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Energy Efficiency: High-Tech or No Tech?

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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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Can utilities increase efficiency by educating customers on their energy use and how they can reduce costs?  According to a new report, engaging customers with a holistic approach is improving energy management in industrial and commercial buildings.  The report was completed by the North American SEM Collaborative (NASEMC), researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  They found that a systematic process to energy management improved efficiency.  The findings were based on interviews with administrators of 24 utility programs, in North America, supporting strategic energy management (SEM).  Ed Rightor, report co-author and director of ACEEE’s industry program said, “This is the clearest evidence yet that SEM investments by energy customers and utilities with demand-side management (DSM) programs really pay off. ”  He continued, “SEM is a quick way for industrial and commercial facilities to start reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions with low or no capital investment. We see a wide range of successful efforts and are more convinced than ever that these SEM practices and programs should be scaled up.”   The rate energy consumption and amount of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, commercial and otherwise, is still a growing concern.  According to the Alliance to Save Energy, buildings in the United States account for 40% of the country’s energy consumption.  In Montreal, the Mayor of Saint-Laurent, Alan DeSousa, expressed his support to reduce energy consumption of municipal buildings. “We are investing to implement innovative and concrete solutions in response to the climate emergency.”  The city replaced the HVAC and installed 45 solar panels on the roof of their borough hall.  They hope to lower maintenance cost, reduce greenhouse gas and retire all fuel-burning equipment.  Others in the area are inclined to go beyond customer engagement, HVAC upgrades and solar panel installations.  New technologies are emerging that innovate energy management and monitoring with adaptive and corrective software. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in energy management is also allowing customers to significantly reduce energy consumption in buildings.  Claiming to require no human intervention, Montreal based tech company, BrainBox is tackling the problem through machine learning and algorithms.  Utilities continue to support, partner and participate in various efforts to reduce energy consumption but how can they get the best results?  Using a ‘grassroots’ customer approach or the intricacies of artificial intelligence?

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