Energy efficiency and technology are big topics at this year’s Greenbuild show taking place in Phoenix, Ariz., where the movers and shakers of the growing green movement are urging attendees to go beyond plucking the “low-hanging fruit” of energy savings and take the extra steps toward deep energy savings.
“We are in a time now where we really have to make big changes,” said Al Gore, in the show’s opening plenary session on Wednesday night. “It’s time for us to shift to a new kind of energy infrastructure, with solar and wind and geothermal, and most important of all energy efficiency and green buildings.”
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“We look at deep energy savings as out of our reach, and focus instead on the low-hanging fruit,” said Karl Johnson of the California Institute of Energy and the Environment in a session on Green Building as if Energy and Getting to Net Zero Mattered. “You can’t get to net zero without going state-of-the-art, to get to deep savings of 60, 70, 80 percent.”
Kostantinos Papamichael of the University of California, Davis, said that even in the traditional low-hanging fruit of lighting solutions, there is no real single solution. That means not just moving to LEDs, but using dimming systems, lighting control systems, daylighting techniques tied to automated systems and implementing occupancy sensors to shut off lights when no one is in an area. “I believe occupancy sensing is one of the most successful technologies we have seen in the last 20 years.”
That doesn’t mean that technologies like LED lighting don’t work. Papamichael says there are 800 million recessed downlights in United States, and that 83 percent of them are incandescent, meaning about 81 billion kWh/year could be saved in electricity simply by switching them out.
“Going the extra step will give a significant amount of savings for a long, long time,” he said.
Added David Kuperberg, of Cooper Square Realty in New York, in a session on energy performance in residential multi-family communities: “We need to educate residents as well, because a lot of energy use is behavioral.”
“We have all the tools we need to solve three or four climate crises,” concluded Gore. “We’ve got everything we need—with the possible exception of political will.”