Fiona Harvey A passion for saving energy

“Be passionate,” was the key advice from Dian Grueneich to anyone interested in energy efficiency. Ms Grueneich is the commissioner at the State of Californian Public Utilities Commission, and she has been instrumental over the last two decades in ensuring that California’s energy use per capita has not increased while the state’s economy has grown rapidly. On Wednesday she received an award from her efforts from the Alliance to Save Energy, at its EEGlobal conference in Paris.

As several of the speakers at the conference noted, energy efficiency is not usually regarded as the most exciting of subjects. Saving is never as glamorous as spending, even though the latter gets us into such trouble.

But only with a single-minded devotion to efficiency, she said, can energy-saving experts hope to win through the layers of corporate apathy, ignorance, misunderstanding, and – not least – structural problems that hamper the uptake of energy efficiency programmes in companies.

Apathy, ignorance and misunderstanding are the lot of most new ideas, certainly those that are not glamorous, calculated to result in a large (real or imaginary) lift in sales, or that cannot be expressed with numbers after them, such as 2.0.

But the structural inhibitors to energy efficiency are perhaps more difficult to get over. These include the fact that introducing efficiency measures can be a cost to the department implementing it, while making savings for other departments.

So, as Ms Grueneich said, passion is certainly needed to press ahead with energy efficiency programmes. So is the ability to see behind the veneer of glamour, or the lack of it, to the real substance of ideas. Companies that can see the real substance can be quickly convinced that energy efficiency makes sense – as the Carbon Trust points out, reducing energy bills by 20 per cent could add the same amount to your profits as a 5 per cent increase in sales.