24 Mar 2011

The marketing department's better world

I was paid to post this video and press release from ABB's Better World campaign. I did so because it's on topic (free money!) but also because of the spin put on survey results. See my comment below.

[video removed at ABB's request]

Press release: "ABB is striving for a better, cleaner future by developing innovative technologies that increase energy usage efficiency. ABB have sponsored a survey, which was conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek. The survey illustrates the expressed concern that the majority of energy experts have about renewable energy. Energy officials believe that immediate changes must take place. The video [link removed at ABB's request] shows the survey results which could lead to effective solutions for energy usage efficiency. ABB believes that by creating a smarter energy system we can protect the environment and aim for a brighter future."

Comment: The video claims that:
  • "76% of energy professionals believe government regulations should require utility companies to produce more energy from renewable sources," but the white paper [PDF] supporting the claim ranks seven alternative actions (e.g., "Incentivize the development of the grid," at 89%) as more important.

  • "89% of energy professionals believe government incentives trump markets in driving energy efficiency uptake by consumers," but the white paper [PDF] that claims government incentives are important also says that "the barrier to energy efficiency... is cheap energy (31%) more than incentives (22%)." Not exactly a clear result.

  • "63% of energy professionals believe the greatest opportunities for improving efficiency in the energy value chain can be found among industrial end users," but the white paper [PDF] says it different: "63% say that reducing consumption of electricity among end-users is the most effective means of using electricity more efficiently...the best opportunities for efficiency improvements along the energy supply chain are with energy consumers (Consumers 38%, Industry 16%)." This one I'll call a complete fail.

  • "81% of energy experts think smart grid technology is important for creating a cleaner, stronger system of the future," which sounds good, until you read [PDF] that "major barriers impeding the adoption of smart grid technology [include] regulations that don’t reward operational efficiencies (63%) and a lack of incentives for utilities to transform operations (58%)." Let's not put the cart grid before the horse incentives!
Bottom Line: The marketing department appears to be more interested in government regulations requiring industrial users to spend money on renewable technology and smart grids, not in the results of their own survey.* Fail.

* Veolia's recent white paper concludes "unless more sustainable water resource management practices are adopted by companies and individuals, almost half of the global economy -- and more than half of the world's population -- will be exposed to severe water scarcity by 2050." Their white paper (prepared by IFPRI) is far more balanced in discussing the incentives and mechanisms of sustainability. Sure, Veolia wants to sell water efficiency technology and services, but at least they say that "companies, cities and the public will need to move toward water conservation and efficiency improvements, coupled with aggressive but feasible investments and policy reform focused on increased water productivity."