Michel Gelobter

Why Making the Road by Walking It Doesn’t Work in Business

Two major factors point to the potential for a major revolution in energy efficiency. First, problems with information account for about 80% of the known barriers to widespread efficiency. Second, thanks to new sensors, the smart grid, and amazing software, we are in the midst of an unprecedented explosion in the availability of energy data. Unfortunately, it ain’t happening. The clean tech sector has been a resounding disappointment, both in terms of driving massive new energy efficiency as well as large scale adoption of renewables and a wide array of energy conservation and renewable energy options. The reasons for the lack of scaled outcomes has everything to do with the immaturity of the business processes underlying energy decisions. Contrasted to almost every other major business process (sales, HR, finance, inventory, supply chain), energy use is in an almost pre-economic phase, where actors have almost no sense of how to prioritize actions on a common metric, like ROI. Absent clear guidelines for behaviors that drive energy efficiency (or, for that matter, renewables purchases), energy decision-makers at all scales will continue to adopt innovation slowly and at small scale. Only when the road to renewables and efficiency is well paved will we be able to walk it at scale and at the speeds necessary to address the climate energy crisis. What does this mean for action? First, policy will remain a cornerstone of the “road construction” necessary in the sector. Second, grassroots innovation has the potential to radically accelerate clean tech practice and should be encouraged at all levels. Barring that, the timeframes for change will be slower than we’d wish.

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