Here in Colorado, there’s a lot of interest in energy, not only as it relates to local tech startups like Simple Energy, but also in how ideas like efficiency, smart grid and demand response are connected to larger global concerns such as environmental issues and economic growth. With this in mind, we were pleased to see in a recent Greentech Media article that Vail’s first Global Energy Forum is being hosted early next month right in our back yard at Beaver Creek, with Governor Hickenlooper set to deliver the keynote remarks.
“The Vail Valley Foundation, in conjunction with Stanford University‘s Precourt Institute for Energy (PIE) and Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), are hosting the event to address the world’s energy challenges and solutions,” the article explained.
“The VGEF is dedicated to the search for sustainable solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our times – how to produce enough clean, cost-efficient energy from reliable sources to power our global economy while we bridge the transition to breakthrough renewable energy solutions of the future,” said Vail resident, Jay Precourt, who endowed PIE at Stanford University.
In addition to energy production, enabling improved efficiency is becoming an increasingly important element of the conversation surrounding energy management, with President Obama even discussing the idea in his recent State of the Union address. As Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute never tires of reminding us, saving energy is cheaper than making energy, meaning that any comprehensive plan for future energy management should include an initiative to encourage efficiency.
Customer engagement represents a critical component of not only efficiency, but also demand response, smart grid rollout, and other utility energy management initiatives. Without active participation from the individuals who actually drive global energy consumption, big investments in renewable sources, smart grid, and other new technologies won’t be as effective as they could be if people were motivated to use less energy or shift demand in response to times when more energy is actually available on the grid.
People may be interested in their own energy use for a variety of reasons, from economics to environmental concern, but one sure-fire way to get people interested in just about anything, including energy, is to make it into a competitive, social experience, as people are naturally social, competitive creatures. If energy use information is translated into a score that people can easily compare with their friends and neighbors, bringing social glory in addition to cost savings to those who use less energy, people can become very motivated to engage in energy efficiency programs.
Combining efficiency, demand response, and customer engagement programs with new technology like renewable energy and smart grid infrastructure seems to us like the best approach to developing the most effective global energy management strategy. We hope that there will be some discussion of efficiency in addition to increased energy production at the Vail Global Energy Forum in Beaver Creek next month – maybe we’ll even stop by to chat and take a few runs!