New Presidio center brainchild of E&E researchers

September 23, 1994

By Lynn Yarris,

Vice President Al Gore is expected to announce on Saturday, Sept. 24, the creation of an Energy Efficiency Training Center at San Francisco's Presidio. Intended to be a non-profit partnership between public and private supporters, the Center is largely the brainchild of Mark Levine and Stephen Wiel of LBL's Energy and Environment Division.

Scheduled to be on hand for the announcement ceremony at the former Army base will be the Vice President, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and Christine Ervin, DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Ervin will have administrative responsibility for the center.

"The purpose of the center is to promote the transformation of energy systems around the world from their current inefficient use of depletable resources to a much more efficient and sustainable system," Levine says. "As the primary means of achieving this objective, the center will offer training to a variety of audiences, including practitioners and decision-makers from both the United States and from developing nations."

The proposal for the center was developed by Levine and Wiel in collaboration with members of the Coalition for the Presidio Pacific Center, a private organization dedicated to the creation of a global environmental center at the Presidio. The proposal calls for an annual budget of $6 to $9 million, with most of the money going towards the creation of educational and training material, the provision of training programs at the Presidio, and the organization of a series of "Energy Efficiency Programs" that would be located primarily at universities in developing countries.

"In the developing world, perhaps 70 percent of the harmful air pollutant emissions result from energy systems," Levine says. "Water pollution and land despoliation are also, in large measure, the result of energy development."

In addition to environmental hazards, energy use in developing countries also contributes to major health problems. Examples include the concentration of toxic particle emissions in homes from the use of coal for cooking. Developing countries also contribute more than 25 percent of the energy-related greenhouse gases--such as carbon dioxide--to the atmosphere. This figure is expected to grow significantly during the next few decades unless changes are made.

"We believe the primary factor retarding the use of cleaner and more economic energy technologies in developing countries is the paucity of institutions with skilled personnel in both the public and private sectors," Levine says. "Even in the advanced industrial countries, the deployment of cost-effective energy efficiency technologies has required highly trained professionals combined with significant policy innovations that also required trained personnel."

The idea for the Energy Efficiency Training Center began with an interagency task force that was charged with creating sustainable development programs at the Presidio as part of the plan to convert the former military base to other uses. This task force consisted of representatives from DOE, EPA, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Park Service, the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.