Technology Record - Issue 27: Winter 2022

72 V I EWPO I NT “To tackle energy waste, you first need to be able to see it and measure it” The International Energy Agency (IEA) declared that the world was in the middle of “the first truly global energy crisis” in October 2022. The combination of soaring energy and food prices, volatile supply issues and rising inflation is sending shock waves through the global economy. For millions of people, the energy crisis has become a personal matter. In parts of Europe, energy costs have quadrupled, and shortages have led to concerns of potential blackouts if a harsh winter depletes energy reserves. With energy now a precious commodity, it is essential that we make the most of it. Currently, much of the advice is focused on reducing consumption through basic measures. For example, turning down thermostats, taking colder showers, washing clothes at lower temperatures, or delaying energy use to off-peak hours. These are important measures, but with 60 per cent of energy currently being lost or wasted, we need to prioritise demand efficiency as the first step. This is not a new concept. In 1990, American physicist Amory Lovins introduced the idea of the ‘negawatt revolution’, urging companies to make smart swaps to save energy and, as a result, make substantial savings. Lovins argued that the best energy policy for nations, businesses and the environment is one that focuses on using energy more efficiently. Indeed, energy efficiency is extremely important to reduce pressure on demand and is often overlooked. After all, the best and cheapest watt is the one we don’t consume. But to tackle energy waste, you first need to be able to see it and measure it. Digital innovation takes efficiency potential to a whole new level. First, digital tools can monitor, visualise and manage energy production, distribution and consumption, making the invisible visible. Second, we can then optimise energy use and eliminate any waste whether it is in grids, factories, data centres, buildings, transport systems or our homes. Moreover, using digital technology has a faster payback than other approaches, such as better insulation. We estimate a quick return on investment of digital retrofits typically in one to three years. According to our research, smart building technologies also typically deliver a 30 per cent reduction in energy usage with similar savings in operational costs. So, how can we start reducing energy waste? Here are three areas that could be tackled straight away with existing technologies: OL I V I E R B LUM : S CHNE I DE R E L E C T R I C Digital technologies will be key to helping governments, businesses and individuals reduce carbon emissions, while softening the impact of soaring energy prices Innovating through climate and energy crises