I spoke last week on a panel at the World Energy Engineering Congress (WEEC) in Austin. This is the second year in a row I’ve spoken at the conference and it’s a show I’ve really come to enjoy attending. The show has none of the “buzz” of events like Clean Tech and Solar Power, but it’s a powerful and inspiring event nonetheless. The tone is much more down to earth and features companies providing energy efficiency and generating products/services to mainstream energy customers. Many of the big ESCOs attend and some of the big energy companies do as well.
For the most part, WEEC is focused on the technologies that help businesses reduce their energy consumption and/or gain control over their energy usage. A walk of the floor and a sampling of the panels reveal a cross section of the energy management industry today—from efficient lighting and intelligent metering to cogeneration, ice storage, and geothermal heat pumps, the show provides some insight into the broad range of technologies that are being sold to mainstream energy users today.
This year’s show felt a little busier to me and I think I sensed an enhanced sense of urgency among attendees. In part, this was due to hurricane Katrina—the show had been moved with just one week’s notice from the Austin Convention Center to the local Renaissance because the convention center is housing hurricane refugees. But it was also clear that the oil markets were on everyone’s mind. There’s nothing like $3 per gallon gasoline to get people thinking about a change! As a result, there was a general awareness amongst attendees that our country is thinking seriously about energy choices and will be looking to them, as energy experts, for answers.
Even though WEEC is down to earth and mainstream, I always leave feeling inspired. The individuals here are passionate about what they do, but they’re also very focused on the here and now of growing their businesses. It’s a refreshing break from the “infinite tomorrow” that some of the clean technology conferences fall into. I love seeing businesses that understand their customers’ needs and know exactly how their product meets them. An efficient fluorescent light may not be the most exciting product, but the 20% energy savings it represents is important to energy users and to our country’s future. So what if it’s boring, it’s big and it’s real! In that sense, it’s a snapshot of what I hope is the future holds for all of us in clean energy!