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Energy Efficiency and Load Management

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Oct 5, 2022
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Today (October 5) is the USA's Energy Efficiency Day. More than 1,000 utilities, local governments, corporations, universities and other organizations are participating in EE Day 2022 today. Improving energy efficiency is a major part of a clean energy future, providing over two million jobs, saving people money, and making the environment cleaner and healthier.

Energy efficiency is in the news more than ever before thanks to the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Efficiency is a central pillar of the $369 billion IRA climate package. By investing in buildings, vehicles, and industry, the IRA will keep the country on the path to net zero, help save money for consumers and businesses, build the energy efficiency and clean energy industries, and improve public health. Most of the benefits of this plan come from tax breaks, meaning this proposal reduces the cost of renewable energy without increasing the cost of traditional energy. By restoring tax credits for solar, wind, hydrogen and storage projects it creates a positive boost for these systems.

Load management is a significant part of the big picture: being more efficient in a more distributed future will involve complex trade-offs and investment in wide use of technologies both old and new. New is heat pumps, for example, old is better insulation.

Heat pumps are going to be a key clean energy technology in the energy transition. The US heat pump market is expected to more than double by 2030, so expanded policy support will be needed to build confidence in the technology and meet climate goals.

Air, water or ground source heat pumps are a low-carbon technology with the potential to deliver large-scale reductions in carbon emissions from building heat. By using electricity to move heat from ambient outside air, water or ground, they can warm or cool a building’s interior and heat water. This process is highly efficient, with heat pumps delivering between three and five units of heat for each unit of electricity needed to power them. The would help offset the increased loads on the system as more EVs are charging on the grid.

According to a study by Princeton University, the IRA could ensure the deployment of 49 GW of solar power on the grid by 2025, a five-fold increase on 2020. This so going to lead to a need for more advanced load management, to ensure that the grid can handle the variability of the inputs and outputs. By also investing in AI, improved software, storage and other technologies, these loads can be accommodated. But this will involve systems thinking by all stakeholders, and a degree of consensus among competing firms.

These energy efficiency and demand response programs should transform into real-time flexible load systems that would improve utility resource planning, cost reduction, decarbonization and resiliency strategies. The IRA and other regulations will encourage utilities to include flexible load in their resource planning as a supply-side resource and to help meet decarbonization targets. Nearly 90% the utility professionals surveyed by Deloitte (in their 2022 power and utilities industry outlook) said their company plans to make greater use of flexible load programs.

Legislators and regulators are pushing energy efficiency programs significantly, and so those programs are undergoing rapid growth. But dynamic load flexibility programs are not growing as fast as they could. Growth can be hampered by the need for improved distribution system control technologies, communications standards, and incentives for stakeholders. Nevertheless, on EE Day 2022 there is reason to be hopeful that improved energy efficiency will power the industry toward the net zero goals enshrined in statute, and also desired by many consumer who want to live in a low-carbon ecosystem.

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