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We Need To Reimagine Energy Efficiency For The Evolving Digital Age. Introducing The Active Efficiency Collaborative.

Wherever we use energy, we have choices that enable us to use it more efficiently. These choices are undergoing an exciting evolution.

Our energy systems today are smarter and more connected, and 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. We are also witnessing increasingly affordable distributed energy renewables and energy storage, creating new 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, and cost-effective tool for meeting our energy needs. Energy efficiency’s work is needed more than ever in the face of the climate crisis and the challenges of energy affordability. But with our fast-expanding toolkit, our concept of energy efficiency needs to evolve to encompass new technologies. We call this opportunity Active Efficiency.

Introducing the Active Efficiency Collaborative

At a Capitol Hill briefing Thursday, the Alliance introduced the Active Efficiency Collaborative – a new initiative that seeks to reimagine energy efficiency with a broader lens, embracing the wider opportunities of the shifting energy landscape. Co-chaired by our partners at Microsoft, the New York Power Authority, and Schneider Electric, the Collaborative will expand a coalition of 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.

A Bigger View of What Efficiency Means

For decades, energy efficiency measures were static, component-level technologies that produce energy savings – a lightbulb, or a more efficient refrigerator. Today, however, while we still have gains in these classic efficiency technologies, there are also new efficiencies that come from how these devices fit together in a system, and how these systems interact with one another, or with the power grid. Now, as energy efficiency embraces the next stages of the digital age, Active Efficiency means incorporating a wider range of features in efficiency tools, including:

  1. Time-dependence: technologies that are responsive and deployable;
  2. Integration: multi-system integration, including building-to-grid integration; and
  3. Benefits: from energy savings and economic productivity to benefits such as resilience, health, and emissions reductions.

Active Efficiency means using technologies, practices, and policies that enable these features. And the reason why we pursue energy efficiency is changing, too – for many implementers, it’s not only to use less energy, but to create higher-quality products that are satisfying the demands of customers, reducing carbon emissions, enhancing grid reliability, and creating new streams for economic productivity and job creation.

What’s in the Active Efficiency Toolkit?

Active Efficiency goes beyond traditional definitions of energy efficiency to encompass a range of tools that allow us to use energy more productively, including:

  • Demand response programs that enable higher penetrations of distributed renewable energy
  • Flexible and grid-connected building loads
  • Industrial decarbonization
  • An optimized city design that encourages active multi-modal transportation, including walking and biking
  • Energy-efficient fuel switching, such as to electric vehicles
  • District heating, combined heat and power, and waste heat recovery technologies
  • Water efficiency

Looking Forward

The Active Efficiency Collaborative will convene leading corporations and committed advocates to raise awareness of Active Efficiency and drive industry understanding of its benefits. It will conduct research and analysis to help energy markets recognize & quantify the value of Active Efficiency in terms of energy savings, emissions reductions, air quality, health, resilience, and economic productivity. And it will craft policy frameworks that support Active Efficiency implementation and build greater fluency among technical experts in the federal government to advance its deployment.

We’re starting this by thinking bigger about what energy efficiency really is and what it can do. In other words, it’s the beginning of the next great journey for energy efficiency.