Take a look at these numbers. 1.3 billion – that’s the number of people in the world today who don’t have access to electricity. 30% – this number represents the projected growth of global energy consumption by 2020. Universal access to electricity and renewable energy can help address these problems.
But, we need a smarter grid to provide worldwide access to electricity. Utilities can modernize their power generating systems and power distribution infrastructures with smart grid technologies to minimize power loss and optimize power reliability. This is beneficial, especially in third-world and emerging economies, but we’re not there yet. And, despite rapid global adoption of renewable energy, like wind-powered electricity generation, the upfront costs of many renewable energy technologies are still higher than fossil fuels.
Universal access and renewable energy are two of the three promising areas the U.N. points to in their Sustainable Energy For All Initiative, a program that includes participation from many nations.
The other U.N. objective, energy efficiency, offers the most promise for global sustainability. The combination of energy efficiency policies and automated energy management solutions can reduce energy consumption worldwide.
When organizations and people are active proponents of energy efficiency, they can reduce electrical consumption, maximize energy distribution, lower energy costs, and eliminate energy waste.
For example, the industrial sector spends over 60% of its electricity usage to run electric motors. But with the right tools, they can reduce energy consumption by up to 25%. In the buildings sector, 90% of all building controls today are energy inefficient. However, energy management technologies can either be retrofitted in existing buildings or planned in new building construction. In the end, the buildings sector can slash annual energy consumption by 30%.
It’s important to note that technology has a stronger impact when active energy efficiency measures are combined with passive energy efficiency activities. For example, installing thermal insulation is a one-time act; a passive energy efficiency measure. Once installed, thermal insulation can limit energy’s ability to escape. Another passive energy efficiency strategy includes the use of energy saving machines such as air conditioners and televisions, which can deliver over 25% savings in electricity usage.
Connectedness helps the global society move towards sustainability
In today’s built environment, it’s believed that there are 4.9 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet; from mobile phones and computers to industrial machines and building automation devices. To top that, analysts expect this number to reach 25 billion by 2020. This evolving and connected landscape, also known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT), creates the disposition of readily accessible data which can then be aggregated, analyzed and acted upon. Our increasingly connected world not only allows for real-time, cross continental information sharing but it also allows individuals and organizations to make informed decisions around energy use as well as other daily routines closer to home, like your daily commute. The IoT empowers and connects people to share relevant information that can be acted upon – whether you want to know what concerts are happening in the city you’re visiting or looking for an electric vehicle charging station, the IoT gives you the information you want, when you want it, all at your finger tips.
When all this connectedness is applied at a facility and enterprise level, organizations can realize tremendous energy savings and overall increased effectiveness in their business operations. The IoT provides an ability to visualize systems and networks that had been invisible to the human eye making them less relevant in organizational minds. In human nature, once you visualize it, you understand it; and once you understand it, you can act on it and make informed decisions.
In emerging economies and regions around the world, where 1.3 billion people are without energy access, the opportunity for connectedness has limitless possibilities and applications. And in my opinion, I see the IoT not only facilitating clean energy access but also helping to fight poverty, develop healthcare systems and increase the ability to provide education.
There’s a lot to gain if we unlock energy efficiency. Across the world, governments are taking action through legislations and programs. By promoting energy efficiency and using data intelligently in all sectors of society while reducing the world’s dependency on fossil fuels, we can reduce global CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases.
It’s true, both developed and developing countries are growing their economies by placing a lot of their energy dependence on burning fossil fuels. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Everyone can contribute to global sustainability. With an understanding of what is at stake and the desire to do something about it, we can achieve global sustainability in the next decade.
If we don’t make energy efficiency a top agenda item today, we may not have another opportunity to achieve energy sustainability worldwide.