With increasing regulations, the energy industry continues to turn its focus to energy efficiency. Customers are demanding more responsible environmental
stewardship and the financial savings that often go along with it.
This year is poised to offer great leaps forward in energy efficiency across many different industries. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Dr. Kathleen Hogan highlighted the importance of these advancements, noting that we spend “more than $200 billion annually in our homes” for heating, cooling, light, appliances and electronics and “almost another $400 billion in workplaces, schools…and other industries.”
With that much spent on energy consumption, the potential for savings is huge. Even better, it’s already starting to be tapped into, with Dr. Hogan noting that “consumers are saving $60 billion a year” using energy-efficient methods.
To get a full idea of where the savings are coming from, keep an eye on these eight trends:
1. Connected Homes
Every year, we become more connected and acquire more devices -- and those devices also become better at communicating with each other. Connected homes will be able to improve energy efficiency through an unprecedented ability to control, monitor, and adjust energy usage through connected devices. Aided by development in the digital grid, it can create savings in usage and cost.
2. Improved Heating Efficiency
In her talk on energy efficiency, Hogan also noted that Fuel-fired heat pumps “can cut energy usage by more than 30%.” These heat pumps work by moving heat from one area of the home to another, and some are even able to work for water heating, creating up to a 60 percent reduction in energy usage.
3. New Era of Dryers
Heat pump dryers can dry clothes using the same basic principle as the heat pumps above. Still, a few challenges remain, such as getting costs down and reducing lengthy drying cycles —but the potential is massive. “The result?" says Hogan: “A dryer that can use less than half the energy of a conventional dryer on the market today.”
4. Magnetic Refrigerators
Hogan also notes that in the 1970s, refrigerators used four times more energy than they do today.Now, we can save more with magnetic refrigerators. They do away with the vapor that compression fridges have used since they came on the market, and instead use a water-based coolant that adjusts temperatures by changing the magnetic field. In short, magnetic refrigerators eliminate harmful coolants and reduce total energy consumption.
5. Window Technology
Your windows are one of the biggest causes of energy loss. Soon, sensors and microprocessors inside windows will enable them to adjust shading throughout the day in response to changes in sunlight and temperature, saving on lighting and temperature regulation costs.
6. Insulation Advancements
Insulation has always been a simple and effective way of conserving energy in the home. Still, there’s room for improvement, and The Industrial Science & Technology Network is trying to do just that. Specifically, the organization is developing a type of foam insulation that combines environmentally friendly practices with advanced composite materials to ensure the best insulation on both fronts.
7. Reflective Roofing Materials
Painting roofs with paint that reflects sunlight and absorbs less heat than standard roofing materials has become a common practice. Look for this trend to be improved by technological advancements from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and PPG Industries, who are developing a roofing paint with fluorescent pigments that are able to reflect almost four times the amount of sunlight.
8. Light Bulbs Forge Ahead
LED lighting has come a long way in recent years: Top-performing light bulbs are using up to 85% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. The development is amazing, but it isn’t expected to stop anytime soon – there’s a significant amount of investment going into research and development.
How will this impact power generators and EPC firms?
Energy efficiency isn't just impacting consumers. As the reliable supply of electric energy grows in importance, there is huge potential for energy efficiency
-voltage substations and switchyards.
- * Efficiency-enhancing actions and technologies on the supply side include:
- * Distributed generation/microgrids
- * Underground distribution lines
- * Intelligent grid design (smart grids intelligent grid design (smart grids via automation)
- * FACTS devices that boost the transmission capacity of transmission lines while providing voltage support and bolstering the local grid’s ability
to withstand disruption
- * Reduction of overall T&D transformer MVA
- * Energy storage devices
- * Three-phase design for distribution
- * Ground wire loss reduction
- * Higher transmission operating voltages
- * Voltage optimization through reactive power compensation
- * Asset replacement schedule optimization
- * Distribution loss reduction via automation
- * Power factor improvement
- * Load management (e.g., smart metering or price-sensitive load control)
- * Power electronic transformers