Today’s Tech Innovations Could Make U.S. the Energy Efficiency Superpower of Tomorrow

Internet of things provides energy efficiency innovation opportunities

The future of energy efficiency technology often seems more like science fiction than reality, but according to energy thought leaders at last week’s 26th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum, cutting-edge efficiency advancements are already practical and implementable. At this year’s Forum, Johnson Controls and the United States Energy Association (USEA) convened energy thought leaders and experts to discuss not only the innovations we’ll see in coming years, but how they will help make the United States a global leader in energy efficiency.

Leveraging Innovation to Become an Energy Efficiency Superpower

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the United States currently lags behind other developed nations in energy efficiency. Discussions at the Forum subsequently focused on how technology currently being used in the private sector could help advance U.S. leadership in energy efficiency.

An abundance of U.S. technological innovations could apply directly to improving energy efficiency. As the smartphone in your pocket doesn’t simply make calls anymore, innovations and emerging technologies could help save the country billions in energy costs. According to executive vice-president of C3 Energy, James Connaughton, there is a convergence forming between the virtual and physical world as more traditional products are able to connect online. Modern tech giants such as Google have produced millions of devices connected to one another in a massive "Internet of Things," capable of communicating large amounts of data.

Photo Credit Johnson Controls

 

Innovations like programmable thermostats and Wi-Fi-connected washers/dryers add convenience to our lives, and, in the future, may enable more advanced applications. Ben Bixby, general manager of Energy Products at Nest Labs and a speaker during the Forum, believes advances in technology are making it easier and cheaper to create this “Internet of Things”. While some might consider it odd to describe their sensor-equipped appliances and furniture as “smart”, Bixby says that for major brands, the cost of bringing everyday technology online is low, so why not?

The eventual implementation of these technologies by utility companies could mean substantial gains in energy efficiency. A “Smart Grid” of connected devices would streamline our energy supply, as utilities adapt and change in response to information about how our energy is being used. Innovations already utilized by tech industry giants like Google and Apple will soon find new applications in the energy industry. “It’s inevitable. Not a matter of how, but when,” said Connaughton.

Energy Efficiency Leaders

Despite already considerable gains and the potential to transform industry and society, obstacles to energy efficiency innovation do exist. As a result, solutions to these obstacles require not only changes in how we think about technology, but also public policy support. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a recipient of one of this year’s 2015 Energy Leadership Awards, spoke about the need for bipartisan support of bills that promote energy efficiency. Gardner, who will join the Alliance at the next Policy Perspectives discussion on June 24, argues that energy efficiency and renewable energy technology should be able to operate and innovate within the free market, unfettered by government intervention.

The other recipient of the 2015 Energy Leadership Award, Alliance Board Member Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.), has similarly championed legislation bringing energy efficiency to more Americans. With advocates like Gardner and Welch fighting for the cause of energy efficiency across political parties, the goals discussed at this year’s Energy Efficiency Forum are closer than ever to being realized.