Smart buildings overcome energy efficiency 'Rebound Effect'

IDC Energy Industry Insights Community –

In the absence of comprehensive energy or climate policy, energy efficiency is an appealing way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize pressures on the grid. However, if the cost savings from a more efficient technology translate into a new investment that consumes energy, the cumulative result can be higher total energy consumption, GHG emissions, and demand on the grid. Smart Buildings illustrate how deploying energy efficiency with intelligence can minimize the risk of this phenomenon also known as the Rebound Effect.

Energy efficiency may be one piece of the puzzle, but unintended consequences can arise from any measure when stakeholders are not engaged and goals are not aligned. In recent weeks, articles from the New York Times to Nature have explored the risk of the Rebound Effect, also known as the Jevons Paradox.

Smart Buildings can keep stakeholders informed and plans on track. Take a smart office building as an example: The facilities manager's primary objective is to improve his bottom line while c-level real estate executives want to market their sustainability commitments. Energy efficiency investments can help stakeholders meet their individual goals, but without collaboration and information sharing, the cost savings in one business unit could lead to investments in another, and result in a cumulative increase in the energy consumed by the building or portfolio of buildings. Smart Building solutions can overcome this challenge by providing heightened visibility into system operations.

Smart Buildings provide the advanced automation and integration that gives stakeholders greater visibility into their building and energy efficiency investment performance. These technologies allow stakeholders to measure, monitor, control, and optimize operations and maintenance to meet the goals of their particular line of business.

A smart HVAC system, for example, will help the facilities manager cut his or her utility costs by managing the building climate to optimize tenant comfort while identifying times when the temperature can be turned up or down to reduce utility bills. At the same time the smart HVAC system analytics will provide the data the c-level executives need to comply with voluntary carbon reporting projects or their corporate social responsibility goals. So while an HVAC system is running more efficiently with new controls and analytics, broader business and corporate commitments are being met that in turn protect the objectives of the efficiency investment.

The Smart Building example is not to be underestimated. According to the government's Energy Star program, the combined bill for commercial and industrial buildings annual energy consumption is $202 billion; and these buildings generate 45% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. If Smart Building technologies are utilized and risks of the Rebound Effect are minimized, then energy efficiency has a real opportunity to driver climate change mitigation and energy security at the macro-level despite the absence of comprehensive Federal policy.

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