In the past, energy efficiency was seen as a discrete improvement in devices,” says Skip Laitner, an economist who specializes in energy efficiency. “But information technology is taking it to the next level, where we are thinking dynamically, holistically, and system-wide.
>” [...] This emerging approach to energy efficiency is information-driven. It is granular. And it is empowering consumers and businesses to turn energy from a cost into an asset. We call this new paradigm “intelligent efficiency.”
That term, which was originally used by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in a 2012 report, accurately conveys the information technology shift underway in the efficiency sector.
The IT revolution has already dramatically improved the quality of information that is available about how products are delivered and consumed. Companies can granularly track their shipping fleets as they move across the country; runners can use sensors and web-based programs to monitor every step and heartbeat throughout their training; and online services allow travelers to track the price of airfare in real time.
Remarkably, these web-based information management tools are only now coming to the built environment in a big way. But with integration increasing and new tools evolving, they are starting to change the game for energy efficiency.
Although adoption has been slow compared to other sectors, many of these same technologies and applications are driving informational awareness about energy in the built environment. Cheaper sensors are enabling granular monitoring of every piece of equipment in a facility; web-based monitoring platforms are making energy consumption engaging and actionable; and analytic capabilities are allowing companies to find and predict hidden trends amidst the reams of data in their facilities and in the energy markets.
This intelligence is turning energy efficiency from a static, reactive process into a dynamic, proactive strategy.
We interviewed more than 30 analysts and companies in the building controls, equipment, energy management, software and utility sectors about the state of the efficiency market. Every person we spoke to pointed to this emerging intelligence as one of the most important drivers of energy efficiency.
“We are hitting an inflection point,” says Greg Turner, vice president of global offerings at Honeywell Building Solutions. “The interchange of information is creating a new paradigm for the energy efficiency market.”
Based on our conversations with a wide range of energy efficiency professionals, we have identified the five key ways intelligent efficiency is shaping the market in the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector:
The decreased cost of real-time monitoring and verification is improving project performance, helping build trust among customers and creating new opportunities for projects;Virtual energy assessments are bringing more building data to the market, leveraging new lead opportunities for energy service professionals;Web-based energy monitoring tools are linking the energy efficiency and energy management markets, making efficiency a far more dynamic offering;Big data analytics are creating new ways to find trends amidst the “noise” of information, allowing companies to be predictive and proactive in efficiency;Open access to information is strengthening the relationship between utilities and their customers, helping improve choices about efficiency and setting the foundation for the smart grid.
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