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Energy 2030 Recap by Amber Mahrou

Many think of solar panels and graceful-looking wind turbines as synonymous with “green,” but for me, air sealing and insulation are an important part of the picture too. Call me a nerd, but I fell in love with energy efficiency as a college student and just never got over how much sense it makes. After all, no matter how much energy and money you have to spend on it, why would you want to waste any of it doing the same thing you could accomplish with less energy? I have now been working in the home energy efficiency industry for 5 years and am part of CEP’s business committee, doing what I can to help them in their goal of reaching, educating, and involving Las Vegas businesses in the thriving, opportunity-filled “green” scene we have here. Along the way, I’ve become one of those businesses we try to reach. Being a committee member has gotten me out of my office and to some of the excellent industry events happening in our city, including what has so far been the best event of all for energy efficiency fans like myself: Energy 2030 on the Road. If you weren’t able to make it to this event, or if you’re just as pumped about efficiency as I am and want to relive the excitement, this recap is for you!

Energy 2030 on the Road is actually part of a national campaign to double US energy productivity by 2030. Kateri Callahan of the Alliance to Save Energy first took the stage to tell us what that actually means. In economic terms, energy productivity is a measure of GDP per unit of energy. Since the goal is to double energy productivity, what is sought is really the ability to do more with less—the essence of energy efficiency. Congressman Steven Horsford was the keynote and  pledged his support for the cause. Congressman Horsford spoke about the benefits of making our businesses and homes more energy efficient, including job creation, costs reductions, and a healthy environment. State Senator Atkinson and Speaker of the Assembly Marilyn Kirkpatrick (pictured below) had a moderated discussion with Rose McKinney James. Both Senator Atkinson and Speaker Kirkpatrick have been leaders on energy efficiency but suggested early conversations on new policies are needed as the Nevada Legislature is only in session every other year for only 120 days. Reaching out to our elected officials is key to sharing the vast benefits of energy efficiency with them.

You might not be surprised that politicians are on-board with doubling the GDP using efficiency; as voters, we expect them to get behind just causes like this one. The next panel, however, was made up primarily of successful businesses: Cindy Ortega from MGM Resorts International, Tim Farkas from Ameresco, Zolaikha Strong from the Copper Development Association, and Paul Thomsen from the Nevada State Energy Office to round things out. Their panel was titled “Investing in Energy Productivity” because the companies on the panel have made those investments, not for votes, but because they made financial sense. These panelists spoke to the sensibility of making up-front investments that have positive community impacts AND pay for themselves in the long run. Tim Farkas, a Finance Manager himself, referred to the unique energy efficiency financing opportunity called PACE financing that proves even large financial institutions are wanting to invest in energy efficiency.

The second panel, “Modernizing through Energy Efficiency,” was made up of Pat Egan from NV Energy, Eric Dominguez from Caesar’s Entertainment, and Marco Velotta from the City of Las Vegas. These panelists continued the conversation by identifying the things we already do well—for example, according to Pat Egan, Nevada already has one of the most advanced energy grids in the nation—but they also discussed what we really need to do better: reframe the way we think and talk about energy efficiency. While many think of energy efficiency in terms of the initial investment it takes to achieve it, the story that really matters is the amount that is saved afterwards. In fact, Eric Dominguez told a story about how purchasing thousands of new lamps for their properties at a price that initially seemed high was able to pay off within a matter of months, and is still paying off in ways that aren’t obvious to a casual observer. That’s the beauty of energy efficiency; it never stops paying you back.

The panel “Educating on Energy Productivity” was made up of nonprofits that focus on educating the public on energy efficiency: Annette Bubak of the Green Alliance, Denee Evans of Energy Fit Nevada, and Dan Huard of USGBC Nevada and was moderated by Lydia Ball from Clean Energy Project. The panelists spoke to their own success stories in educating the public on energy efficiency using company initiatives and recognizable energy labels, but Dan Huard also brought up a benefit to such labels that few consider: efficiency labels bring more than just efficiency to homes and buildings. These labels are backed by specific participation protocols and verified through field inspections, and programs like LEED bring bigger-picture benefits like commissioning, to make sure the building’s overall design is sound. According to Dan, Habitat for Humanity is one of the most frugal builders around by necessity, but they prefer LEED because the amount of value it adds to the homeowner is so much more than the cost of investing in it.

The number and variety of speakers represented the ways in which political, public, private for-profit and private nonprofit entities could all contribute towards the Energy 2030 goal through legislation, program implementation, investment, and in general leading by example. More importantly to those of us in business, is the other story told throughout this event: that the value of energy efficiency is real and it’s within everyone’s reach. 

 

Amber Mahrou is a certified green building professional,

a member of CEP's Business Advisory Committee and

is the Research and Training Manager for Energy Inspectors

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