President Obama's Better Buildings Initiative set quite a few goals for improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings, which consume over 20 percent of all energy in the United States.
By investing in clean energy technologies, the goal of the Better Buildings Initiative is to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 through cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades.
Data from McKinsey & Company suggests that by 2020, the U.S. could reduce its annual energy consumption by 23 percent, which is in line with the president's plan. We can already see where the future is going, and getting our energy usage on track needs to happen today.
Reducing our energy usage in commercial buildings isn't quite as challenging as it may sound. There are technologies available that can help commercial building owners to cut down on their buildings' energy usage and costs.
That being said, there's no denying that the industry as we know it today will evolve and may look much different by the time we hit 2020.
What will this sector look like by the end of the decade? Here are my top 10 predictions:
1. Energy prices will be materially higher but much more dynamic, with peak cost per kwh being a multiple of base load. What does this mean? Those who optimize their energy usage will pay dramatically less than those who can't or don't.
2. Energy optimization will be an integrated part of a commercial building operator's energy management plan, with operators setting energy strategy and goals rather than having to manage the day-to-day energy systems.
3. Building operators will also have a clear view of energy usage within their buildings in real time, and energy optimization systems will adapt and predict, allowing operators to run various scenarios, forecast usage and set desired outcomes (i.e., to meet LEED requirements or to focus on cost versus consumption). Why is this important? Let's move on to the next prediction.
4. Demand response as we know it today won't exist in 2020. It will simply be integrated into tariffs as part of real-time or semi-real-time pricing.
5. We can't avoid discussing the cloud. By 2020, everything will be accessible from anywhere (i.e., computers, tablets, mobile devices -- you name it), making real-time reporting and feedback even more important.
6. Energy management and optimization technologies will not only be valuable in running a building on a daily basis, this information will drive long-term portfolio value as well, with building energy performance as a key factor in buying, leasing and investment decisions.
7. Looking at smart buildings and the smart grid, interaction with the grid for price signals will be much more efficient, and responsive buildings will get much better pricing. Smart buildings will manage and optimize their own, internal micro grids with a mix of renewables and traditional generation whilst also managing the demand of new loads such as EV charging.
8. In terms of renewables, distributed generation and storage will be a part of most advanced buildings' power sources. These will need to be incorporated into building energy optimization in order to minimize reliance on the grid as much as possible.
9. Energy management coverage will include HVAC, lighting and plug load, and it will all be centrally networked through the building management system or, most likely, the next generation of the BMS. 10. Last but not least -- social networking will be a larger part of energy management and commercial building operations. For example, building operators will utilize social tools to share best practices and also interact with tenants to notify them of peak energy periods where behavior may need to change. Tenants will also be able to use social tools to provide real-time feedback to staff on comfort issues, maintenance requirements and more.
So is this exactly what the commercial energy management sector will look like in 2020? Only time will tell. For now, given the direction the industry is heading, it looks promising that the Better Buildings Initiative's goal to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency can be achieved by 2020.
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Editor's Note: Don't miss VERGE DC (March 14-16) convening senior executives and thought leaders at the intersection of technologies and services related to energy, information, buildings, and transportation.