Early adopters of a “holistic approach” to reducing energy use are beginning to cash in on a systems-based framework dubbed “intelligent efficiency,” according to a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
While significant gains have been realized through innovations in individual products, equipment and appliances, the vanguard of energy efficiency lies in smarter, more integrated approaches. “Enabled by information and communication technology (ICT) and user access to real-time information, intelligent efficiency differs from component energy efficiency in that it is adaptive, anticipatory, and networked,” says ACEEE.
The organization has worked for more than two years to develop a “continuum of technology and human behavior,” and three categories of activity that, when integrated, offer more opportunities for conservation.
People-centered efficiency focuses on providing users with better real-time information to drive better decisions about their own energy use. It “makes individuals’ energy use visible,” and offers tools for reducing it, often through mobile apps or online tracking and measures. Human activities and attitudes are actively engaged as part of the system approach.
Technology-centered efficiency leverages “smart” technologies to “optimize energy systems in buildings, industries, and transportation systems… For example, an automated and anticipatory building system uses the weather forecast to predict air conditioning needs and pre-cool an office building, then adjusts cooling loads to the occupancy of each individual room.” Human input is needed to set up such systems, but day-to-day they function automatically.
Service-oriented efficiency takes advantage of tools and technologies that better serve consumers’ needs while also reducing energy use. A familiar example is the use of video conferencing rather than in-person meetings.
Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls offers a case study of a project to retrofit the Empire State Building for intelligent efficiency (ACEEE report, page 29). The 80-year old landmark is now equipped with a people-centered tenant energy management system; through an online dashboard, tenants can view details of their energy use compared to others in the building, fostering a healthy competition between people and groups. A technology-centered upgrade modernized system controls to wireless digital sensors, one of the largest such installations in the world. The service-centered component includes remote monitoring and diagnostic systems that make maintenance and repair more timely and efficient.
A Johnson Controls spokesperson says their projections estimate the building will reduce energy use by 38% with a 3-year payback on investment, with Intelligent Efficiency measures accounting for half those gains. (Year 1 goals have exceeded estimates by 5 percent.) To learn how your business can approach Intelligent Efficiency, contact Energy Smart today!