More than 40 leaders in the areas of industry, finance, research, and policy gathered Nov. 14 in Carlsbad, Calif., to discuss critical issues facing the HVACR industry, including climate change, energy efficiency, refrigerants, and pending legislation.

“Never before has the HVACR industry been at the forefront of so many critical global issues …,” Robert Wilkins, president of Danfoss North America, the sponsor of the event, the latest in the manufacturer's series of EnVisioneering symposia, said. “The economic trends we currently face are influencing collective business decisions today that will shape decades to come.”

Kevin Fay, president of Alcalde & Fay, an Arlington, Va.-based government-relations and public-affairs firm focusing on atmospheric- and energy-policy issues, opened the symposium by describing the political environment in Washington, D.C. He said energy, energy security, and “green” jobs likely will be part of an economic-stimulus bill in early 2009.

“There is tremendous opportunity in terms of energy-efficiency improvements and programs for the industry at large, if we find a way to position ourselves on that,” Fay said.

Fay predicted that climate-change legislation would not pass before late 2009 or 2010, but pointed out that bills in the Senate and House of Representatives in 2008 had common approaches that could become the foundation of legislation in the next Congress. For example, both the Senate and House bills separate hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants from other greenhouse gases and establish a goal to reduce HFC global-warming contribution by nearly 80 percent over the next four decades.

David McIntosh, who served as Sen. Joseph Lieberman's counsel and legislative assistant in the areas of energy and the environment, discussed the impact on the HVACR industry of legislation mandating a phasedown of HFC refrigerants.

McIntosh predicted that future energy legislation could include “mandates on new energy-efficiency standards among manufacturers, as well as subsidies and tax incentives for the manufacturers and the purchasers of the equipment,” suggesting Congress and the administration could look to state initiatives, as well as previous federal initiatives, as models for legislation. He said he expects the Obama administration to enunciate a basic plan for climate change, outlining principles, targets, and timetables. Objectives could be outlined for certain industries, allowing Congress to work on specific portions of the climate agenda without having to write a comprehensive bill.

McIntosh urged the HVACR industry to follow closely the activities of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Senate Committee on Finance, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy, all of which are or, he expects, will get involved in the climate-change issue.

Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, discussed opportunities for growth in an increasingly energy-focused economy.

Energy efficiency has been powering a major portion of the U.S. economy for more than 30 years and must play an even larger role in the future, Callahan said. Although it represents only about 4.5 percent of the world's population, the United States is the world's largest energy producer and consumer, with consumption outpacing production, resulting in the need for significant energy imports, she said.

By capturing the energy savings possible with existing technologies, global energy-demand growth could be cut by half or more over the next 15 years, Callahan said.

Citing Energy Information Administration data, Callahan said the carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions of the U.S. building sector are almost equal to the CO2 emissions of India and Japan combined. Building codes, she concluded, must be better-written and more strongly enforced.

John Christmas, senior vice president of Hannon Armstrong, a financial-services firm in Annapolis, Md., discussed emerging methods of financing commercial-building energy efficiency.

The final speaker, Joseph Turk, president of PWI Energy Inc., a Johnson Controls global energy-management provider based in Philadelphia, said: “We cannot wait for Congress to make changes on energy-efficiency policy. We — as individuals, as an industry — need to solve the problem. We need to change the way we live to support changes in energy efficiency. And the companies that are doing that already are creating business opportunities for the future.”