The Fifth Fuel: Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, August 30th

On the heels of training in the Maine Home Performance with Energy Star™ program, my personal media researcher tells me that EPRI has declared energy efficiency the ‘fifth fuel.’ A quick Google also tells me the EPRI name is not an original: “The Fifth Fuel” was the name of a newsletter published by the Alliance for the Conservation of Energy, a not-for-profit “set up to promote the development of coherent and consistent national energy policy in the UK.” Looks like the organization is defunct, but the name fifth fuel lives on.

Kudos to ACE (and EPRI) for giving energy efficiency a name worthy of marketing, a name that does not garble in the mouth, a name that suggests a real alternative to the ravages of coal mining, the ramming of transmission lines through backyards, the debacle of nuclear waste storage, the exorbitant costs of maintaining an aging grid – EPRI’s stock in trade.

The stock in trade of the fifth fuel is air sealant, dense-pack insulation, efficient heating and cooling systems, exhaust fans, thermal, moisture, and vapor barriers, solar systems, and windows, to name a few. The economic opportunities of the fifth fuel abound in the form of diagnostic tools. I used or learned of these gadgets in the Maine Home Performance training: blower door fans, duct blasters, pressure and carbon monoxide meters, infrared cameras for thermal measurements, and smoke sticks to draw out drafts. And then there’s the software to support weatherization programs, building performance contractors and energy auditors. Maine Home Performance uses Performance Systems Development’s TREAT (Targeted Residential Energy Analysis Tools) software for reporting. One attendee of the training, Monroe Infrared Technologies, headquartered in Kennebunk, Maine, attested to the wealth of opportunities in the fifth fuel.

Maine Governor John Baldacci established the Office of Energy Independence & Security which selected Performance Systems Development to administer the pilot of the Home Performance program. Baldacci made an appearance the first day of training, trailed by three local news camera crews and some print press. President Bush did not make an appearance, although he was in Kennebunkport for a wedding last week.

Colorado is due for a new governor this year. I’m hoping this next one and the people he (yes, it’ll be a he) taps for the public utility commission will be ardent fifth fuel supporters.

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