy Efficiency Brian Motherway explored efficiency’s role in the ongoing energy transition and emerging climate policy, featuring Joyce Henry, Director General, Office of Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Canada; and Clean Energy Ministerial Head of Secretariat Christian Zinglersen.

McAllister said no country has all the answers, “so we have to collaborate” and engage all stakeholders. “If you don’t get consensus then the solutions won’t get traction in the marketplace,” he said. “You’ve got to motivate the marketplace.” Henry said the toolkit for policy makers is relatively consistent across the globe. “When you look at the levers that federal governments have, they’re often the same,” she said, citing financing, tax policy, government programs and standards-setting.

Executive Dialogues: An Exchange of Ideas

EE Global participants then fanned out across a dozen executive dialog sessions over the course of the day.

Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency – Overpromised or Undervalued? Panelists said the amount of data behind energy efficiency is growing but there remains a need for additional evidence to make the case for investment and policy. World Resources Institute Global Energy Director Jennifer Layke, who works with cities around the world on building efficiency, said mayors frequently ask, “How does this benefit my city?” and are looking beyond simple cost savings. They want to know about jobs and economic impacts, health benefits and environmental issues such as air quality. Work remains to be done to demonstrate those benefits. “We’re not good at putting an economic value on non-economic benefits,” said Mirella Vitale, senior vice president at Rockwool.

What are the Most Effective Tools for Driving Energy Efficiency Investments in Emerging Economies? Moderator Ashok Sarkar (World Bank) challenged panelists to discuss why banks resist financing efficiency projects in developing countries, and to define the optimal role of the government vs. the private sector – particularly in supporting needed growth in the ESCO sector. Panelists emphasized two key needs: (1) standardization of procurement and contracting processes; and (2) building capacity of municipal officials to understand and comply with complex processes, and of financial institutions to value energy efficiency and evaluate project risk. Soumya Prasad Garnaik described EESL’s strategy of standardizing and bulk-procuring products in India and using a “deemed savings” approach to estimate energy savings.

Building the Future: What Low-Carbon, Low-Energy Buildings Technology is Critical for Meeting 2050 Roadmap Objectives? Existing goals and frameworks have outlined high level targets to reduce energy consumption in the built environment, but significant improvements have been slower to emerge, even though we have the products and technologies today to address this issue. Panelists suggested several remedies: better accounting for other benefits of high performing buildings, including health benefits; incentivizing collaboration within the construction industry to ensure the effective implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy; incorporating building automation to ease the process of operating high-efficiency building; and accelerating the advancement of building energy codes (possibly through the adoption of a national building energy code) to increase scale.

A Third Paradigm: Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreements as a Means to Accelerate Savings and Protect Innovation: Can voluntary agreements – in which industry segments, sometimes in alliance with government and advocacy groups, agree to achieve specified and potentially evolving goals while allowing flexibility for alternative approaches – play a role in advancing energy efficiency? That was the question in an afternoon session exploring the benefits of private-sector solutions versus lengthy regulatory processes. Panelists agreed that in the right circumstances – with proper transparency, third-party verification, and often with an industry motived by looming regulation – voluntary agreements can achieve meaningful results, quickly.

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