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Last week ACEEE produced a webinar, “Intelligent Efficiency”.  I was late to the party but as I came online, an ACEEE guy, Neal Elliott was talking and the topic was intriguing – system-wide, holistic, intelligent efficiency.  I thought, hmm, maybe somebody read this entire series of rants and was possibly preaching from the gospels of the obvious.

Next up was a guy from Schneider Electric and he gave a boring advertisement of – Schneider Electric.  Next was a guy from Johnson Controls to talk about what else – the Empire State building.  The  Empire State Building EE overhaul has been in every trade magazine, newspaper, crap magazine (Time, Newsweek), The National Enquirer, Star, Vogue, Bon Appétit, Weight Watchers, Cigar Aficionado, Esquire, Cosmo, Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, Playboy, Parent, billboards, newspaper ads, taxis, subway cars (next to the toe fungus, tattoo removal, gout prevention, sleep apnea and hernia repair shop ads), buses, elevators, church and synagogue bulletins, PSAs, restaurant menus, grocery carts, cereal boxes, milk cartons, toilet stalls, gasoline pumps, dentist, veterinary, and doctor offices, 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, Letterman, Leno, SNL, and Jimmy Kimmel.  I immediately pulled the plug before nausea set in.  I only have about two or three more times I can absorb shameless JCI / Empire State building propaganda before I throw up till my gall bladder bleeds.  Get it already?

Fortunately, ACEEE published a paper on the topic.  Intelligent Efficiency includes three components: People Centered Efficiency, Technology Centered Efficiency, and Service Oriented Efficiency.

People efficiency includes the constant bombardment of information so consumers can change behavior to save energy.  An example given includes monitoring home energy use over time to see when and how much energy is used to modify behavior.  Similarly, information can be provided at the organization or community level to “invite human behavior” into the system.

Technology efficiency includes gizmos that optimize facility, industrial and transportation efficiencies.  Users program and commission the gizmos and watch the savings accumulate.  Sounds good.  However, they are talking beyond fixing systems that are already controlled by energy management systems.  They are talking about anticipatory elements like weather forecasting – turnip milking.

Service oriented technology includes stuff like virtual meetings, webcams, webinars and beaming up Scotty.

In regard to people efficiency, people need to give a crap before they are going to do anything.  I go back to something I wrote many posts ago – something I took from a senior member of a client of ours.  She compared smart meters and energy information bombardment for customers with that of nutrition information bombardment.  Has there ever been more nutrition information available and in your face, and have obesity rates ever been higher?  Answers: no and no.  Regarding energy efficiency, this just in: American’s know how to save energy in many ways, but don’t – great timing.  Six in ten say they lack knowledge for EE as a major reason for not doing anything.  The other four vastly over estimate their capability.  And wouldn’t you know it, nearly all programs merely throw money at EE and very few provide decent information for commercial and industrial.  Actually, some jurisdictions close to home (hint, hint) discourage and in fact see customized EE plans as a waste of money.  Ignorance is bliss.

When it comes to intelligent controls and artificial intelligence, how about fixing the grotesque levels of waste that is present in many commercial and industrial buildings.  To put it in lay-androgynous-person terms, many facilities have the equivalent of the furnace, air conditioner, oven and wash machine running balls out[1] while all the windows are open and on top of this, comfort and/or production still suffer.  I scream this over and over but apparently closing the windows and turning off the heater in summertime isn’t sexy enough.  Lack of specific, custom INFORMATION is the problem.  We’ll have a case study with a real project as a perfect example with a happy ending sometime this summer.

I suggest starting with the things that save 25% right off the top with an ROI of 150% before installing anticipatory fuzzy logic to determine peak coffee making time to trim back on the air conditioning to reduce electrical demand.  Ok?

Here is a dirty secret as an example.  The country could save billions on energy cost simply by opening throttle valves and controlling pumps properly with variable speed drives in commercial and especially industrial facilities.  Barrier:  Manufacturing staff barely have time to keep the wheels on.  Expenses, especially labor, is cut to the bone and companies are making record profit, but they don’t have time for EE spotting and implementation.  The EE program “energy adVISEr” should point this out, but if it isn’t a T12 light bulb, it isn’t in the “adVISEr’s” wheelhouse.  One has to know what a valve, or a pump for that matter, looks like to fix it.

One final note – one of the primary barriers to “intelligent efficiency” as noted in the report is high up-front cost.  This could be the case in some instances, but we have experienced facilities with the report’s referenced brands of controls – the latest and greatest fully capable of everything they are talking about – controlling systems that are wasting epic tankers of money.

Controls don’t save energy.  Smart people using controls save energy.  Educated and informed facility and process managers maintain the savings.  Is anyone listening?

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[1] Did you know that “balls out” is in reference to governors that control / maintain engine speed?  “Balls out” simply means the engine is running fast.

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Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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