Friday, January 17, 2014

Predictions for US Energy Efficiency in 2014: Growth and Obstacles

What can we expect from energy efficiency in the US in 2014? Insight into some of the major trends in energy efficiency for the year to come and beyond (this article is a followup to US Energy Efficiency in 2013: Success Stories and Barriers).

Efficiency will have an even greater impact on both residential and industrial energy consumption this year compared to 2013. This is driven by policy at the federal, state and municipal levels. Net-positive energy buildings is another trend expected to grow in 2014. Other specific initiatives that will define energy efficiency in 2014 relate to financing, data usage, operational savings, and equipment integration.

According to forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2014, U.S. residential energy use is expected to decline. Even though energy is increasingly being used more efficiently by industry, industrial electricity use is expected to expand along with the economy. The EIA report indicates that improvements in appliance and lighting energy efficiency will continue to slow the growth of residential electricity consumption. The average household’s energy use is expected to decline 1.1 percent this year and another 0.4 percent in 2015. However, the improving economic picture will increase electricity use by the U.S. industrial sector, which is forecast to consume 2.2 percent more electricity this year and 2.5 percent more in 2015.

A Rhodium Group and United Technologies report, entitled “Unlocking American Efficiency: The Economic and Commercial Power of Investing in Energy Efficient Buildings,” indicates that the U.S. government and utility sponsored programs have only a five percent penetration rate. An increase in energy efficiency can be expected in 2014 as wider adoption of these programs positively impacts the efficiency finance equation.

As reviewed in Energy Manager Today, federal energy efficiency initiatives in 2014 include final equipment standards for a variety of products such as electric motors, commercial refrigeration equipment, and residential furnace fans. Together, the DOE and HUD are expected to release housing initiatives that include new energy standards for manufactured homes. New energy efficiency requirements for federally-backed mortgages are also anticipated. This may also include modifications to mortgage underwriting criteria, which would factor a home’s energy efficiency. We may even see bipartisan energy efficiency legislation in 2014.

States like Oklahoma are expected to create new energy efficiency policies and California is expected to launch equipment efficiency standards, while both Maryland and New York will likely release energy savings targets.

At the municipal level, cities are also pursuing additional energy efficiency initiatives. An update to the Los Angeles building code is a notable highlight. As of the beginning of 2014, all new or refurbished buildings must be equipped with “cool roofs” (a cool roof is built of reflective rather than absorptive material). Compared to traditional roofs, these roofs can be as much as 50 degrees cooler on the roof surface, and can lower interior building temperatures by several degrees. Los Angeles is the first major American city to pass a cool-roof ordinance.

Green builder Hammer & Hand predicts that the popularity of net-zero energy buildings will begin to be replaced by net-positive energy buildings in 2014 and beyond. They attribute this trend to low cost solar panels, more electric vehicles and market mechanisms that reward onsite energy production. They also believe that we will see a policy shift in building energy codes, which will move away from prescriptive codes towards performance-based measures.

Hammer & Hand also forecast big things for CO2 heat pumps, US-made high performance windows, and ventilation system quality in 2014. They anticipate that the U.S. led move to make Passive House (a standard for energy efficiency in a building) more climate-specific will improve performance at both micro and macro levels. Finally, building energy efficiency initiatives in both Europe and China will help to drive the U.S. market.

According to a Greentech Media (GTM) interview with energy efficiency executives, in 2014 we can expect to see the growth of PACE financing, better data usage, operational savings, and new approaches to equipment integration. Here are the details of their thoughts on the biggest energy efficiency trends for 2014.

Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls sees growing momentum in commercial property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing. A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation in support of commercial PACE programs. Nesler also cited Johnson Controls’ 2013 global survey, which found that executives with energy efficiency goals were 2.7 times more likely to increase energy efficiency investments in 2014 than organizations without such goals.

Mark Housely of Vigilent sees intelligent analytics as the salient focus for energy efficiency in 2014. As Housely explained, “Sensors have become both inexpensive and ubiquitous, efficiently providing great data in significant volumes. When combined with intelligent analytics, this data will provide unprecedented insight into data center energy use and operating behavior, enabling entirely new and likely unexpected ways of gaining efficiency and uptime safety.”

Bennett Fisher of Retroficiency shares Housely’s view and believes large-scale analytics deployments in commercial buildings will be the biggest energy efficiency trend of 2014. “In 2014, analytics will be applied to entire cities and states to transform efficiency forever,” Fisher said.

Swapnil Shah of FirstFuel says that with advances in education and awareness, energy efficiency will move beyond retrofits and towards operational savings. He points to low and no-cost operational savings which represent half the savings of commercial buildings. “Their adoption could spark a legion of energy-efficiency advocates in commercial buildings across the U.S.” said Shah.

Chuck McKinney of Aircuity says that the next big trend in 2014 will be “airside energy efficiency.” This trend will encompass several different strategies including improved economizer utilization, natural ventilation, and demand control ventilation. He points to the increasing availability of utility incentive programs for ventilation optimization. “[W]e expect demand control ventilation for airside efficiency to become one of the next standard offerings that utilities begin to drive as the next big category of energy efficiency measures,” McKinney said.

Paul Baier of Groom Energy indicated that LEDs will be the major trend of 2014. Two of the factors helping to drive widespread adoption are lighting controls, and increased adoption of enterprise energy management software.

The GTM article also asked energy efficiency executives what they thought were the most serious hurdles for efficiency in 2014. Their replies included ongoing financing barriers, education and accountability, and data applications.

Many of the hurdles are the flip side of the forces that are driving the growth of energy efficiency. A good illustration is Bennett Fisher who on the one hand believes that “analytics will… transform efficiency forever,” while at the same time he says that proper use of building data for analytics purposes will be a hurdle for efficiency in 2014.

Clay Nesler said the lack of funding is the greatest barrier to the growth of energy efficiency. Swapnil Shah concurs with Nesler and said that private investment and financing are the most serious hurdles for commercial efficiency. As Shah sees it, the fundamental challenge is the absence of uniform, reliable, and universal building performance data required to assess energy efficiency investments.

Paul Baier believes that inadequate energy accountability is a problem for many organizations in 2014. Firms may understand the importance of managing energy use, but there is a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for improving energy efficiency.

Mark Housely believes that there is a problem with what he calls a “legacy mindset” for data center operations. He believes the wrong-minded thinking of  “always on, all the time,” practice for operation hampers energy efficiency. He indicates that data centers are resistant to intelligently using monitoring sensors to “simultaneously reduce energy use and gain time and insight for more strategic, proactive planning.”

Energy efficiency programs will be expanded as will public awareness of both the need and the opportunities. Policies that improve building efficiency may also be improved including efficiency finance, portfolio standards, regulatory reform, as well as building labels, codes and standards.

Scaling the U.S. efficiency market in 2014 will be achieved through a combination of policy, technology, data, analytics, education, incentives and financing options.

Source: Global Warming is Real

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