Senior executives from companies in the HVAC and buildings industries gathered June 10 in Washington, D.C., for the 15th Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium, "E3: Energy, Efficiency, & Economy."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, opened the discussion with a four-part plan for making the United States more competitive in clean-energy technology: renew commitment to clean-energy research and development, strengthen the domestic market for clean-energy technologies, expand the financial infrastructure to incentivize investment in clean-energy products and equipment, and promote U.S. manufacturing capabilities.

Robert Wilkins, vice president for government affairs for Danfoss, outlined a three-part approach to addressing new challenges related to energy efficiency: map the present situation, look at longer-term research and what it might make possible, and explore ideas surfacing in the marketplace.

"Since 2008, we have witnessed an economic blitz, policy has stalled, the House of Representatives has changed hands, and the Senate may yet," Wilkins said. "Progress will depend on exceptional leadership and creativity in industry."

Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen R. Yurek discussed the problem of "max tech": current equipment approaching maximum levels of potential efficiency.

A whole-building-systems approach would open a new range of possibilities, Yurek said.

Air Conditioning Contractors of America Board of Directors Vice Chairman David Kyle said a lack of enforcement has resulted in subpar equipment installation and maintenance. As a result, not much of the energy-efficient equipment currently installed is functioning optimally.

"It may not be enough to think outside the box," Kyle said. "The box may be broken."

Better enforcement will drive contractors to seek better tools, better education and training, and more stringent quality-control and business-development practices, Kyle said.

Greg Dobbs, director, distributed-generation research and education, The Pennsylvania State University, described the U.S. Department of Energy-funded Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy-Efficient Buildings (http://gpichub.org/), a project dedicated to the development of innovative energy-efficient building technologies, designs, and systems.

Reid Detchon, vice president, energy and climate, United Nations Foundation, and executive director, Energy Future Coalition, outlined new opportunities for low-cost financing of energy-efficiency technologies and highlighted the advantages of continuous commissioning.

Karen Penafiel, vice president, advocacy, Building Owners and Managers Association International, discussed the challenge of data acquisition in multitenant buildings and its link to broader building-efficiency strategy.

Eugene Smithart, director, systems and solutions, Trane, closed the program with the suggestion that the longstanding challenge of first cost could be overcome with existing technology and a major dose of ingenuity. As an example, he discussed a system that creates ice overnight for cooling throughout the day.