Monthly Archives: July 2013

Opinion Dynamics New Location Open House

We had a great time last night celebrating our new location. Thank you to everyone who turned out for the event! An extra special thank you to our caterers at East Meets West and to Music Management for the incredible jazz trio! For those of you who missed it we posted some photos below. 

Our new lobby!

Our new lobby!

 

Opinion Dynamics branding wall

Opinion Dynamics branding wall

 

Getting the raw bar ready!

Getting the raw bar ready!

 

Playing some tunes

Playing some tunes

 

The slider station is open

The slider station is open

 

Raw bar in action

Raw bar in action

 

Having some fun

Having some fun

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Celebrating the summer season!

Celebrating the summer season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

CIEE Future of Energy in California Panelists call for Increased Innovation

Last week in San Francisco, Opinion Dynamics hosted the CEEIC’s flagship 2013 speaker event “Driving The Future of Energy – A Discussion of “Energy in the Context of Climate, Innovation and Business Models.” It featured a panel and discussion by three industry leaders on the role of technology and innovation, market/utility business models, and carbon constraints in shaping the future of energy in California. 

 The panel was moderated by Steve Schiller, board chair emeritus of the California Energy Efficiency Industry Council. The panelists were: Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board; Peter Fox-Penner, former senior official at the Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House Office of Science and Technology; and Arun Majumdar, former founding director of DOE’s ARPA-E program.  With over 350 in attendance, the discussion, held at the PGE’s headquarters in San Francisco, drew a diverse crowd.

Natural gas as a bridge fuel to more efficient sources of the future.  Issued the same day as the speaker series, the President’s climate change action plan was top of mind for many in the audience.  The panelists had general praise for the plan with cautious agreement that natural gas should be relied on as the short-term “bridge fuel” to the more efficient alternatives of the future.  Describing the appropriate use of natural gas, Peter Fox-Penner explained “We will need to cross the bridge of natural gas to get to the other side and then take down the bridge. It’s a bridge, not a destination.”

Better measurement is needed. The need for better measurement was raised by all three speakers.  In the past, appliance efficiency standards have been based on measurement, and as a result, have been one of the most successful tools for reducing energy use.  By contrast, building efficiency is not tested and standards are nonexistent in most sectors.  On the customer side, Mary Nichols believes that better measurements is needed, and that the results should be delivered in a way that people can use and understand them.

Financing is critical yet still scarce. All panelists spoke to the value of financing in reaching energy goals of the future. Access to information, capital, financing, logistical assistance and policy support all necessary to take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities.  As new tools, such as PACE and on-bill-financing, emerge to fund projects in the home energy use arena, entrepreneurs are looking for ways to tap into those resources.  Yet more work is needed in this realm.

How important is price? The speakers were in agreement that price remains a critical part of the solution.  Peter Fox-Penner noted that “price signals are absolutely essential.” While energy has remained relatively inexpensive in the rest of the US, in California, prices have been going up and so has efficiency. Majumdar cautioned that “when we get a natural resource to be cheap, we forget about everything else.” The result is a lack of concentrated demand needed to bring down the cost of renewables and allow them to scale.

Technology and a technological revolution. The business as usual case is built on incremental improvements of today’s technologies.  In order for a true revolution to occur, Arun Majumdar insists that we must we willing to take risks and test new ideas:  “The goal should be to create new learning curves that make today’s lithium-ion batteries obsolete (because something better has been developed).” Cost and scale, he maintains, is everything. As an example, he explained how the real cost of residential solar lies in the balance of system.  That is, even if the panels themselves were free, high labor and installation costs could keep residential solar out of reach for many customers. To overcome this barrier, big dramatic innovation is needed for system installation and permitting in addition to panel manufacturing. Yet as important as technological revolution is, the panelists agreed that addressing the effects of climate change will continue to be the work of many generations.  

What is in a Name? Behavior, Policy, and Debate in California

The Opinion Dynamics Team had the pleasure of attending and participating in the California Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) Behavioral Workshop on June 25-26th in San Francisco. Team members Anne Dougherty and Katherine Randazzo presented their work on the white paper “Paving the Way for a Richer Mix of Behavioral Programs” as part of the white paper team. 

The goal of the workshop was to bring the IOUs, program implementers, evaluators, the CPUC, and stakeholders into conversation to define “behavioral programs” and their role in the helping California meet its aggressive climate and energy goals.

An Uncharacteristically Sunny Workshop in San Francisco: The workshop tone was open and forward-thinking, drawing both regional and national leadership. As an added benefit, the workshop also provided an appropriate venue to honor Ed Vine, workshop facilitator, as he begins his adventures in retirement. Ed has played a pivotal role in advancing the industry’s focus on the human dimensions of the energy efficiency imperative and it’s fair to say everyone in attendance had benefited, in some way, from his contributions to the industry. Below we provide a quick snapshot of the key workshop take-aways:

The Policy Imperative: The group remained divided on whether it was necessary for the CPUC to mandate the use of behavioral programs in California’s portfolio. Many argued that these types of programs have always co-existed with rebate and more “traditional” program models. Others felt strongly that these programs required special consideration and shelter in order to continue to innovate, evolve, and scale.  

What is in a name? The workshop participants took a deep dive into the practical, theoretical, and at some points a purely semantic argument over what constitutes a behavioral program. Participants largely agreed that all programs have behavioral elements and should be encouraged to utilize smarted, more theory driven intervention strategies exemplified in current behavioral programs. However, few felt that the term “behavioral program” should be extended to rebate programs. If all actions are behaviors and all programs have behavioral elements, then what, exactly, distinguishes behavioral programs from others?

The Means Matter More than the End. By the second day of the workshop, participants built on a definition proposed by Cathy Fogel of the CPUC that defined behavioral programs not by the behaviors they seek to change, but by the means through which they changed. Specifically, the group identified the following attributes of a behavior program:  (1) non-monetary intervention strategies, (2) program design built on social science theory, and (3) rigorous and measurable energy savings.  Though not stated directly in the defining characteristics of a behavioral program, many participants suggested that the non-energy benefits of behavioral programs are greater than other programs, implying that there is an implicit benefit to California in implementing these programs.

What’s Next? To be clear, this was not a formal proceeding, instead it was a workshop to develop and move the industry forward. The word is that the participants from the CPUC will attempt to bring these ideas forward but there is no guarantee that any changes will be made in the decisions. That said, you can follow the next part of this discussion at the Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference where Anne Dougherty will be helping BECC founder Linda Schuck develop a spotlight session to further advance the important work of the workshop.