Blockchain technology could transform energy efficiency (and the world as we know it), but lately it’s been getting a bad rap. Many recent news reports have focused on how much energy is being used (and wasted by some accounts) to make Bitcoins. But Bitcoin is not the only use of blockchain and most of them are not energy intensive.
US homes can lower their energy use by up to one-sixth simply by incorporating smart technologies, according to our new report, Energy Impacts of Smart Home Technologies. In addition, these technologies — a combination of software, sensors, and hardware that monitor and control a home’s interior environment — allow homes to shift some of their energy use to times when energy demand and pricing are lowest. This pairing of energy savings and peak demand reduction is a win-win scenario for consumers and utilities alike.
Intelligent efficiency technologies such as learning thermostats and smart watches are making it easier to track and quantify the many benefits of saving energy. Fitness trackers are allowing researchers to evaluate the health benefits, new software apps are enabling building managers to check occupant comfort, and social media posts are helping utilities address resiliency concerns by assessing the scope of power outages.
The extreme weather events sweeping the United States, from wildfires in the West to hurricanes in the South, are causing untold personal suffering and damaging US infrastructure. We want to help residents and businesses get back on their feet, and we see a smart use of energy as integral for long-term recovery.
The industrial sector is unique among end-use sectors in that its energy intensity has declined consistently in recent decades, decreasing 45% from 1977 through 2016. The decline occurred even though the sector’s energy use has fluctuated, its output has almost doubled, and economic activity has risen and fallen with economic cycles.
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.
This is not how your grandparents saved energy. They may have told you to turn off the lights or put on a sweater. They offered good advice, but times have changed beyond what they probably ever imagined. Technology is making it possible to do so much more. It gives us “intelligent efficiency,” now moving faster than ever.
One of the more vexing challenges for those in the energy efficiency program sector is ensuring that savings resulting from the implementation of an efficiency measure persist over time. Fortunately, a solution exists: intelligent efficiency can prevent the degradation of energy savings, and in some instances increase savings over time.
The past year included many successes, including quite a few that we can build on in the new year. Among the notable developments in 2015:
The industrial sector, which includes dozens of individual industries spanning agriculture, forestry, fisheries, construction, mining, and manufacturing, accounts for about one-fifth of the US gross domestic product. Industry is unique among the end-use sectors in that its energy intensity has declined consistently over the past 35 years, as can be seen in the figure below.