Christian Kornevall

  • I'm Director of the WBCSD's Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) project, and we are on the quest to convince all kinds of people that we need to make our buildings energy neutral! More ...

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24 February 2009

The Mc Kinsey Curve - False Good News?

If we believe McKinsey (and most of us usually do because of their excellent work) we can keep global warming below the magic 2oC level at relatively little cost. This is good news, but maybe it is too good to be true, at least for the building sector.

The consulting guru's latest report on the costs of cutting greenhouse gases (Pathways to a low-carbon economy – Version 2 of the global greenhouse gas abatement cost curve) presents an update of the McKinsey greenhouse gas abatement cost curve that has become quite famous. It shows the potential of reducing greenhouse gases across sectors and regions with a € 60 per tonne of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) maximum abatement cost.


It is very convincing and carries a very strong message. The report repeatedly stresses the time factor - we cannot wait to act if we aim to stabilize global warming below 2oC. People can see the logic for acting as well as the relative cost of different actions. It shows the extremes, from switching light bulbs in the residential sector, to retrofitting a gas plant into a carbon capture and storage facility. The former produces savings of nearly € 100 per tCO2e and the latter just squeezes in under € 60 per tCO2e. The curve shows the many options between these extremes, allowing comparisons of abatement opportunities. The total annual cost would be between € 200-350 billion, corresponding to less that 1% of forecast global GDP, matching the estimates made in the earlier “Stern Review”.

McKinsey's message is very simple: start to act now, at least on measures that do not cost society anything and that could be implemented today. So far so good.

But I believe the report is overly optimistic about the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 2030. It uses an economic lens and disregards other considerations. The weak part is of course how to do it.

Continue reading "The Mc Kinsey Curve - False Good News? " »

31 October 2008

We have a new financial order – but what about a new energy order?

Money supposedly makes the world go round – or doesn't, as we have seen in the last few months. But it does make a big difference to the rate of advance of energy efficiency. So I was in New York recently at a 2-day workshop on finance and energy efficiency organized by the EEB.

The two days of discussions reinforced the EEB's initial conclusions. First, there is no easy answer to how finance can stimulate energy efficiency. Second, innovative financing mechanisms and a change to valuation models will not be enough to drive the necessary market transformation. Externalities must be priced and a value put on energy use, public/private partnerships are critical, solutions must be tailored to the specific context and building sector, and government has a significant role to play.


Regular readers will know that the EEB's first report concluded that business could influence the development of energy efficiency in buildings through three levers: a holistic approach, behavior changes, and financing. In the meeting with our Assurance Group in July, they recommended that we drill further down on finance.

We organized the workshop together with Molly McCabe of the sustainability consultancy HaydenTanner, on October 6-7, inviting around 40 stakeholders. The first day concentrated on commercial buildings, the second on residential.

Continue reading "We have a new financial order – but what about a new energy order?" »

15 September 2008

Cool to be cool? Hot to be hot?

In the EEB project we have started to talk about “the inertia of business as usual”. It has become increasingly clear that “business as usual”, or incremental change, will not lead to the necessary transformation of the building sector, achieving a radical decrease in global energy use in buildings. Market forces are not likely to take the lead yet, and today's building policies are not strong enough or not sufficiently enforced to have a real impact.

The fact is that we all need to change our energy behavior – at home and at work, including the professionals who finance, design, build and maintain the places where we live and work.


EEB identified this in our Facts and Trends Report. We said behavior was one of three business levers (along with a holistic approach and new financial models) that should help business achieve the desired transformation. The Assurance Group, in our meeting in Tokyo, advised us to drill further into these key factors. We are therefore holding three expert workshops on these themes. The behavior workshop was the first.

Continue reading "Cool to be cool? Hot to be hot?" »

14 August 2008

Cold comfort but a warm response

Christian has kindly offered me, Constant Van Aerschot from Lafarge, one of the two co-chairs of the EEB project, a guest spot here to report on the project's recent review with our CEOs in Washington DC.

In one respect it was a stark contrast to the Assurance Group meeting in Tokyo, which Christian reported on last time. In Tokyo, air conditioners are set to cool only to a minimum of 28 o C – and it felt much warmer in the meeting room. In Washington, on the other hand, it was so cold that we couldn't work inside the hotel when we were preparing for the meeting! The air conditioning was set unbearably low, so we went outside where we were comfortable.


In other respects this meeting was very similar to that of the Assurance Group. It was a very important milestone at which we received feedback and direction, and it was very positive.

Continue reading "Cold comfort but a warm response" »

10 July 2008

Hot times in Tokyo

The EEB project's governance includes an Assurance Group whose job it is to keep us on track and provide a high-level response to our work. Hosted by TEPCO and Kansai, the two major utilities in Japan and members of the EEB Core group, the meeting at TEPCO's headquarters in central Tokyo gave us an insight into the clash between energy savings and personal comfort. The Japanese government has decided that air conditioners should not be set below 28°. Short-sleeved, open neck shirts are now the order of the day, but it's still hot!

The reason for this is that the authorities had to close down the world's biggest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station on the Japanese North-West coast. A very strong earthquake hit an area under the sea northwest of the power station in July 2007. It has to be thoroughly inspected before being allowed to restart. Overnight the Kanto area including Tokyo – Yokohama area lost 8,200 MW of generation capacity. Dramatic action was needed to prevent blackouts, including the regulation on office temperatures and the relaxation of the dress code.


The EEB assurance group is chaired by Klaus Toepfer, former head of the UN Environment Programme. Other members present in Tokyo were Prof. Vivian Loftness (Carnegie Mellon University), Prof. Shin-ichi Tanabe, (Waseda University) and Prof. Yi Jiang (Tsinghua University). Prof. Thomas Johansson (Lund University) and Eileen Claussen (Head of PEW Centre) were unable to participate.

Continue reading "Hot times in Tokyo" »

30 May 2008

If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

I have borrowed this African proverb from Al Gore. It seems relevant to my eco-innovation experience last week, when I participated with some 20 key stakeholders in Philips's Sustainability Innovation Day in Eindhoven, Holland. The purpose was spelled out in the invitation letter: “Let's listen to each other and start an ongoing dialogue to envision innovative solutions. Our goal for this event is to share knowledge and further the process of co-creating a future that will truly make a difference for the generations to come.”

We discussed sustainability and Philips's latest innovations on its High Tech Campus. The campus itself has a very interesting concept of “open innovation”. I found a concept description by Rick Harwig, CTO of Philips Electronics: “It is better to build an ecosystem in which companies find one another. Open innovation makes companies less susceptible to market fluctuations. It allows them to focus on core competencies and substantially reduce time-to-market when industrializing technology into products. This is a major advantage in a market driven by the slogan: first, fastest and fittest. And this is exactly what happens on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven.”


The Campus left me with a very good impression of Philips compared to many companies' closed and often very secretive research centers.

Continue reading "If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." »

19 May 2008

LEEDing thoughts from the USA

Mark Twain created some wonderful sayings – some of them very relevant to this project, such as: “Architects cannot teach nature anything”, and perhaps most pertinent of all: “Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.”

The reason I mention Twain is that the EEB project recently spent a valuable afternoon in the new (LEED certified) Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford is also the home of United Technologies, an EEB co-chair. The company hosted a meeting of the EEB group. An afternoon session in the museum brought together 17 “thought leaders” representing key stakeholders from the U.S. building sector. They included developers, architects, policy-makers, academics and NGOs.


We had an intensive debate on where the US is going and what needs to be done, beginning with behavior change. Energy efficiency is crucial but people will not change their behavior if they don't perceive a threat. And today most American people still feel very comfortable. They are concerned about the price of gasoline at the pump, but they do not know their energy use and they do not perceive climate change as a sufficient threat to provoke action.

Continue reading "LEEDing thoughts from the USA" »

22 April 2008

Building boom in Brazil needs a Green Plan

Sao Paulo is one of the mega-cities which are becoming the world’s dominant economic force. The São Paulo Metropolitan Region actually consists of 39 cities, with São Paulo (and about 11 million people) at its heart. Greater Sao Paulo has experienced intense growth in the last few decades. The building industry is trying to catch up with a doubling of the population between 1967 and 2002.

This growth implies more and more energy. Brazil got an energy “wake-up call“back in 2001 when a black-out paralyzed the southern part of the country. They quickly cut energy demand by about a quarter but the drive to save energy is fading. If steps are not taken they might face a second “wake-up call” in a few years time. The Brazilian footprint is increasing rapidly. Brazil will need more energy but without an elaborated policy of “controlled energy growth" , there is a risk that Brazil moves away from its sustainable hydro electricity production towards considering fossil (carbon) derived energy sources to support their rapid expansion - they might go from good to worse!


The EEB project went to Brazil for our fourth Outreach event, in Rio de Janeiro on April 3. This follows events in Beijing, Brussels and New Delhi, where we have shared our findings, enjoyed a dialogue with stakeholders and learned more about the building market in each country.

Continue reading "Building boom in Brazil needs a Green Plan" »

03 April 2008

EEB in San Francisco

As guest blogger for this entry, I'm pleased to share thoughts on the EEB's recent workshop at Lawrence Berkeley Labs (LBL) in Berkeley, California. But first, a bit of background.

Berkeley is not just a beautiful place (east of San Francisco on the outskirts of Oakland) – the brain power of Lawrence Berkeley Labs has helped California's policy-makers develop some of the most aggressive and leading-edge energy policies in the US, if not in the world.


Our direct contact there, Steve Selkowitz, heads up the Building Technologies Group at the Labs and has been quite involved with EEB since its inception. Christian and I met Steve at the 2006 ACEEE Summer Session in Monterey, and knew we had found an exceptional resource. On the subject of buildings and energy efficiency, Steve is probably one of the most knowledgeable people around. If he doesn't have direct knowledge, I will guarantee he knows someone who does. Steve and his team at LBL are leading experts on the subjects of building energy use, modeling, human behavior, policy options, systems and controls, and much more.

Continue reading "EEB in San Francisco " »

12 February 2008

EPBD – The EU’s buildings platform; Stakeholders want to move on quicker despite the slow start in many Member States

Last week I was in Brussels for the European Union's Sustainable Energy Week 2008. It is the central event for the EU's sustainable energy campaign in Europe , offering stakeholders a forum on sustainable energy. My focus was on the session evaluating the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) which came into force in Jan 2003.


We start from the fact that buildings consume 40% of total energy in the EU. By cutting the energy use in buildings by about 30 %, Europe's energy consumption would fall by 11%, more than half of the 20-20-20 target (20% less carbon dioxide by 2020, with 20% renewables in the energy mix). What's more, it saves money. No wonder that the EPBD is the centerpiece of the EU's energy strategy, with these five themes:

  1. Certification of buildings' energy performance
  2. Regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning
  3. Training of experts and inspectors
  4. Calculation procedures
  5. Minimum Energy Performance in Buildings

It wont be easy, though. The building stock in the EU amounts to 21 billion m2. The annual production of new buildings is 1%, demolition rate about 0.5% and retrofit about 1.8 %. At that rate it will take a very long time to improve energy efficiency. A comprehensive and aggressive approach will be needed to reach the 30% target.

Continue reading "EPBD – The EU’s buildings platform; Stakeholders want to move on quicker despite the slow start in many Member States" »


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