An Illuminating few days in Portland

Posted October 19, 2015

Last week I attend the ENERGY STAR Partner meeting in Portland. In my last blog, I reflected back on a lot of years of attendance at this meeting and how things have changed. Today I reflect on the meeting itself, and the excitement as things are still changing and changing fast. For the first time in my career, the markets are starting to push programs more than we are pushing them. This was reflected in the two key topics of conversation that most stood out for me during the ENERGY STAR Partner meeting this year; (1) the swiftly moving transition in the lighting market, and; (2) the discussion and the urgency around the need to make the Retail Products Platform (RPP) successful.

Let’s start with lighting. Fifteen years ago I was involved in running an ENERGY STAR products program. Success was a day (usually a weekend) standing in the aisles of an Ace Hardware store trying to talk shoppers into purchasing a $10 CFL with a $5 rebate. If we sold 100 bulbs in a day it was a success. Fast forward to last week in Portland when the message from retailers and manufacturers alike was we are done with CFL, it is time for LEDs.

However, we have created a consumer that expects a specific price point in energy efficient lighting, one that ENERGY STAR LEDs cannot quite meet. In response the market is doing one of three things:

1) Keeping CFLs in store despite the belief that it is a fading and inferior product.

2) Moving people to halogen. After all, they are more efficient than standard incandescent and they are cheaper than LEDs.

3) Producing and bringing in non-ENERGY STAR qualified LEDs with shorter life, despite product inconsistency and the unfortunate risk of turning people off of LEDs.

The risk of this is evident. Programs with heavy lighting goals won’t be able to achieve their numbers. A year ago we were in denial of this, even though the evidence was in front of us. Today while there is still a lot to discuss, it is clear that the energy efficiency industry has coalesced around this. There were a number of panels on this topic at the conference and ICF recently published a white paper on the topic if you are interested in more detail.

The second topic was RPP. Disclosure: I spoke on the topic of RPP at the meeting. For me though, the interesting thing is not so much RPP but the energy, excitement, and level of national reaching coordination and straight out hard work behind this initiative to make RPP a success. I have seen us excited before, but I don’t think I have seen us so earnestly working collectively to make something happen. RPP brings together utilities, the EPA, retailers, evaluation and implementation professionals to collectively deliver one model nationally. The pilot launches in January of 2016. I am excited to continue to be part of the team working on this and to see what happens. For more information on RPP visit the EPA site here.

I left excited, and a bit sad. I had to head out a day early and all the way home I found myself suffering the classic fear of missing out. Next year I will be there for the long haul, and excitedly looking forward to sharing how much farther we have come.