Why Active Efficiency?
Energy markets are undergoing a fundamental transformation. The rapid expansion of information technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things are enabling new levels of system-wide integration and optimization. Energy technologies are advancing as well, with the development of increasingly affordable distributed energy renewables, smarter metering, and energy storage, creating opportunities for greater system-level efficiency, demand-side management, and new techniques to dispatch resources and services into power markets.
This transition carries enormous opportunities for energy efficiency, which remains the most powerful, versatile, cost-effective, and politically bipartisan tool for meeting our energy needs. But our approaches to energy efficiency need to evolve to encompass the new opportunities. The increasing interconnectedness of sectors, and the lagging regulatory and incentive structures, make advancing energy efficiency more complex. This comes as the imperatives for efficiency - to address the crisis of climate change, improve resilience, and address energy affordability and equity - are increasingly critical.
We need to redefine energy efficiency to meet this future energy landscape.
Active Efficiency: Terminology for a new vision
As energy efficiency enters the digital age, it incorporates a wider range of features, including:
1. Time-dependence: from static to highly time-dependent and responsive (e.g. building envelope improvements to demand response);
2. Integration: from component-level to multi-system integration (e.g. LEDs to building-to-grid integration);
3. Benefits: from energy savings and economic productivity to resilience, health, and emissions reductions.
These three features can be plotted on the axes of a cube. In the late 20th century, energy efficiency focused on the corner that relates to static, component-level technologies to produce energy savings. In the 2010s, the Alliance promoted the value of energy productivity and system-level integration, effectively considering a “sheet” within the cube.
But what could we achieve if we maximize energy efficiency opportunities across the full cube?
This is Active Efficiency. It's the combination of technologies, practices, and/or policies that enable the “most productive use of energy,” considering its rich opportunities across the range of time-dependence and integration, and accounting for the broader range of its impacts.
The Active Efficiency Collaborative
The Alliance is forming the Active Efficiency Collaborative to rebrand energy efficiency, embracing all elements of the expanded energy landscape. The Collaborative will create a shared understanding of Active Efficiency; build a coalition of diverse stakeholders who can identify key opportunities and obstacles to Active Efficiency’s advancement; and collaboratively craft policy frameworks that support Active Efficiency markets. It will ensure that the energy transformation advances efficiency as well as other social, economic, and environmental benefits. Join us.