Commentaries

 Integrating Intelligent Efficiency with Building Performance
by Kara Saul-Rinaldi 

America’s existing homes are largely energy inefficient, a fact notoriously difficult to change through policy measures and incentives. Homeowners are very particular about their energy use, often making comfort their priority and ignoring energy consumption. Unlike commercial and industrial building owners, the energy bill for many residential customers is not as large as their telecommunications bills. Reaching these homeowners and individualizing the information is complicated and made more so by the fact that this energy user class lives in a myriad of housing types with different energy resource needs.

The emergence of new technology designed to simplify the way energy information is delivered and communicated to homeowners is marking a game change in the field of home performance. This smart technology is allowing the home to communicate to the owner, the utility, the contractor, and any others who the homeowner designates. Devices that can document energy waste and energy savings are opening up a wide range of possibilities for customer targeting, energy performance measurement, and program evaluation.

The emergence of the “smart home” is allowing for accurate measurement of a home’s energy consumption before and after a retrofit and providing an analysis of the effectiveness of the contractors, programs and measures used to upgrade the home.

While the concept of a “smart home” is not new, the two-way communication – between the home owner and the home – is new and is making a quiet revolution in building efficiency. Energy technology and home energy systems are empowering users with tools to improve the way we manage its energy use and can guide the next wave of home performance initiatives.

The smart home does not benefit from traditional policy measures established for energy. The U.S. Department of Energy promotes energy efficiency under the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office but grid technology falls under the Office of Electricity. At the state level, Energy Departments govern building programs while state utility commissions oversee utility energy initiatives. This bifurcation of programs and policy incentives causes redundant and costly measures that can thwart policy synergies.

In the world of energy policy there is “smart grid” policy that addresses the technological efficiency of energy use from the meter to the utility and “building efficiency” policy that addresses the technology of the building envelope and the efficiency inside the home. However, to truly advance a building’s energy performance, the building itself must become not just efficient, but smart.

The National Home Performance Council, the Association of Demand Response and Smart Grid, and the National Association of State Energy Officials are teaming together to address the issues, challenges and benefits of energy efficiency and smart grid policy approaches. These expert groups are holding a first-of-its-kind summit to discuss the integration of energy efficiency and smart grid. For more information about the National Summit on Integrating Energy Efficiency & Smart Grid and to register and learn more about the future of building efficiency please go to
http://energyefficiencysmartgrid.org/.

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 Empowering States on Energy Efficiency
by Rebecca K. Blood

During President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address and later in his fiscal year 2014 budget request to Congress, he proposed an initiative to drive state energy policy. Modeled after the successful Education Race to the Top competition program, which has been widely acknowledged for triggering innovative education reform, the State Energy Race to the Top is gaining similar aplomb as an innovative approach to achieving energy productivity improvements.

Following the President’s proposal, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the State Energy Race to the Top Initiative Act (S.1209) on June 20, 2013, later joined by John Tester (D-MT). Senator Warner announced that this “proposal was triggered by research that shows the United States currently wastes more energy than it uses.” The Alliance to Save Energy study cited by Senator Warner, found that 57% of energy in the U.S. is wasted as heat, noise, and leaks, resulting in U.S. businesses and households spending about $130 billion a year on wasted energy. At the moment, the U.S. ranks last among developed nations in energy productivity, but if the U.S. doubles its energy productivity by 2030 it could once again become a global leader in energy efficiency, and as a result save $327 billion annually and add 1.3 million jobs. (see energy2030.org)

In its most recent and modified form, the initiative now known as the Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge (EPIC) places greater emphasis on supporting state, home-grown energy policy. It challenges states and tribes to develop new ideas and strategies to double the nation’s electric and thermal energy productivity by 2030. Through a one-time $100 million allocation provided over three-years, EPIC would:
  • allow for flexibility in the types of policy and technology that can be incorporated into a revised state energy plan,
  • ensure that states set their own baselines — no state will have an advantage over another as their ability to increase their productivity is measured against themselves, not each other,
  • establish a process to demonstrate how the money will be spent, how the increased productivity will be measured, how private finds will be leverage, and how the promised savings will be sustainable after the initiative is finished.

EPIC is supported by a coalition of business, energy and environmental groups working together to advance it through Congress including as an amendment to the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 (S. 761), sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Robert Portman (D-OH).

EPIC would provide a boost to the nation’s economy by reducing energy waste and saving consumers money. The effort will empower states to develop innovative energy policies and programs and reward those that produce real results. The hope is that through this program, the private sector will get involved and help states develop innovative energy productivity solutions, similarly to what happened with the Education Race to the Top initiative.
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