Last week I gave a presentation on “Energy Efficiency Best Practices” to more than 100 CEOs of multinational corporations. The presentation began with a disclaimer. I did not intend to talk about alternative energy. I would focus, instead, on energy efficiency. On how companies can dramatically reduce their energy costs -- without changing what they do -- simply by using existing technologies to make their facilities run more efficiently.

Just to be clear, the first slide in my presentation said: “Focus on Efficiency.” Then I ended with the same slide: “Focus on Efficiency.”

What happened during the Q&A session? No one asked about energy efficiency. Instead, every one asked about alternative energy. What about electric cars? What about fuel cells? What about biofuels? What about cellulose? What about solar? What about wind?

Why were they asking about alternative energy? Because we all want to find the magic new technology that will make energy both environmentally friendly and inexpensive. Then we won’t have to do anything ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Luddite. In fact, I firmly believe that over time very smart scientists and engineers will make major breakthroughs that will eliminate our dependence on carbon-based fuels. Just in my lifetime, the microprocessor has revolutionized communications, media, data processing, medical diagnostics, and virtually every aspect of our lives. Once discovered, similar types of breakthroughs in energy and power generation will relegate carbon to the same dustbin of history as the rotary telephone.

But continuing to waste energy while waiting for alternative energy breakthroughs is a bit like continuing to spend recklessly while waiting to hit the lottery. It might happen someday. Maybe not. Even if it does, who knows when.

In the meantime, we have such a simple solution…….and it is us. Simply by taking very basic steps, we can reduce our energy consumption by 20% or more without altering our lifestyles or business practices. And we can do that today with existing technologies that have very short paybacks.

So, please, a little focus on efficiency.

John Howley
Hong Kong

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