Innovation has been key to the success of energy efficiency, leading to dramatic improvements in the efficiency of technologies such as refrigerators and light bulbs in recent decades. Since its founding, ACEEE has tracked these innovations in appliances and equipment, as well as in the broader buildings, industrial, and transportation sectors. Early efforts focused on device efficiency—how one technology compares with another. Though device efficiency leads to important improvements, the savings from further technological advancements become smaller over time. Today, some of the most promising opportunities to improve energy use are practices that improve system efficiency, such as in intelligent efficiency, smart buildings, and smart manufacturing. Innovations in sensors, communication, controls, and systems modeling enable system-wide energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions. For example, a 2011 study showed that optimization across motor systems (i.e., compressed air, pump, fan systems) resulted in electricity savings of 27–55%. For comparison, replacing an electric motor with a more efficient one yields less than 5% savings. Future advances in systems analysis and optimization are expected to identify and realize even greater savings while also enabling the integration of emerging and transformative technologies crucial to decarbonization of the economy.
For more information or to speak with a researcher, please contact our Industry Program.