05/13/15 : Hannah Davis

New Systems Efficiency Initiative Meets During EE Global

Researchers have found that device-level efficiency has begun to result in diminishing returns. Instead, focus is now on systems level efficiency, and the high levels efficiency that stems from how devices and users interact with the overall system. The Systems Efficiency Initiative (SEI) — holding its second official meeting today — aims to close the gaps in whole system building energy efficiency to meet our future energy challenges.

SEI is a two year initiative created to advance building systems energy efficiency. Made up of private sector partners, utilities, governmental agency representatives, policy experts and efficiency advocates, this initiative looks beyond familiar energy-saving measures to the largely untapped and unexplored arena of systems-level efficiency in buildings. The initiative is comprised of over 30 senior representatives from partner organizations working together on technical committees to better understand the opportunities for systems-level efficiency and furthermore, develop and implement policy instruments to incorporate it into market practices.

Why is this initiative important?

Currently, Buildings account for approximately 40-60% of all U.S. energy use. Investing in building efficiency could result in close to 1 trillion dollars in savings over the next 10 years. 

Defined Tasks of the Initiative

With contributions and consultation from our partners and members, this initiative will progress under five well-defined tasks to raise awareness within the efficiency community on the importance of adding systems efficiency to the available toolkit for energy efficient market transformation.

Task 1: Inventory and Initial Scoping

Currently, the members of SEI are working on compiling information from ongoing and past work to fully characterize building systems efficiency. These members are drawing on published sources and research, as well as interviews.

Task 2: Analysis on Potential Savings

Step two aims to estimate the potential as well as achievable energy, cost and peak demand savings that would results from systems-level efficiency. This analysis will go beyond the estimates achieved from energy efficient equipment and explore energy efficiency on a much larger scale.

Task 3: Technology RD&D Roadmap

Once the potential energy, cost and peak demand savings have been established, initiative members will collaborate with industry leaders and the U.S. Department of Energy to characterize the main technology developments needed for system efficiency improvements. 

Task 4: Policy and Program Options

This task is a fundamental piece to the success of SEI and will identify the key program and policy measures that, when coupled with the technological developments established in Task 3, will improve building systems efficiency. Examples of these policy and program measures include updated performance maps to analyze system performance under a wide range of operating settings, standardized metrics to address quality and quantity of delivered energy services, as well as potential market drivers like competitive awards, utility incentives and tax benefits.

Task 5: Action Plan

The last task in achieving the SEI goal includes prioritizing the policy and program options. Coming up with these policy options is only half the battle, the second half includes establishing concrete actions that will encourage the market actors and the policy community commit to incorporating systems thinking into their activities. This plan of action will emphasize how to better incorporate systems level efficiency into government and utility programs both on a federal and state level.