Energy is at the forefront of many people’s minds as we move into a more energy-efficient world. The search for more sustainable energy sources is becoming increasingly popular. In a perfect world, energy sources would all be clean, sustainable, and easy to acquire — but we live in a world that is subject to problems of all kinds. So what, then, does the future of energy efficiency realistically look like?
A Growing Trend
In recent decades, energy efficiency has undoubtedly improved — homes, cars, and commercial buildings have reduced carbon emissions, which cuts the demand for energy and makes us less reliant on energy imports. In fact, the demand for electricity in the US has remained consistent for ten years, thanks to electricity efficiency programs and equipment energy efficiency standards, building code adjustments, and tax credits.
Historically, and even currently, electricity efficiency programs are funded by utility customers, and according to Berkeley Lab, they will continue to be so, though budgets may change. The same study found that the South has the potential for gains in energy efficiency for spending and savings, largely because they have not had big programs for energy efficiency in the past. Other areas of the country have established more extensive programs, but that doesn’t mean growth has stalled in those areas completely.
Factors for Future Growth
As Berkeley Lab points out, keeping costs for electricity generation low is essential. Natural gas prices are getting lower, and gas turbines, wind, and solar energy options are falling in price too, which might mean a prioritization of renewable resource programs, furthering integrate solar and wind power.
Changes in costs also mean that people are more aware of location, grid-interactive buildings, electric vehicles, and other things that provide grid services and relevant complementary services.
Right now, there are fairly effective energy efficiency programs for lighting, but as LEDs take over, even these programs will need to adapt to continue making a difference. The use of LEDs increases efficiency automatically, so how can residential lighting programs further evolve to make an impact?
Changes in the economy have decreased the demand for energy overall. The Energy Information Administration reports that energy intensity has decreased from 12,000 to 6,000 Btu per dollar of economic activity from 1980 to 2015, estimating it will be at only 4,000 Btu per dollar in 2040. They also believe that electricity growth will grow at half the rate from 1990 through 2030 — only .59 percent per year. But trends in energy may also increase the need for power. Electric vehicles, for example, may see a surge in popularity that leads to more utilized power.
If there’s one certain thing, it is that humans will continue working toward energy efficiency in a myriad of ways that include innovative design in areas like building development and transportation, and with the help of tools like Fusion 360, progress is swift.
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