Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment Featured at Cleantech Focus Chicago

   By Malcolm Dowden, Solicitor and Environmental Law Consultant

On 22 July 2010 Senate majority leader Harry Reid conceded that there would be no comprehensive legislation this year to address climate change.  Withdrawal of the Kerry-Lieberman Bill leaves the way open for legislation to address the BP oil spill and to promote energy efficiency, driven by private sector investment and innovation.

That shift of legislative focus provides the backdrop to an international conference on energy efficiency in the built environment organized by San Francisco based Cleantech Group LLC.

The event, Cleantech Focus Chicago, aims to bring together influential industry players, including corporate leaders, venture capitalists, economic development agencies, entrepreneurs and policy makers from around the world in the cleantech industry. Attendees will hear case studies from leaders in this space on how they successfully implemented energy efficiency policies and standards, and learn more about the opportunities and challenges in practices associated with smart buildings.

A key premise of the event is the view expressed by Sheeraz Haji, president of the Cleantech Group:  “Energy efficiency products are likely to take the number one investment spot over solar in 2010.  Companies are discovering that with low investments they can gain large savings by making a number of small adjustments to their building’s infrastructure. Data-driven energy efficiency products and services including low-powered Wi-Fi sensors, energy management software, building automation, and smart lighting and windows are looking at substantial growth. Furthermore, smart building innovations are fueling efficiency policies, incentives and financing.”

The event will allow a direct comparison between the regulatory and investment landscapes in the US and elsewhere.  In Europe the relative attractiveness of equipment such as solar pv may be maintained as EU member states develop and adopt schemes to incentivize investment in microgeneration from renewable energy sources.  For example, the UK’s new ‘feed in tariff’ regime produces payments for each unit generated by approved domestic or business equipment, whether used on the premises or exported to the national grid.  For many businesses, the prospect of cheaper power coupled with an income stream to provide a measurable return on investment may mean that such schemes remain, for the moment at least, closer to the top of the priorities list than energy management software.     Nonetheless, as regulatory pressures increase, including mandatory corporate reporting on energy use, that balance might well shift.

Among the companies scheduled to present during the interactive case study sessions include Johnson Controls, the global leader in delivering products, services and solutions that increase energy efficiency in buildings. “The research that Cleantech Group has published brings to light just how energy efficient buildings can be when you synchronize all of the systems to work together, truly making them smart buildings,” said Andrew DeGuire, vice president, strategy and acquisitions, building efficiency, Johnson Controls. “We look forward to not only sharing our story, but hearing about the latest energy efficiency methods and best-practices from other leaders in the space.”

The closing address will be given by Chicago’s Mayor, Richard M Daley.