The Georgetown Energy Challenge

Apr 22, 2014

If you ask people if they would like to save energy, the majority says yes.  But if you ask them what they’re actually doing about it, the majority says “not much”.  A contest among cities and towns across the country, to see which can cut the most electricity and natural gas usage, is aimed at finding ways to change that. 

With all the electronic devices, most of us use, which have to be plugged in and recharged, you’d think energy use in this country would be on the rise.

"If you look at total energy usage in the whole country it’s been flat.”

John Randolph is Professor Emeritus of Urban Affairs & Planning at Virginia Tech.

“It’s the same as it was in ‘98. In the mean time, our population has grown, we’ve got all these gadgets as you say, we’re doing more, our economy has grown significantly but we really haven’t used any more energy so our whole economy has been more energy efficient.”

Randolph says that’s something not many people realize. And it’s also the core the idea behind a nationwide energy efficiency competition that kicks off this week.

It’s the brainchild of Georgetown University Physics professor Francis Slakey. He is also the first person to climb the highest mountain on very continent and surfed every ocean.  From that perspective, he has come to this conclusion.

“You’re listeners might think that the number one fuel source in the world is petroleum. It’s not. Well then it’s got to be coal, right. No, Well then it’s got to be natural gas. No. Actually, the number one fuel source in the world is energy efficiency and natural so what we have to do is become as efficient at  mining for energy efficiency as we are at mining for coal and natural gas.”

Mining for more places to save energy without giving up function is what communities will work on, with help from project managers assigned to each community that enters. It’s open to those with between Five thousand two hundred fifty thousand people.  So far, around fifty communities from around the country have signed on, four in Virginia, Blacksburg is one of them. 

Dennis I. Grove, Program Manager at the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS)

“And it’s a really big name but we call it, ICTAS and the mission of ICTAS is to help facilitate interdisciplinary research for a sustainable future. So I think it’s just a great opportunity for us to do things that, according to the town and university energy plans, we wanted to do anyway, and the 5 million dollar prize is just sort of a carrot there to help us on the way.”