Columnists: Rod Janssen, Independent consultant

Published on: 30 Aug 2019

Continuing in the spirit of Hal

Last year I had an email exchange with Hal. He had written to congratulate me for getting on the eceee board once again. It brought back so many memories of times with him over the years.

I had not been with eceee in its early days when Hal was one of the masterminds behind the summer studies. I had heard of him but my mission at the time was to work in countries such as Hungary and Romania after the planned economy world collapsed.

In the early years of this century when I did get heavily involved, Hal was a godsend. Never did I see anyone so dedicated to encouraging new generations of analysts in energy efficiency to develop the intellectual rigour in the subject that was so needed.

We were both on the eceee board together for several years. Those were busy days with the first Energy Efficiency Directive, the revised Buildings Directive and the Ecodesign Directive. We were in a phase of definition that any organisation does periodically.  For Hal, he would go back to the roots, why eceee evolved into being Europe’s largest not-for-profit organisation promoting energy efficiency.

But, the roots included ensuring the individual panels for the summer studies pushed for more and better analysis to improve the priority for energy efficiency through greater rigour and – more importantly – thinking beyond today’s policy toward future needs.

At that time Hal was co-ordinating the climate work at the University of Oslo, bringing together the activities of all relevant academic departments. This was very unusual for an anthropologist to be leading but with his technical/engineering background, he was so well placed to undertake the role. While we too often work in silos, Hal saw the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach and he was living proof of its importance. Addressing sustainability demanded it.

Being an anthropologist meant he put the consumer first, something even the latest EU clean energy policies have tried to do.  In one of his last publications from 2016 (The Political Economy of Low Carbon Transformation: Breaking the habits of capitalism.) The concept he focused on was “habit.” A review of the book stated; “He argues for the importance of recognizing that the everyday behaviours that lie at the core of many of our global environmental issues are, in fact, mostly routine actions – habits – that stubbornly persist despite our best intentions to take these issues seriously.” Further, “According to Wilhite, implementing regulations on industries and promising green jobs is not going to be enough to tackle climate change. It is going to take changing those everyday practices.”

One could go on and on quoting from the umpteen papers written by Hal for eceee summer studies.

Growing up, Davy Crockett was one of my heroes and I even had my own coonskin cap.  When Hal told me that he was related to him, I knew we had a bond that would endure. He was so thrilled when he took his kids to the Alamo in Texas, the site of the siege in 1836 where all defenders (including Crockett) died and are now part of American folklore.

Now Hal is sadly no longer with us. He now needs to become part of our eceee energy efficiency folklore. He is that important.

Also see obituary: Farewell to Hal Wilhite


The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Rod Janssen

Oct 2016

Apr 2016

Nov 2011