Energy efficiency is a major prerequisite for a sustainable energy economy centered on distributed renewable energy, and has been a permanent theme in my research. As a result of the two oil crisis (1973 and 1979) the first wave of energy efficiency technologies and practices became timidly apparent. The inroad in the megalomanic large-scale supply systems were already such that the expansion plans of the latter jammed in overcapacities. The incumbent energy concerns understood immediately the impact of energy prices and in particular the crucial role of energy taxing for re-designing the energy systems in a sustainable direction. Energy taxes were blacklisted and the most insane coalition in modern times against high energy prices (read: energy taxes) was forged. On the bifurcation at that time (around 1980) between sustainability and unbalanced growth the world was driven on a spiral downwards by the incumbent interests and by the myopia of consumers, trade-unions, politicians, academics, etc. in the rich nations. Non-sustainable energy - large-scale fossil fuel use and nuclear power - was not charged with its full costs in externalities and risks, paving the way to energy inefficient technologies and practices supporting the growth of non-sustainable lifestyles.
When nuclear phase-out studies were made after the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986, the prominent role of energy efficiency popped up again plainly. Our 1986/87 rudimentary scenario studies were later followed by technical and economic reviews of all main efficiency opportunities, and by constructions of energy efficiency supply curves during the 1990s. Although detailed and clear the studies attracted little real policy interest because energy prices were low and the myopia such that captains of industry and politicians thought this could last forever. In addition the neoliberal ideology spread the message that markets only can save the world and that policy by definition is suspected.
From 2003 onwards I work on a few new tentative concepts regarding energy efficiency, such as demand curves for electricity intensity, the sustainable backstop energy intensity level, barriers to energy efficiency. In this context I became more acquainted to the ideas and groupings focusing on energy tax reform. Such reforms are a keystone in the climate policy architecture beyond-Kyoto [see cluster "Climate & Energy Policies"].
One of the interesting experiences I can share with you is the design and construction of, and living in, what today is called a "sustainable energy" house. The idea to realize this project was born during discussions in the 1980s when I argued that we could realize buildings and houses that were more comfortable with an energy use of less that 1/4 to 1/5 than the average building stock at that time. The experience shows that energy efficiency is a true prerequisite to cover energy needs with local renewable energy sources backed up by an interconnected energy system. It also shows that more and better efficiency solutions are still to be invented and developed, but that it is feasible to bring down the demand for non-sustainbale energy options (large fossil plants and atomic power) to such low levels that they are no longer worthwhile investments. Last but not least, the amenities offered by our experimental house are pleasant and plenty, inviting you as many others to emulate our experience.
In 2010 I invested in researching and developing an idea that I fostered since many years: applying the structured decision analysis methodology on investing in energy efficiency. Pushed by the presence of young researchers working on energy efficiency of buildings I applied the decision theory on buildings efficiency. A new concept is proposed: the energy efficiency endowment of a long-lasting building. Then the differences between irrevocability of a financial investment and the irreversibility of impacts of decisions has been explored. Applying the decision methodology support "Choose or Loose" approaches above the standard "Wait and Learn" recommendations. The novel views are receiving wide interest and a number of articles and publications followed.
Updated March 1, 2011