The latest stars of the clean tech scene

Energy efficiency is the unloved child of the clean tech industry. Not only is it more connected to the construction industry and to government standards, but the difficulty of aligning investment incentives has long overshadowed the massive savings that can be made from efficiency measures.

Meanwhile, the somewhat disorganised US natural gas industry has been lamenting its lack of presence so far in negotiations over the Waxman-Markey bill, while coal grabs all the compensatory goodies.

But both – natural gas in particular – seem to be doing rather well at the Clean Energy 2.0 Summit this week in Las Vegas.

Gas was particularly helped by T. Boone Pickens being one of the speakers. But support for natural gas as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions seems to be gaining wider support now: the Center for American Progress, which co-hosts the conference, and the Energy Future Coalition yesterday published a memo calling for natural gas to be considered a “bridge fuel for the 21st century”, and for measures such as more gas-powered transport infrastructure to be introduced.

But what about efficiency? BNet reports that Bill Clinton was flying the flag for it, saying that efficiency is “the least sexy topic”, but “is where the jobs are”.

He acknowledged the problem with financing, however, saying the upfront costs and the spread-out nature of the benefits make it difficult to finance.

BNet reported that he offered a few possible solutions:

He suggested the country’s largest energy service companies like Johnson Controls could back loans provided by banks to help encourage lending. He also recommended a small business loan guarantee program aimed at financing retrofits or local programs that help homeowners pay for energy efficiency and weatherization efforts over time through their property taxes or mortgage payments.

All this makes us think: natural gas may be stepping up its lobbying efforts as Waxman-Markey goes before the Senate, but who is lobbying for efficiency? Hardly anyone, if this summary of the top climate change lobbyists from the Center for Public Integrity is any indication. Another case of the incentive problem.

Related links:

Politicos give natural gas, efficiency top billing (CNet)
The problem(s) with efficiency (FT Energy Source)

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