ORNL and TVA are joining hands to reduce the South's energy demand.
Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut and New Jersey. The eclectic group is "America's Greenest States," a list produced by Forbes magazine last fall.
To find southern representation, however, keep reading—all the way down to number 20, Florida; 23, Virginia; 29, Georgia and 36, South Carolina. Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and West Virginia make up seven of the bottom eight on the "Greenest States" list.
Energy consumption is one of six factors incorporated into the tally, closely linked to other "green" standards, including air quality and carbon dioxide emissions. Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, used a bit of hyperbole to summarize the situation in a recent presentation to Oak Ridge National Laboratory employees: "The South is the Gobi Desert of energy efficiency."
From Callahan's perspective, while bioenergy, nuclear and other expanding energy options are important, "the potential of energy efficiency is probably greater than any other resource." She views the confluence of record prices for oil and increasing anxiety over carbon emissions as a "perfect storm" that makes the attitude of both the market and the public ripe for fundamental change.
Recognizing these trends, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are developing an array of energy-efficient appliances, testing energy-saving building materials and refining a zero-energy home that literally will produce more energy than it consumes. As world energy demand collides with the growing public desire for a carbon-constrained environment, ORNL increasingly is recognized as a source of expertise for cities, states and utilities looking to trim bulging energy waistlines. The Tennessee Valley Authority has joined state and local government as well as non-profit energy efficiency advocate groups in asking the Laboratory to provide input for policy, incentives and technologies to transform the desert of consumption into an oasis of energy efficiency.
Twenty minutes from the ORNL campus, the City of Knoxville has launched an energy and sustainability task force to create a plan for citywide energy savings and carbon emissions reductions. "Once we started thinking along these lines, it didn't take us very long to realize that we were pretty well positioned with energy expertise all around us," says Madeleine Weil, Knoxville deputy director of policy development who put together the task force. Dana Christensen, ORNL associate laboratory director for energy and engineering research is a member of the task force. ORNL researchers sit on three of the body's four working groups.
"We quickly determined that Knoxville has a tremendous opportunity to emerge as a leader in energy use and sustainability, and we plan to take advantage of that," Weil says. ORNL is helping the city develop a proposal for an energy services performance contract to improve efficiency in all city facilities. Working with another group, ORNL's Patrick Hughes has submitted a white paper outlining a weatherization program for private homes.
Perhaps more than any single energy initiative, ORNL's zero-energy homes project has generated interest among local, state and federal officials seeking practical and affordable options for residential energy conservation. TVA has helped fund construction of five near-zero-energy homes (current utility costs are actually about 40 cents a day) at a Habitat for Humanity development in nearby Lenoir City. The project was the focus of a recent visit by Tennessee mayors from Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville.
Demonstrating a renewed commitment to energy efficiency, the TVA board recently named Joe Hoagland, former senior advisor to TVA President Tom Kilgore, to a newly created post of vice president for energy efficiency and demand response. Hoagland's first task is to determine how much energy savings TVA needs to achieve in order to meet growing energy demands over the next 20 years.
Times have clearly changed. "In order to meet the goals of low cost and reliability, energy efficiency and demand response are now tools as much as our assets that generate electricity," Hoagland says, adding that TVA's strategy also incorporates environmental concerns. "A megawatt not produced is a green megawatt."
When Hoagland came to his new post last fall, he was asked to determine what was needed to generate 1,200 megawatts of energy savings, or the equivalent of one large nuclear or coal-fired power plant, by 2013. "As we begin to understand the situation better, I'm not sure that is going to be enough. I expect that we will need to cut back more, much more," he says.
Meeting the challenge will require TVA to adopt a combination of tactics, including new technologies, rate restructuring, education and customer incentives to achieve the required savings. The agency has signed a memorandum of understanding with ORNL as a first step in what Hoagland envisions as a growing, and necessary, partnership with the Laboratory.
"ORNL has a broad expertise in energy efficient technologies to help us do things better," he says. "Oak Ridge researchers have unique experience in designing zero-energy homes, creative construction techniques, new insulation technologies and a sophisticated set of energy efficiency standards. Perhaps most important to us, they actually play a key role in developing the technologies."
In Nashville, state government is hoping to build on the recognition recently gained from a $72 million Tennessee Biofuels Initiative led by the University of Tennessee. The state's investment was designed to complement $135 million from the Department of Energy to support a new BioEnergy Science Center, headquartered at ORNL, With these two projects, Tennessee has quickly achieved status as a national leader in developing alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuels derived from sustainable, renewable sources growing in fields and forests.
"State government has a strong history of partnership with the national lab," says Ryan Gooch, a graduate of Oak Ridge High School who was appointed in 2007 to serve as director of energy policy with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. "I think with time Tennessee can become a leader in energy and energy savings initiatives by tapping into ORNL's energy and renewable research expertise, which is second to none."
Those leading the charge say that creating the kind of energy savings that can make a real dent in demand will require the coordinated effort of government at all levels along with power generators, utilities and consumers.
"A lot of things have to come together," Hoagland says. "We must target market incentives. We will need to price electricity based on when people use it. We must alter habits through incentives, whether they be rebates or funding for energy efficient improvements. At the same time the state must guide the market by setting standards and codes that require the use of energy efficient building practices and materials. Most important, we have to work all those tracks simultaneously."
If these initiatives prove successful, the potential impact is enormous. ORNL researchers believe that fully one-half of the South's anticipated increase in energy demand can be met through energy efficiency. If that prediction proves accurate, the ranking of green states is likely to change. —Larisa Brass
Contact: Robert A. Hawsey
Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations