Navigant Research Blog

There Is No Cookie-Cutter Approach to Energy Efficiency

Tom Machinchick — January 11, 2017

Energy efficiency is a resource available in abundance, no matter the location. It is the lowest cost option of energy investment, beating all other forms of generation. But if energy efficiency is so beneficial, why is its implementation not standardized across platforms or locations in some form or fashion? Can’t similar measures be prescribed for all buildings, old and new? Is it possible to take a boilerplate project and implement that across all buildings to gain the present efficiencies? For example: Fix these components, install this equipment, follow this process, and you’ll have an efficient building. Sounds simple, right?

It may not be that easy. There are so many variables to an energy efficiency project or engagement that one prescribed set of technologies, process improvements, or maintenance services will not be optimal across all buildings in general.

One size does not fit all. The profile of the end-use consumption of standard building components is dramatically different in cold climates versus moderate to warm climates. So, when analyzing a building for an efficiency project, all of these factors—and many, many more—must be taken into consideration.

Transition to Sustainable Buildings, Strategies and Opportunities to 2050

(Source: International Energy Agency, 2013)

Efficiency performance requirements, codes, and standards have been proven to work as prescriptive guidance for both new construction and retrofits. Defining these locally is important for the same reasons that each efficiency project is unique. For example, heating codes may not be as important or effective in a warm climate as in a cold climate.

There is still a long way to go until the value of energy efficiency is maximized around the world. A full 70% of global energy consumption is not covered by any energy efficiency performance requirement. This is despite the fact that the International Energy Agency found that performance measures are the most effective action to take in the optimal pathway to a decarbonized energy system. The good news is that, although most projects are unique to a situation or location, energy efficiency experience can be transferred to other groups, countries, and regions. The diversity of experience created by project uniqueness adds to this body of knowledge, making energy efficiency accessible anywhere and for any application.

One response to “There Is No Cookie-Cutter Approach to Energy Efficiency”

  1. Len Beyea says:

    I have worked in the field of energy efficiency for CI buildings for over 30 years. The variables that define the scope of a project include climate, energy prices, capital resources, architecture, system types, and the financial criteria of the organization. Further, there are at least two kinds of efficiency improvements: technological fixes, and correcting deficiencies in design, operation, or maintenance. Technological fixes can be applied broadly. Correcting deficiencies is always a custom job, but there are some consistent themes. Contact me if you’d like to hear some examples.

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