WASHINGTON – A diverse coalition of technology companies are touting a new approach to energy efficiency that leverages low-power electronics, smart devices and networks along with the larger Internet of Things to achieve what proponents call “intelligent efficiency.”
The coalition that includes chip maker Intel Corp., Verizon and Johnson Controls advocates a system-level approach to energy efficiency as a way to scale up energy conservation gains achieved through efficient appliances and other consumer devices. “We must take a systems-based approach to dramatically scale up energy efficiency to meet our future energy challenges,” said the authors of a report release Tuesday (June 5) titled, “A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency.”
The report was published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The industry group argues that leveraging cloud computing and growing consumer access to real-time information on energy usage could help reduce U.S. energy consumption in homes and offices by as much as 22 percent. Intelligent efficiency could yield billions of dollars in energy savings and productivity gains, the group claims.
A prime example of how intelligent efficiency would work is the recent “sustainability” retrofit of the Empire State Building
in New York City. Sponsors of the retrofit claim it will reduce the landmark building’s energy consumption by 38.4 percent while cutting energy costs by an estimated $4.4 million annually.
An energy retrofit to the Empire State Building included 6,514 new windows with "insulated radiative barriers." An equal number of old radiators were removed from the building to reduce energy loss through windows.
Johnson Controls installed a wireless network of thermostats, occupancy and C02 sensors to control office cooling, lighting and ventilation. If, for example, sunlight pours into an office, sensors would dim lights, said Clay Nesler, a vice president at Johnson Controls.
The Empire State Building retrofit used an “integrated design process” to maximize energy efficiency, Nesler said.
Stephen Harper, Intel’s global director for the environment, noted that the benefits of Moore’s Law in improving device efficiency as measured in terms of performance per watt are now migrating to the system level. One example is more energy efficient data centers. Moreover, Harper said the convergence of embedded and cloud applications is bolstering an Internet of Things characterized by the integration of sensors and greater computing power in devices that are linked by cloud computing.
The federal government should “lead by example, he added, by adopting intelligent efficiency concepts in its vast number of office buildings and transportation fleets.
Wireless carriers working with utilities also see energy efficiency as a promising Internet-of-Things application. Larry Plumb, Verizon’s executive director for technology policy, said the company views “machine-to-machine communications” as its next big growth area. As part of an “intelligent community” initiative, Verizon is leveraging its LTE networks to promote energy efficiency. The network delivers real-time energy use data to building managers via digital signage. The hope is that building owners will use the information to reduce energy consumption.
Indeed, a major thrust of the intelligent efficiency movement is to change consumer behavior by providing more information about energy usage. The effort requires “customer engagement” in order to leverage smart devices and the emerging U.S. smart grid, said Arkadi Gerney, senior policy director at Opower, which works with utilities on ways to interact with their customers on energy efficiency.