Energy Efficiency Day 2017: Perspectives on What’s Coming Next from the Building Technologies Office Community

October 5, 2017

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Today the energy efficiency community is coming together for Energy Efficiency Day 2017, a day to discuss the great benefits and opportunities for America from energy efficiency. But the building efficiency community already knows that improved building efficiency saves Americans energy and money every day. We also know that efficiency technologies for lighting and HVAC can lead to improved occupant comfort and productivity. And recent research is showing that energy efficient buildings have lower utility bills and can command higher rents, but also provide larger-than-expected grid benefits.

We asked the Building Technologies Office family to offer some viewpoints on the state of energy efficiency in 2017 – and what they’re excited to see coming next.

– David Nemtzow
Director, Building Technologies Office

“Alaskans are pioneers when it comes to innovation, and efficiency is no exception. We prioritize efficiency because saving energy means saving money. In the rural parts of my home state, that can mean families do not have to choose between turning on the heat and buying groceries. Efficiency is also good for the environment. That’s why the work taking place at the Department of Energy is so important, and why we must continue to lead in the research and development of efficiency technologies.” – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

“The fact that the nation’s 120 million buildings consume more energy than the transportation sector, equivalent to 40 percent of the country’s total energy use, makes the building sector particularly in need of Department of Energy brainpower and innovation.  Smart building technologies can cut energy bills for homes and businesses by 30 percent more than what’s achieved by improving building components separately.  Smart technologies can integrate with other systems, such as the electric grid, water and wastewater systems, energy storage, and renewable energy.  This integration improves system reliability, insulate us from power and price fluctuations, and exploit new efficiency opportunities.  This trend toward smart, integrated systems is a game-changer and DOE’s laboratories are at the forefront of this important research.” – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington

“One definition of energy is that it is the capacity to do work. Energy allows us to do more with less time and less manual labor. Consider that in the 19th century, before the advent of modern electricity, a day’s wages would get you about 5 hours of light. Today, a day’s wages get you about 20,000 hours of light. This is why I believe energy and low-cost, affordable energy is so important.

While low-cost energy is essential to modern life, an important analogue can be improved energy efficiency. Energy efficiency allows us to do more with less, and that’s why the work of EERE’s efficiency programs, and the work of DOE’s National Laboratories, is important in this area.  

 Massive improvements in energy efficiency have occurred over the last few decades. For example, since 1970, U.S. GDP grew by 158%, but our use of energy only increased by 25%. But even with these impressive improvements, there are potential improvements.

Modern technologies give us opportunities for energy efficiency that we haven’t had in the past. With today’s technologies, we can think about energy storage in new ways, from novel battery technologies to next generation power electronics, to change the demand profile of buildings to work better with an ever-changed electricity grid. 

I look forward to seeing the next generation of energy efficient technologies emerge from the collaborations between EERE, including our Building Technologies Office, our partners in the national labs, universities, and the private sector.” – Daniel Simmons, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

“This is a very exciting time for energy efficiency – savings, jobs, and productivity. Energy efficiency is close to 20% of our energy mix and tremendous savings are spreading across the country from DOE-supported R&D on solid state lighting, heat pumps, new homes, and other areas. At the same time, new capabilities are coming to better optimize energy use in our buildings and allow us to further reduce the energy costs and improve the reliability of our energy systems. With a continued innovation push, we can anticipate better homes, better work environments, more reliable energy services, and lower costs – and jobs. That is worth being excited about!” Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

“Today we can celebrate all of our remarkable successes saving energy. OK, party’s over – time to get back to work! America’s buildings can still save another 30 percent or more of their energy through efficiency – and if done right, get better comfort and performance out of the deal, while making the US energy economy more productive and resilient. To do this energy efficiency faces no greater challenge than the need to take an integrative approach that looks beyond individual energy-consuming items and tackles complex systems – HVAC, building envelopes & windows and energy management, for starters.  And that’s the warm up act for technologies and approaches that improve the efficiency of whole buildings…and in turn the power grid and energy systems.  BTO is working to contribute to such innovative, system-level solutions, including three of my favorites:  helping buildings be grid-interactive efficient buildings, so that they can adjust their own demand up or down, earlier or later, in response to fluctuating grid conditions; improving the reliability and affordability of the grid by being focusing on when electricity is saved not just how much is saved since the value of efficiency varies several-fold based simply on the time of day and season; and R&D on the inter-linked areas of sensors & controls, smart energy analytics, building energy modeling, MELs, and transactive energy. Together, this will help Americans build, manage and occupy buildings that are highly efficient and, frankly, way smart by using energy wherever and whenever it’s needed – and never when it’s not. Now it’s back to work for you too – we need your help!” – David Nemtzow, Director, Building Technologies Office

New technologies, data collection, and analysis is dramatically changing how we measure and manage energy. Change is upon us!  Sensing, computing, and communication technology will soon be as pervasive in our built environment as it is in our automobiles and consumer products. We have the opportunity to fully reveal how buildings—and all loads within them—are functioning and how they can be optimized  to increase efficiency, provide a richer experience to the people who occupy buildings, and also provide resiliency services to the grid.  Our challenge is to fully recognize and keep pace with the rapid change of pace in sensing, connected devices, computing, and communication technologies—quickly and securely incorporating them into buildings and showing their value for energy efficiency and grid resiliency.” – Jud Virden, Associate Laboratory Director, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

“I see a future in which standards of living for all (not just a few) are elevated because we have invested the money, intellectual capital, and discipline in making superior energy efficiency business as usual.  I see a future in which efficient buildings, technologies, and transportation are so advanced, so dynamic that our children’s children can sit back and take the superior performance throughout their everyday lives for granted (and concentrate their energies on other pressing issues the world will face).” – Sarah Zaleski, Lead Policy Advisor, Building Technologies Office 

“As we celebrate Energy Efficiency Day, it’s important to remember the key role that national laboratories play in contributing to energy sustainability. Oak Ridge National Laboratory works with industry and academia to modernize our electric grid, develop new building technologies, and improve energy management in buildings. ORNL leverages fundamental science, providing innovation in smart buildings and neighborhoods, building envelope design, sensors and transactive controls, heat pump, and appliance efficiency, e.g., ORNL’s ultrasonic clothes dryer. Within just a few years, we are likely to see significant advances in building construction, with homes and appliances communicating virtually through advanced sensors, to both conserve energy and enhance reliability. It’s a great time to be an innovator in this space, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together to transform the global energy economy over the next decade.” – Moe Khaleel, Associate Laboratory Director, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

 “Building energy codes come with the benefit of industry consensus and represent proven, cost-effective strategies for increasing efficiency and reducing waste.  They offer a significant savings opportunity for homes and businesses, and help ensure lower energy bills for the lifetime of a building.” – Jeremy Williams, Energy Technology Program Specialist, Building Technologies Office

“Cost-effective, high-performance buildings are key to our nation’s energy transition. Buildings consume more than 40% of our primary energy. By making buildings much more energy-efficient, we can drastically reduce our energy costs. In addition, buildings use 75% of our electricity. As more and more of our electricity is provided by variable renewable sources like wind and solar, modern efficient buildings offer a variety of means to adjust their electricity demand to enhance grid reliability. Recognizing this enormous opportunity, the Department of Energy is leading the transformation to grid-friendly, high-efficiency buildings.” – Chuck Kutscher, Director, Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

“The future of energy efficiency for both electrical and fuel fired equipment will and has always been about using heat pumping technologies, not just for advanced  HVAC applications but including water heating and other appliances.” – Tony Bouza, Technology Manager for HVAC, Water Heating, and Appliances, Building Technologies Office

“The U.S. DOE’s Building Technology Office has saved the US taxpayer over 100 Billion dollars. New technology promises to revolutionize how we build and operate buildings.  The US DOE National Laboratories and DOE are exploring how to accelerate the development of these technologies and create cost-effective, low-energy, resilient and reliable buildings that are integrated with a modernized electric grid.” – Mary Ann Piette, Director Building Technology and Urban System Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

 “In the future, I hope that more homeowners, buyers, and renters become aware of DOE’s and other energy efficiency organizations’ solutions that help families save energy, save money, and live more comfortably. Most homeowners, buyers, and renters want to live in energy efficient homes, but do not always know how to get there. Getting a Home Energy Score can be a great way to start learning about what energy efficiency solutions are right for your home. I and others at DOE want to make sure Americans have the analysis, tools, and information they need to better understand their homes.” – Joan Glickman, Senior Advisor and Program Manager, Home Energy Score Program, Building Technologies Office

“As society asks our scientists and engineers to find the next great source of energy to quench our increasing energy thirst, we often forget about energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is the cheapest the most sustainable, the most resilient, the most reliable, and the most secure form of energy there is. It’s got to be one of the biggest “no brainers” of all time.”” – Ralph Muehleisen, Principal Building Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory

“With advancements in devices, controllers, digitization, power electronics, communication and control theory, new energy analytics capabilities as well as device, system and energy data being readily available, we are not too far from automated and autonomous buildings that provide thermal, visual, acoustic comfort and quality air that minimizes energy consumption. Making buildings autonomous requires new set of planning and operation tools for buildings.  Development of these new tools  requires mobilizing the buildings sector, the distributed energy resources industry, and the ecosystem around them. We will need to start by thinking beyond just getting the most service out of each kWh in each building but focusing on a collective energy management capability for energy efficiency to make sure that affordable and reliable energy is available for all buildings.” – Sila Kiliccote, Staff Scientist and Department Head, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

“In the future buildings will play an even greater role in supporting a modern electric grid.  Buildings will be able to autonomously manage their electricity use, matching electricity demand to available supply, while still providing building occupants the energy services they want and need.  These new capabilities will enable consumers to take charge of their energy compact like never before – helping them save energy and money without sacrificing their quality of life.  However, this future won’t happen unless continued innovation and technology breakthroughs occur.” – Jack Mayernik, Strategy Energy Analysis Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory