Navigant Research Blog

Electricity Landscape: Expanding Demand

— January 30, 2018

On January 16, 2018, I attended the US launch of the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, presented findings from the WEO and highlighted four megatrends in the global energy system:

  • Rapid deployment and falling costs of clean energy technologies
  • Growth in electrification of energy
  • China’s shift to a more services-based economy and a clean energy mix
  • The US’s position as the biggest oil & gas producer globally

Taking these megatrends into account, as well as projections on where existing policies and announced intentions may lead the energy systems, WEO’s New Policies Scenario expects global energy needs to increase by 30% between 2018 and 2040. This growth is mainly driven by India, whose share of global energy use is expected to rise to 11% by 2040. Southeast Asia also contributes immensely to overall growing demand. Developing countries in Asia Pacific are expected to account for two-thirds of global energy growth.

Growing Demand for Electricity

With a rising standard of living in many developing countries, more people will want to buy appliances and electronic devices powered by electricity. Innovative transportation technologies are gaining momentum and are projected to increase electricity demand as well. For example, China will need to add the equivalent of today’s US power system to its infrastructure by 2040 to meet rising electricity demand; India needs to add a power system the size of the current European Union. In fact, global investment in electricity overtook that of oil & gas for the first time in 2016. Dr. Birol emphasized the importance of China and India’s future energy decisions. Their decisions will play a huge role in determining global trends due to the scale of investment and deployment.

WEO Electricity Demand Projections to 2040

(Source: International Energy Agency)

Heating and Cooling Demand Ramping Up

The growing demand for heating and cooling is among various drivers for electrification of energy. In particular, consumers in warmer regions will increasingly install cooling systems. There is great potential for energy savings with energy efficient HVAC products, but that market remains largely untapped at present. According to the recent Navigant Research report, Market Data: Energy Efficient Buildings – Asia Pacific, the energy efficient HVAC market in Asia Pacific is expected to reach $25.6 billion in 2026. Specifically, China’s market is expected to grow at a 10.5% CAGR between 2017 and 2026; and 11.4% in India. Today, heating and cooling in buildings account for approximately 40% of energy consumption.

In addition to demand for heating and cooling, the EV market is expected to grow rapidly. EVs can lead to a major low-carbon pathway for the transportation sector. Notably, Europe and China are aggressively promoting EV deployments. Navigant Research projects global plug-in EV sales to reach 8.3 million by 2026.

Increasing Electricity Demands

Overall, end-use electrification is expanding. The IEA expects the share of electricity in final energy demand to increase from 18% today to 26% in by 2060. So, what does the growing electrification of energy mean? Electrification creates environmental benefits by shifting many end uses of electricity away from fossil fuel sources. It also creates opportunities for boosting energy efficiency.

While there are still many challenges to overcome, such as enforcing energy efficiency regulations and developing EV infrastructure, the electrification of large sectors of the economy holds great growth potential. This growth will be driven by rapidly evolving technologies, emerging innovative business models, and shifting regulatory environment. Together, these are referred to as the Energy Cloud, disrupting the traditional electricity landscape. To learn more about how industry stakeholders can prepare and manage their organization to maneuver through the Energy Cloud disruption and position themselves for long-term success, see Navigant Research’s white paper, Navigating the Energy Transformation.


Health and Well-Being and IoT in Buildings Provide Congruent Goals

— January 25, 2018

Last year, I attended Greenbuild International Conference and wrote about the focus on occupant health and well-being transforming the commercial buildings market. It was a theme throughout the conference, and seems one that is only now progressing in 2018.

In February, I’ll be attending Strategies in Light in Long Beach, California. While the conference has many education tracks around lighting, one that stands out to me is “Lighting for Health and Well-being.” The other areas that stand out are sessions surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) and lighting, from creating value to data and analytics to communication protocols and interoperability issues. Navigant Research discussed these themes and the overall market for lighting and IoT in its recent report, IoT for Lighting.

Adding Value in IoT

There is a lot of buzz around IoT, but it is still not clearly defined and the value proposition is often unclear. With more connected devices more data is available, but what is being done with the data? A clear value proposition is needed.

One of the key parts of Navigant Research’s definition of IoT lighting is adding value beyond illumination. Lighting can be seen as the entry point for IoT solutions within commercial buildings due to the granularity of lighting fixtures compared with data points in other building automation systems within a building. Because of this, lighting manufacturers, technology firms, and startups alike are working to create solutions to add value beyond illumination.

The Value of Health and Well-Being

Like IoT and lighting, there are various definitions of what it means to create a healthy building. Definitions include different aspects based on building materials, sustainability, and energy use. Emerging as a theme for healthy buildings are factors like occupant health and productivity. An occupant’s health and productivity are harder to quantify than energy savings. This can be a barrier for building owners and managers and companies looking to prioritize occupant health and well-being, even though there is a growing interest in doing so. While energy savings help to justify the cost of a lighting upgrade, with the growth of LEDs that is no longer something by which companies can differentiate themselves. Some companies believe human-centric lighting—lighting that can improve occupant’s well-being and productivity—is primed to overtake energy savings as a key differentiator in lighting design for buildings.

Competing or Complementary Goals?

Although these lighting education concentrations at Strategies in Light are separate education tracks, I believe they provide more of a complementary focus for the lighting market than a competing one. Increased connected devices through IoT allow for further data collection and analytics that can be used to help quantify the value of occupant comfort and health in conjunction with increased productivity or retail revenue. Providing increased occupant health and comfort can provide additional value and help create a clear value proposition for IoT solutions in buildings.

I’m looking forward to attending sessions in both areas at Strategies in Light and hopefully solidify my views of their complementary aspects. For more information on healthy buildings and the role of lighting, keep an eye out for the upcoming Navigant Research report, Lighting for Healthy Buildings.


Sustainability as a Business Model

— December 12, 2017

Energy efficiency and emissions goals form an important piece of sustainability initiatives for many corporations and other professional entities. Sustainability is often solely associated with energy and climate-related metrics, but it is not the only factor contributing to a sustainable organization. Investors are starting to recognize what a sustainability-focused business approach can mean for long-term organizational success. Increasingly, sustainability performance (or environmental and social governance) is being defined more broadly to include social issues such as education, injustice, and poverty.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the UN launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the support of 193 nations. This agenda includes a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that came into effect in January 2016. The purpose of the SDGs is to create standards that can measure progress on key issues like combating poverty, climate change, and injustice—among others. The UN agenda is designed to create an economic environment where the deployment of capital resources is considered in terms of economic, social, and environmental criteria. SDGs foster a discussion on investment quality beyond just the expected financials.

Socially Responsible Investment: A Growing Track Record of Outperformance       

Socially responsible investing may have begun in the 1700s with the Quakers, who refused to support “sinful” businesses such as tobacco, firearms, and the slave trade. More recently, sustainable investing has taken on the guise of promoting environmentally sustainable businesses, although financial performance is at the fore. The Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing performed a study on over 10,000 sustainable equity funds that found that these investments have met or exceeded the performance of comparable traditional investments. UBS, a leading global investment bank, claims to have $970 billion, or 35% of its investable portfolio, placed in socially conscious investments. Al Gore’s sustainability-focused private investment fund, Generation Investment Management (GIM), has returned about 16.3% after fees since September 2014, while the MSCI World Index has returned 7.7% over the same period. Assessing the sustainability of companies can be done using the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, which are a group of benchmarks that track the stock performance of companies in terms of economic, environmental, and social criteria.

The Foundation of High Performing Companies

Why do sustainable companies often outperform their peers? For Gore and GIM, not only is sustainability good for humanity, it is also a significant indicator of investment risk, management integrity and quality, robustness of business models, and products and services that are aligned with real-world problems and needs. Put together, these characteristics can identify high performing companies that provide consistent returns. An interesting note about GIM and its investment thesis is that it has broadened the scope of the definition of sustainability to include company diversity, human resources practices, community interaction, employee benefits, healthcare, and the values and ethics of the C-suite—along with the usual energy- and climate-related strategies. Each sustainable investment decision is aimed at choosing the factors that are most important to the sector where the company competes.

Many companies that use Navigant’s Energy research and services deliver energy-related products and services that can help their own customers meet sustainability goals. However, energy and emissions are only a small component of sustainable participation in the global economy. Similar to the dramatic efficiency results that can be achieved with a holistic approach to commercial building energy management, corporate sustainability efforts—and often business performance—can be dramatically improved with a more holistic view of what sustainable business performance means and how it can be achieved. There do not have to be any tradeoffs, and the real-world results are starting to speak for themselves.


Is HVAC Disruption Possible?

— December 7, 2017

HVAC is ripe for disruption in global buildings of all kinds. Why? It is one of the highest energy consuming components installed in any building. Additionally, the chemical substances that HVAC equipment uses to cool a space are highly polluting and even dangerous to handle. Space heating and cooling, along with water heating, are estimated to account for nearly 60% of global energy consumption in buildings. The global building stock accounts for over one-third of final energy consumption, with an equally large amount of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the space. Reducing the energy consumption and emissions of buildings is a necessity, or at least a significant opportunity, if the world hopes to meet its sustainability and emissions goals.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It?

So why is disruption of the heating and air cooling of buildings necessary? It’s not. Using today’s technologies, buildings can achieve net zero energy consumption. But this requires the implementation of renewable generation sources to offset consumption demand from heating, cooling, and other electrical loads. Demand can be reduced through the use of intelligent building management software and efficient technologies such as high performance insulation and building envelope materials, high performance windows, proper building siting, efficient lighting, and others. Even HVAC has improved in efficiency over time with advanced controls, ductless systems, variable refrigerant flow, and outside air handlers, for example. Intelligent building management tools such as building energy management systems tie these components together to optimize energy demand and consumption.

The above are optimizations of existing technologies, but they are not truly disruptive. Disruptive technologies make existing technologies irrelevant, changing the model of how a technology or process is used. Companies that fail to recognize the market adoption of the new disruptive technology will be left behind.

If It Ain’t Broke … Disrupt It!

Let’s look at a few examples. Smartphones existed before the iPhone, but Apple created a transition in how people use these devices. Trains reduced the time necessary to travel west from weeks or months to several days. SpaceX reduced the cost of access to space by a factor of 10 through reusability. Elon Musk’s new company, Boring, will reduce the cost of digging subterranean tunnels by around the same factor. In all these instances, the efficiency gained is measured in factors, not increments. If the HVAC operational model can be disrupted by similar factors, the global building stock drag on energy demand and emissions will be reduced significantly.

So let’s disrupt HVAC! That’s always easier said than done. It may be impossible to disrupt this industry if governed by, for example, the immutable laws of thermodynamics. But it is an area ripe for disruption mainly due to the significance of savings that can be achieved. Are there technologies that exist or that are being researched that can achieve this disruption, like solid-state heating and cooling? Maybe so. Disruptive technologies sometimes hide in plain sight for long periods of time.

Other headwinds to HVAC disruption also exist. Large incumbent HVAC vendors have the resources to maintain their market positions. There are high barriers to entry and large capital costs in this industry, making it more difficult for startups to innovate. It is a highly regulated industry. However, it is also in high and increasing demand in certain parts of the world, and building tenants are requiring more and more with regard to air quality, comfort, and individualized space conditioning.

The thing about disruption is that the naysayers win until they don’t. That was the case with the iPhone. In the case of HVAC, let’s hope someone’s collective vision gets blurred enough to capitalize on this huge opportunity.


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