Experts: Voluntary Programs Can Boost Energy Efficiency

May 9th, 2017 by Trey Barrineau

Voluntary energy-efficiency programs such as Energy Star have real value in the effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions, said Maria T. Vargas, director of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, during a panel discussion on Monday at the EE Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

A panel of experts discusses disruptive technologies during the EE Global Forum.

“I think voluntary programs are an important part of solving the problem of energy efficiency,” said Vargas, who also was the brand manager for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program for almost 20 years. “When you have a voluntary program, you know the problem you’re trying to solve.”

Carolyn Snyder, director of EPA Climate Protection Partnerships Division, which includes the Energy Star program, said the public-private nature of voluntary efficiency programs makes them especially receptive to what’s going on in the marketplace.

“Focus on specific changes,” she said. “Leverage the strength of the market to make changes. We make sure the tools and programs meet the needs of the market. It’s important to continue to evolve with the marketplace. Meet the partners where they are. The feedback from partners is one of the real benefits.”

The Energy Star program is being targeted for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal. When asked if the program will look like it does today in 2018, Snyder demurred.

“We’re at the beginning of a long process,” she said.

Steven Schultz, the corporate energy manager with 3M, said Energy Star has benefits for companies that go beyond energy-efficiency initiatives.

“The ability to network, meet people, share problems and share successes really helped,” he said. “And the recognition we received with Energy Star was certainly fantastic.”

Other executive dialogue sessions on Monday covered disruptive technologies for consumers and industries, and trends driving energy efficiency in cities.

During the EE Visionary Award luncheon earlier in the day, Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), said “we’ve got a fight on our hands” to preserve Energy Star.

Last week, her organization put together a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to save the program. More than 1,000 companies, including about 20 in the fenestration industry, signed it.

“We must expand, not suspend, Energy Star,” Callahan said.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco received the EE Visionary Award during Monday’s luncheon. The ruler was honored for playing “a significant role in transforming Morocco’s energy strategy to significantly improve energy efficiency to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement,” according to a release. King Mohammed VI has focused on developing energy-efficiency regulations for businesses and consumers in his country.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) were also honored for their efforts to develop bipartisan energy legislation. Shaheen was scheduled to make an appearance during Tuesday’s plenary session.

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