CERAWeek: The wrap-up

CERA’s big brains wrapped up the week with a sort of free-for-all as attendees ate lunch. What were the big takeaways for the CERA people?
Matt Brown: The amount of interest in coal, and all the work that needs to be done to deal with coal’s CO2 issues.
Larry Makovich: “I was expecting the macro economic situation in the world would have created a lot more buzz, but there was a real sense of resignation. Everyone agrees there are big global imbalances we have to work out.”
Jone-Lin Wang: “It was not a surprise there was a lot of support for energy efficiency,” she said. “But I only heard one compelling story about actual projects.”
The value of energy efficiency efforts are much higher today than over the last two decades, Wang said, because capital costs are so high.
“But people are overly optimist about what we can do to knock down demand,” Wang said. Demand growth in the U.S. has grown at about 2 percent per year while the growth in gross domestic product has been 3 percent, meaning there’s a fair amount of efficiency being adopted already.
Americans also seem to think that conservation efforts will be cheap with a quick payback, or that there will just be negative costs, but Wang said CERA’s studies don’t find that to be the case.
It will be costly because ” … you have to change people’s choices.”
She pointed out the irony that people are willing to pay a 50 percent premium for renewable power but won’t pay 90 percent of the cost of a megawatt that would have had to be created but was avoided by a demand side reduction product–an approach some power companies are promoting as a way to profit from conservation as well as use of electricity