Energy efficiency is making big waves. They are visible in the area of legislative initiatives, consumer spending, infrastructure projects, and technological revolution. Still, not everything in the garden is rosy. Households account for staggering amounts of pollution and waste generation, while many industries also lag behind the set standards.
What is more, the technology does advance by leaps and bounds, yet policy-makers and ordinary consumers struggle to keep up with this pace. We have to learn to do more with less, and think big while taking small, everyday steps. So, let us take a look at the state of affairs in 2017 and what waits around the corner.
There is certainly room for optimism: 2017 is expected to bring increased investments in energy efficiency projects and many companies have implemented green programs into the core utility operations to meet higher standards and boost customer satisfaction. Likewise, the spending on sustainable products and services is on the rise and this upward trend is anticipated to continue.
We need to fully understand the value of energy productivity, which represents a gross domestic product per unit of energy consumed. Namely, higher productivity in this department induces greater economic activity, as well as lower energy use and waste production. So, it is not like only green activists reap benefits from environmental initiatives and policies.
There is an ever growing selection of energy-efficient building materials, home improvement projects, appliances, and other novelties. Smart technology is a true game-changer, as it allows people to evaluate energy consumption and optimize its use with a wide array of tools. Home automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) certainly open up new saving opportunities and revolutionize the way we live and interact with our environment.
For instance, quality Malibu Shade products are made with sustainability in mind, while Nest offers Wi-Fi-enabled, programmable thermostats that adhere to our behavioral patterns. Energy Star-rated appliances gain traction around the world and innovative products in the league of Rachio Smart Sprinkler Control System enhance water conservation efforts. This is just a tip of the iceberg, and beneath it, we find LED lights, new fixture design, smart hubs, and other tech marvels.
The big picture
In the US, there is much talk about the need to increase investments in the infrastructure. As you may know, energy is an integral part of infrastructure projects with all those grids, hydropower plants and reservoirs, renewable energy facilities, and natural gas pipelines. For now, it is clear that the new administration has made this dimension a priority on the agenda.
Of course, it is still to be seen what concrete forms this shift will take. In the meantime, the winds of change sweep across the globe, as electric vehicles, smart meters, distributed energy resources and charging stations pop out. We are still to explore the exciting frontiers, such as energy-water nexus, the ways in which the water and wind sectors are interwoven.
A sound energy-efficiency policy framework is the bedrock of physical infrastructure. Hence, a more decisive legislative and regulatory actions need to be taken in order to spur the widespread adoption of sustainable solutions. There is some progress, though, in the form of energy benchmarking and transparency laws. Strong pushes toward sustainability will most likely come from the local landscape and shifting industries, such as real estate.
In Oregon, for instance, homeowners are now able to compare energy costs and performance of their homes to identify the best strategies for improving efficiency. We hope to see more tax and financial incentives across the country, as well as other countries to follow the example of California, which leads the pack when it comes to funding for energy-efficiency.
The green way into the future
This year should be a fairly good one for energy efficiency, but there is no much time to rest on the laurels. It starts with education and the realization that energy efficiency pays off in a big way, whether we look at the global, national, local, or individual level. First off, comprehensive policies need to be set in place, and in the next stage, we must ensure that infrastructure operates on an optimal level.
If anything, it is clear as a bright summer day that tried-and-true technology is available commercially, and is waiting to be fully utilized. The missing ingredient seems to lie elsewhere. In any event, the seeds of the better, greener future have been planted and they will have to be nurtured on a daily basis to bear fruits.