Climate ChangeEnergyEnvironment

The Increasing Importance of Energy Efficiency

The Increasing Importance of Energy Efficiency

Climate change and energy efficiency has emerged as one of the most important energy and economic policy issues of the 21st century.

Climate changes are happening affecting people and economies, and further associated impacts which vary in different parts of the globe, we can expect to see throughout this century, as also confirmed in the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA). These impacts include ozone depletion, increase in greenhouse gasses and global temperature, retreat of glaciers and rise in sea levels, extreme weather, ocean acidification, species extinctions, food supply, as well as loss of habitat and climate refugees. Possible mitigation strategies to the global warming and climate crisis include emissions reduction, building resilient systems and energy management.

Energy undoubtedly remains the key challenge facing the world today. Disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy taught us among other lessons that our society depends on energy and cannot function without electricity and steady supply of petroleum, and that critical electrical equipment such as building connections with breaker boxes, power lines, backup generators, or fuel infrastructure should be carefully planned and positioned to ensure energy security. The energy infrastructure in New York State was made to withstand 100-year weather conditions. Still Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee revealed how significantly compromised the system was by the intensity of recent extreme weather events. The impact of Sandy on the region’s energy infrastructure and supply needed support from all levels of government.

Energy efficiency has been commonly accepted as an attractive approach to reducing GHG emissions and as response to the resources depletion.

With fossil fuels being depleted, growing demand for power, and environmental challenges, energy efficiency seems inevitable and natural way to mitigate our fundamental energy struggles that also include aging infrastructure, deficiency in energy storage and resiliency, closures of existing power plants, and limitations of renewable generations, to list only a few.

Although energy efficiency had been recognized and energy efficiency measures applied in various industries for many years, the magnitude and a global scale of the efforts have changed dramatically during the recent years. Particularly energy security and resilience become a hot topic for the recent discussions with our clients.

Energy efficiency measures have been implemented for over 30 years. So, why energy efficiency started attracting more attention only about a decade ago?

While residential and commercial buildings are well covered with various energy efficiency measures in place, such as energy audits, benchmarking, commissioning and retro-commissioning, energy modelling, and certification and incentive programs, the infrastructure and industrial facilities are still taking baby steps on energy efficiency. Yet, their share in energy consumption spans over 70% of the world’s energy use. As a result, accounts for a similar share of the fossil fuel carbon emissions. Despite the incremental improvements that have continuously reduced energy intensity, overall emissions continue to rise due to global industrialization.

Since energy security and resilience became the core concern for the industrialized Western nations, some of our transportation customers share that concerns. In 2013 one of the West Coast ports adopted a groundbreaking energy policy to guide efforts in securing more sustainable and resilient supply of power as demand grows. My presentations long before the launch, as well as our team’s grass roots work and continued support in development of the policy, resulted in the ports’ legislation processes, further procurements, and thus new industry standards. Consequently, the port would implement measures to increase efficiency, conservation, resiliency, and renewable energy. Since there is a strong competition among ports, intensified by containerization, larger vessels, and expanding neighborhoods, there is no surprise that port authorities are closely looking at each other and follow inspiring examples. Soon after the energy policy has been adopted, the neighboring ports initiated procurement processes to develop energy management plans. Based on the anticipations that energy demand will triple or even quadruple in the upcoming years, these ports took a proactive approach. At the same time our team was a driving force for the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) to include energy discussions in their seminars and workshops, and it was with a great satisfaction to me to speak at the first AAPA Energy and Environment seminar last September in Chicago.

Understanding of existing energy conditions is essential. When followed by considerations of the future plans, regulatory landscape, innovations in technology and trends, that knowledge will form a solid basis for a development of a strategy. Developing a long term energy management plan is significant, particularly for versatile and complex industrial facilities and infrastructure.