The ACEEE today issued a report (link) entitled “A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency,” calling intelligent efficiency the first major new source of energy to be discovered in years.
As governments, civil society, and others travel down to Rio later this month for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or RIO+20, they would be well advised to peruse this report. The report points to intelligent efficiency as a key to future energy sustainability, having the potential to dwarf the impact of other older and better-known sources of energy.
So what is intelligent efficiency? The report describes it as a new recognition of the importance of holistic, system-based energy efficiency. Whereas many of the enabling technologies (e.g., sensors and controls) are not new, nor is the concept of a systems approach to efficiency, what is new is the recognition of the integration of ICT-enabled efficiency with human behavior as constituting a unique and powerful force for future sustainability.
As you’ll note on page 8 of the report, the authors helpfully diagram their view on three types of intelligent efficiency:
- People-centered efficiencies: Provide real-time information and management tools enabling consumers and others to take efficiency action
- Technology-centered efficiencies: Use sensors, controls, and computer software to automate efficiency processes; and,
- Substitution with Energy-Saving ICT Services: Shift behaviors, services and structure of the economy in ways that displace energy usage.
While the report notes that “intelligent efficiency represents a pivotal opportunity in a time of constrained resources to step up our energy efficiency game, and to lay the foundation of a thriving US economy, ” it also notes that US policymakers can make a difference. The actions they can take include: leading by example by implementing intelligent efficiency solutions; enhancing data availability; and, redefining regulatory business models to better promote intelligent efficiencies.