How big is the market for intelligent efficiency technology? You may be surprised

Blog | April 26, 2017 - 9:56 am
By Ethan Rogers , Program Director, Industry

Our new research reveals that sales of learning thermostats, a very popular form of intelligent efficiency, are expected to be three times as high this year as they were in 2013. This surge suggests broad future use of technologies that can save dramatic amounts of energy.

In recent years, ACEEE has explored the benefits of intelligent efficiency, our term for energy efficiency made possible by the responsive, adaptive, and predictive capabilities of information and communication technologies (ICT). These technologies can save energy by improving control and operation of systems, facilities, organizations, and even neighborhoods. Many products and services make up intelligent efficiency, producing savings in every sector of the economy. Yet very little quantitative information is available to help us understand its breadth and reach.

ACEEE’s new study documents the recent growth in use of intelligent efficiency across the US economy. It identifies how and how much ICT is being used to save energy. Our analysis focuses on four sectors of the economy – buildings, manufacturing, transportation, and government services – where intelligent efficiency applications are most common and are having the greatest impact on end-user energy consumption.

More than two dozen applications of intelligent efficiency with the potential to save significant amounts of energy have seen market acceptance. Each application has distinct features and benefits, and some applications are used in multiple sectors. What’s the potential impact of such overlap? Our analysis answers that question and quantifies market acceptance of each application with one or more indicators such as annual sales or product availability. 

For example, learning thermostats reduce energy use in residential buildings and are a key component of many utility-sector energy efficiency and demand-response programs. They also contribute to smart city benchmarking initiatives. In 2013, 2 million smart thermostats were sold, but this year that number is expected to triple. Sales in the larger product category of home energy management (HEM) is projected to increase from $273 million in 2013 to $1.8 billion in 2020. As the sales of these products increase, the share of homes with HEM products is expected to increase. In 2015, only 5% of homes had some type of HEM device, but the number is estimated to reach 19% by 2021.

Overall, we found a clear and steady rate of adoption of most applications, with some just shy of an inflection point that would indicate mainstream acceptance. Intelligent efficiency is an increasingly popular solution, and though it is not yet the next big thing in energy efficiency, there is every indication it will be soon.

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