Low-Hanging Fruits of Efficiency

The push to reduce energy consumption is broad and deep. And for homeowners who are looking to reduce their energy costs, there are standard practices, such as turning down the thermostat, changing out light bulbs and purchasing energy-efficient appliances.

But the U.S. building sector’s energy consumption is still expected to increase by 35 percent between now and 2025 and commercial energy demand is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.6 percent, reaching 25.3 quads (1015 Btu) in 2025.

That translates into a critical need to develop and deploy emerging energy-efficient technologies that can deliver reliable energy and peak-demand reductions throughout the lifespan of a building. And we all know we like energy savings right alongside the comfort of a home that is reflective of our lifestyles and concerns for our environment.

What’s the urgency and why push for energy efficiency?
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Arun Majumdar, professor of department of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley puts climate change and energy efficiency into perspective.

“We are sitting on the Titantic and takes three miles to turn the ship to avoid the iceberg, which is 2.5 miles in front of us,” Majumdar said recently at the JUNBA Symposium in San Francisco. “And some are shuffling the deck chairs.”

“Energy efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit you can find,” Majumdar said recently at the JUNBA symposium in San Francisco. “We need to look at the demand side and the energy efficiency side of the picture.”

There’s an assortment of low-tech innovations that can address this need in buildings, which are energy sieves. Experts say that automated technologies such as motorized roller shades and daylight-controlled dimmable fluorescent lighting systems have big upside potential.

That’s because those technologies principally target two of the largest categories of energy consumption in commercial buildings: lighting and space conditioning (cooling/ heating). Keep in mind this last figure about buildings and energy: some 40 percent of the energy used in California is consumed by buildings. And some 12 percent of energy goes into the actual building of the structure.

Recently, the New York Times built its new headquarters in Manhattan and decided to invest in an assortment of these energy efficient technologies showcased on Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

The performance data helped convince the owners that these technologies were the right stuff for a 21st century building. It will take time to convince a broad base of companies about the costs and merits of putting these technologies into practice. In the long run, the data and case studies revealed on the above reference website should be enough of a testimonial to convince those sitting on the fence. –Lee Bruno

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