19th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO + Policy Forum
By: McKenzie Bradford, NARC Intern
Last week, large crowds flowed continuously through Capitol Hill’s Cannon House Office Building for the 19th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum. The event featured a total of nine panels in which speakers exemplified the breadth of renewable energy and energy efficiency companies and organizations the public and private sector offers. Sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Coalition and the House and Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucuses, this annual EXPO and Policy Forum offered participating companies, agencies, and organizations a place to update the public on their current projects, successes, and trends in the energy industry, as well as the specific policy challenges they face that impact their initiatives and products.
The EXPO and forum focused on renewable energy as more than just solar and wind. While one type of renewable energy might not be the most effective source for a particular region, that region has a host of other renewable options to consider such as geothermal, hydropower, bio-based fuels and energy, and even energy from waste. Whether you focus on wind farms in the mid-west, solar panels out in Minnesota, or geothermal plants in the southwest, each region is capable of using renewable resources to generate energy.
Exhibitors displayed a multitude of products designed to increase efficiency in areas such as the grid, residential homes, commercial and industrial buildings, and transportation. Examples of only a few of these products include e15 (a gasoline blend with 15% ethanol) promoted by Growth Energy; steel enforced triple pane polymer windows made by Intus Windows; and carbon fiber core conductors used by CTC Global. Gasoline blended with 15% ethanol is safe to put into any vehicle made in 2001 or after. Ethanol not only costs less than pure gasoline, it burns cleaner than pure gasoline and releases a lower concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the air. The triple pane polymer window costs the same as aluminum single pane windows but performs three times more efficiently at insulating the building and blocking out noise. Similarly, carbon fiber core conductors are the same size as steel core conductors yet conduct at double the capacity when transmitting electricity through the power lines.
One common issue discussed throughout the panels conveyed that while the industry is growing exponentially and much more renewable energy is being generated than ever before, renewable energy technology still faces numerous barriers to entering the commercial markets. Several panelists expressed that they would like to see policy developed that directly addresses these market barriers. Another topic examined across several panel discussions included misconceptions about the costs of green technologies. While there are some technologies in this industry that have higher costs, there are also many examples where the cost of using renewable technologies is actually lower than those of the current products and technologies out there. For example, aluminum single pane windows and steel enforced triple pane polymer windows cost the same, yet the latter is more efficient and saves money in other areas. Ethanol is cheaper to produce than pure gasoline and saves consumers money at the gas pump. Panelists noted that complex and expensive technology is not always needed to make a building or car energy efficient and comfortable for the occupant but through research of products on the market, it is possible to spend an equal or lesser amount and save more.
How do the discussions from this EXPO and Policy Forum impact your region? Speakers and exhibitors stressed three points in particular: the technology for renewable energy and higher efficiency exists. Zero-energy homes and industrial buildings have already been created, meaning that it is undoubtedly possible. And, there are an abundance of companies able to develop, install, certify, and integrate these technologies into our familiar daily lives and into the future – to protect the atmosphere and ecosystems that provide us with life-sustaining services. GHGs and unnecessary inefficiencies negatively impact our communities and regions economically, environmentally, and in many direct and indirect ways. Without policies that address the market barriers renewable technologies face, regions could find themselves with increasingly limited options to save money, reduce GHG levels, decrease potential health hazards, and increase efficiency in construction, grid, and transportation systems.
This annual EXPO and Policy Forum reminded the public that we are more capable than ever to make the most out of resources we know are renewable and tremendously valuable. It will be exciting to see what policy and regional efforts will develop from here.