Intelligent Efficiency

Intelligent efficiency (IE) is the additional energy efficiency that is possible with information and communications technologies (ICT) such as sensors, connected devices, networks, and data analytics. Applications range from learning thermostats, to Internet-connected building automation systems, to manufacturing production processes control systems that employ machine learning to optimize the use of material and energy.

Intelligent efficiency is a market-transforming suite of technologies that save energy through optimizing the use of energy at the system, facility, or even community level. Intelligent efficiency is not about making a pump more efficient, it is about making a water pumping system more efficient.

Intelligent efficiency takes advantage of several developments in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the connection of millions of devices to the Internet. We now have more device connected to the Internet than people. IoT enables the exchange and analysis of information without requiring human intervention. IoT gives us Big Data, the extremely large data sets of structured and unstructured data that pour out of the many sensors embedded in devices and facilities. Making sense of Big Data requires data analytics. Computer programs that turn data into information and information into knowledge.

Machine learning, also called artificial intelligence, or neural networks, is the use of algorithms to tease out of Big Data trends and correlations that are useful for anticipating and predicting what a person, device, group of people, or system might do in the future. Machine learning turns knowledge into wisdom. The ability to put a current situation into context and understand the implications of a decision.

Intelligent efficiency in energy efficiency programs

Intelligent efficiency can be an energy-saving measure such as a learning thermostat, an energy data management system that automates the collection, analysis and reporting of energy savings, a set of tools to automate program administration, or a suite of technologies to automate the measurement of project and program energy savings and impacts. We are also seeing intelligent efficiency used to assess the coincident, or non-energy benefits, of investments in energy efficiency. All of these uses can expand the scope and scale of energy efficiency programs and thereby increase energy savings.

Intelligent efficiency events

ACEEE convenes stakeholders to discuss and advance intelligent efficiency technologies, policies, and programs. These range from conferences held 2014-2016 that focused on all manifestations of intelligent efficiency to stakeholder meetings on optimizing energy use in data centers and manufacturing. The use of ICT by efficiency programs and to save energy is a frequent topic of ACEEE conferences and summer studies.

Intelligent efficiency publications

  1. A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency. ACEEE’s first deep dive into what ICT can do for energy efficiency and how it will change our ability to manage our energy consumption.
  2. How Information and Communications Technologies Will Change the Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification of Energy Efficiency Programs. Automation and networks are enabling easier exchanges of information and analyses of savings. New methods for measuring and verifying savings may help us address some of the most vexing challenges of tracking energy savings.
  3. Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions. Looks opportunities for energy efficiency program opportunities to increase savings and lower costs.
  4. Smart Buildings: Using Smart Technology to Save Energy in Existing Buildings. New inexpensive sensors and controls are improving building automation systems (BAS) and enabling more granular tracking of energy use. Measuring and monitoring enables informed control and that drives savings.
  5. Energy Impacts of Smart Home Technologies. The devices in our homes are talking to each other - becoming networked - and that is making it easier to save energy. This report discusses what is working now and what is around the corner.
  6. Smart Buildings: A Deeper Dive into Market Segments. Non-residential buildings include retail, office buildings, hospitals, hospitality, and a variety of municipal buildings, each with a load profile that requires a unique energy management solution. With so many opportunities, vendors are developing new smart technology solutions.
  7. Intelligent Efficiency Technology and Market assessment. In this report, we asked and answered the questions: what are the key applications of intelligent efficiency and how big is the market for each of them? : 
  8. Using Intelligent Efficiency to Collect and Analyze Nonenergy Benefits Information. It is well documented that saving energy has additional benefits: it reduces pollution and wastes, it increases productivity and quality. Intelligent efficiency offers the potential of making it easier to collect, analyze and communicate those benefits.