Energy Efficiency and Profit Inefficiency

According to the Harvard Business Review, 88% of executives believe corporate performance would rise if they could escape "quarterly capitalism." One consequence of the "tyranny of short-termism" is underinvestment in energy efficiency. In fact, less than 5% of Fortune 500 corporations have energy efficiency targets despite the benefits

I see three reasons for this. Per usual, reasons are tentative. As I research more, I will report back. 

Corporate Structure

In many ways, corporate executives' hands are tied. Executives in public corporations owe a duty of loyalty to stockholders. In turn, stockholders often owe their loyalty to quarterly reports. This makes it difficult to spend money in one quarter, even when guaranteed a net benefit down the road. Although I wonder if it's more like "half-dollarly capitalism." I'm thinking of start-ups who go public while warning that they will not be profitable in the short-term. 

Energy Prices 

Relative to Europe and elsewhere, energy prices are cheap. This is likely to continue because of of increased natural gas extraction, and because energy transitions can take a long time. It took about a hundred years for steam-powered coal to become cost-competitive, and another hundred years for our current energy regime of fossil fuels and electricity to takeover. 

Mental Models and Physical Solos

I agree with the GM of Midwest Energy Group who places blame on organizational structures. In many organizations, energy efficiency falls victim to something akin to the tragedy of the commons. No one takes responsibility, and all suffer for it. 

Without lateral-thinking, a broader perspective, and a longer time horizon, profits will remain unrealized, and GHG emissions will needlessly increase.

What was a win-win becomes a lose-lose.  


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