12 Laws Of Energy Efficiency

By Steve Fawkes. Article first published on Only Eleven Percent on December 21, 2015.

The end of the year always brings the pressure of whether or not to write something seasonal.  This year I thought I would do something different by formulating my Laws of Energy Efficiency.  Sir Isaac Newton and the Arthur C. Clarke stopped at three Laws so I apologize for coming up with 12.  They echo some of the themes I have covered in the blog over the last three years.

1. Energy efficiency is boring and seriously uncool to most people most of the time.

2. Never talk about energy efficiency without mentioning the non-energy benefits which can be seriously cool.

3. Talk about energy productivity and not energy efficiency.

4. If you are supposed to be an energy journalist never headline a story about renewables with something about “energy efficiency”.

5. If you put ten people from ten ESCOs in a room there will be 15 different definitions of what an ESCO is.

6. If you have five energy auditors survey any building you will end up with reports in five different formats with savings calculated five different ways, even if they are all recommending the same measures.

7. Energy Performance Contracts and ESCOs are not the magic bullet some enthusiasts and failed investment bankers looking for the next big thing think they are.

8. Never call energy efficiency a “no brainer” or “low hanging fruit”.

9. An exciting energy or energy efficiency discovery in a lab somewhere is not the same as a viable technology, which is not the same as a commercial product, which is not the same as a successful product that has meaningful impact in the world.

10. Any politician who finishes an energy speech by saying “and don’t forget energy efficiency” will promptly forget it the next time he or she meets an energy supply lobbyist.

11. Energy forecasting is easy, getting it right is difficult. The corollary to this law is that prices can go down as well as up – never forget that in 1986 oil went below $10/barrel oil only months after oil industry bosses said “oil will never sell for less than $20/barrel again” and “our doomsday forecast is $20-25 a barrel”.

12. When a distinguished but elderly economist says “what about the Jevons Paradox”, ask him or her if they think improving productivity is a bad idea.