Intelligent Efficiency

Intelligent efficiency (IE) is the additional energy efficiency that is possible with information and communications technologies (ICT) such as sensors, connected devices, networks, and data analytics.

Applications range from learning thermostats, to Internet-connected building automation systems, to manufacturing production processes control systems that employ machine learning to optimize the use of material and energy.


Intelligent efficiency is a market-transforming suite of technologies that save energy through optimizing the use of energy at the system, facility, or even community level. Intelligent efficiency is not about making a pump more efficient, it is about making a water pumping system more efficient.

Intelligent efficiency takes advantage of several developments in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the connection of millions of devices to the Internet. We now have more device connected to the Internet than people. IoT enables the exchange and analysis of information without requiring human intervention. IoT gives us Big Data, the extremely large data sets of structured and unstructured data that pour out of the many sensors embedded in devices and facilities. Making sense of Big Data requires data analytics. Computer programs that turn data into information and information into knowledge.

Machine learning, also called artificial intelligence, or neural networks, is the use of algorithms to tease out of Big Data trends and correlations that are useful for anticipating and predicting what a person, device, group of people, or system might do in the future. Machine learning turns knowledge into wisdom. The ability to put a current situation into context and understand the implications of a decision.

Intelligent efficiency in energy efficiency programs

Intelligent efficiency can be an energy-saving measure such as a learning thermostat, an energy data management system that automates the collection, analysis and reporting of energy savings, a set of tools to automate program administration, or a suite of technologies to automate the measurement of project and program energy savings and impacts. We are also seeing intelligent efficiency used to assess the coincident, or non-energy benefits, of investments in energy efficiency. All of these uses can expand the scope and scale of energy efficiency programs and thereby increase energy savings.

Intelligent efficiency events

ACEEE convenes stakeholders to discuss and advance intelligent efficiency technologies, policies, and programs. These range from conferences held 2014-2016 that focused on all manifestations of intelligent efficiency to stakeholder meetings on optimizing energy use in data centers and manufacturing. The use of ICT by efficiency programs and to save energy is a frequent topic of ACEEE conferences and summer studies.

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