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Yiwei Chen, Power and Energy Efficiency Program Manager: How to be “smart” and make energy a controllable expense

By Posted on February 8, 2013
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by Yiwei Chen, Power and Energy Efficiency Program Manager

In his long awaited energy and environment address in December 2012, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder called energy efficiency “the best example of a no-regrets policy Michigan can have,” putting energy efficiency at the heart of Michigan’s energy future. In the past few years, Michigan has made tremendous strides in energy efficiency, and was chosen by the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) as the state with the “most improvement” on energy efficiency performance.

Earlier in 2012, NextEnergy embarked on a journey to find the next generation energy efficiency technologies. In search of the next big idea, we conducted a series of interviews with industry leaders, policy makers, and technology experts. The “big idea” turned out to be a concept that has been around for many years – Energy Management Systems (EMS). Just like how we are surrounded by “smart” devices these days, the type of EMS we are referring to is not just “smart” but even better – it is intelligent and responsive!  But how?

As we make the shift from deploying device-level improvements to making system-level improvements, energy efficiency is no longer just about upgrading your HVAC system or swapping out incandescent light bulbs for more energy efficient LED bulbs, it is about the ability to monitor, control and manage energy usage through improved connectivity and communication between devices.

Consider how many checklists and recipes a restaurant uses to guide employees as they respond to each and every customer order, the same type of checklists can be made possible for building and facility managers to track, benchmark and prioritize actions items on energy usage that will lead to improved operational performance. In other words, intelligent EMS makes our lives easier and simplifies business decision-making. For example, the wireless lighting control technology developed by Kanepi Innovations, in Grand Haven, Michigan, allows users to create and reconfigure lighting zones in a home or business without rewiring the system. Better yet, the reconfiguration of different zones can be changed from a mobile device.

NextEnergy predicts that the next generation of energy efficiency will be empowered by our ability to unlock the power of data through cloud-based IT processes and applications to run our facilities more effectively. EMS not only illustrates the convergence of information technology and energy management, but is key to accelerating energy efficiency through improved information-sharing and data transparency. Look no further and start asking your building or facility managers about how “smart” your building or office is. And if you are still confused about various concepts of “smart this” and “smart that”, ask us “what’s next” and how to become “smarter” in the way we use energy.

For more information about NextEnergy’s EMS market research and energy efficiency program, contact Joshua Brugeman at joshb@nextenergy.org.

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