Bridging energy efficiency and carbon accounting

May 29, 2012, by Michael Gillenwater

You have probably experienced this situation before. You have an idea for a project that you believe is important and innovative. But you don’t have funding for it, and are not exactly sure how to accomplish it. Yet, convinced of its potential, you charge ahead anyway, expecting to plan as you go. You struggle, make progress, get frustrated, get distracted by other projects, recommit to it, and cycle through the same progression again and again. Years go by…

In our case, it has been four years. And this particular story, fortunately, has a happy ending. Today, I am pleased (and relieved) to announce the launch of our new course on GHG Accounting for Energy Efficiency Projects.

If you are someone that pays even a little attention to us, you might find yourself saying, “big deal, these folks are always emailing me about some new course.” And you would be right to say so: we frequently release new curriculum, including technical methodology-focused courses. But let me argue for a moment that this course is qualitatively different.

First, energy efficiency opportunities are not just ubiquitous, but unarguably they will be at the heart of any long-term effort to address climate change. Energy efficiency (EE) also has its own rich history and extensive community of practice.

By developing new and rigorous curriculum on how to quantify emission reductions from EE, we believe (both now and back when we started work on the course) that we are charting new territory. But it has been the presence of the history and community around EE that led us to approach this course differently. We felt that it would be both foolish and arrogant to approach this topic without finding a way to integrate the preexisting community of practice.

We started this process by reaching out to experts in “measurement and verification” of energy savings (EE M&V)1. Government ministries and power utilities, as well as other organizations, have over decades invested in the development of approaches and protocols on how to quantity energy efficiency claims, such as those from demand side management programs and equipment retrofits. In parallel, a global industry of energy-service companies has been built. Leading this process have been organizations like the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), and the Efficiency Valuation Organization (EVO).

But our problem was that investment over time was focused on energy not GHG emissions. And the climate change community had, albeit over a much shorter time period, built up its own methods and nomenclature, which is frequently inconsistent with its older sister-community working on EE.

Acknowledging these challenges, we decided early on that our goal would be to help bridge these two technical communities: EE and GHG. We would strive to train experts in EE measurement and verification (M&V) how to work on GHG measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) and vice versa. It seemed only logical that the climate change community should tap the skilled legions of EE professionals around the world to bring GHG policies and carbon markets to scale more rapidly.

But bridging these two communities, which both have their own well-established linguistic and technical approaches, and building new instructional material that would be relevant to the two communities was a real challenge.

To meet this challenge we turned to someone that had shown a lifetime commitment to professionalizing EE M&V practitioners and shared our passion for building a bridge to between the EE and GHG communities. John Cowan has worked on EE issues for four decades and has been a central figure in the development of EVO as an organization and the most important global standard for reporting energy savings, the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP®)

John and I have now spent the last four years struggling together with how to integrate these two embedded approaches to environmental accounting. It is a testament to John’s professionalism and commitment to the mission of the GHG Management Institute that he did not give up on us (and me) during this long trek. I think we can both sincerely say this course has been a labor of love.

I won’t bore you with the details of what’s in the course; you can find that here. But I will say that we think it’s a big deal. And we hope it will seed the growth over time of a real coupling of these two technical communities.

Finally, I repeatedly come back to this point in my blog posts. We, at the Institute, don’t launch our initiatives with expensive events or big name spokespeople. And we don’t expect journalists to write front-page worthy stories about us. Our focus is not tomorrow’s news, but on the long-term. We hope that in 20 years people look back on this and other investments we made at the GHG Management Institute as the start of something that steadily grew the professional infrastructure upon which a serious future carbon management policy ultimately will depend. That is our vision, and we see this course as just one more piece of that infrastructure.

PS: We are also immensely grateful for the valuable input our colleagues at ASE and AEE provided in the development of the course. This course, indeed, took a village. Thank you to all who contributed.

1It is important to note here that the energy efficiency community defines these terms different from how they are used in the GHG community. This difference is especially true for “verification.”.

One comment on “Bridging energy efficiency and carbon accounting

  1. Samuel Otenyo on said:

    Great work. Climate change causes must be fixed at all costs. GHGMI is taking us on a meaningful journey. I hope to take the energy efficiency course soon to add to my previous training. Congratulations on your successful completion of putting materials together.

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