Ecologic is a small startup with a big mission.
We plan to transform how energy is used and generated in buildings around the world by combining leading-edge web and mobile technology, big data analytics and world-leading building simulation science.
In this first blog post, we'd like to set the scene by sharing why we think energy efficiency is an untapped resource for households, businesses, utilities and governments and unpack the barriers that are holding it back from its potential.
Why target energy efficiency?
For households, energy efficiency represents one of the most effective ways to reduce energy bills, with typical savings of 20 to 30% for an affordable portfolio of energy saving measures, and over 50% for deep energy retrofits.
Energy efficiency also represents a lucrative business investment, with higher returns and lower risks than conventional investments.
For energy utilities, energy efficiency represents the cheapest energy resource available, easily outcompeting coal, natural gas, wind and solar in terms of the cost per megawatt-hour delivered.
For governments, energy efficiency increases industrial competitiveness, improves energy security and represents one of the largest and cheapest greenhouse gas abatement opportunities.
However despite the clear benefits of energy efficiency, we still waste a tremendous amount of energy in homes and businesses, leading to what academics term the 'energy efficiency gap'
What are the barriers to energy efficiency?
One of the key challenges in energy efficiency is that there is such a wide range of options. You could replace your old light bulbs with modern LEDs, insulate your ceiling, replace your old fridge, or install solar panels. Or you could replace your heating system, put blinds on your windows, or draught-proof your doors and windows.
Each of these energy saving options performs quite differently in different situations. For instance, an LED lighting upgrade has a strong case if you currently have a large number of incandescent or halogen lamps, but won't perform as well where you already have CFL lighting or where lights aren't switched on very often. Similarly, an insulation upgrade will perform quite well for sealed buildings in cooler climates but offer less benefit to cross-ventilated buildings in warmer climates.
There is also a natural priority to energy efficiency investments. For instance it doesn't make much sense to install insulation if you haven't already draft-proofed your doors and windows. And it doesn't make much sense to install solar panels on your roof if you haven't eliminated unnecessary electricity consumption. This priority is often unclear to households, and isn't helped by companies pushing a specific solution.
To make matters worse, there are a wide range of suppliers of each of these products and services. Finding a quality supplier can require a great deal of homework and often involves obtaining a range of competitive quotes, negotiating a contract and securing rebates and/or finance.
Households have been understandably overwhelmed by the whole process and have been captured in a situation where their energy bills are rising but they don't know what to do about it.
And households aren't alone.
Commercial businesses still waste a dramatic amount of energy and money on poorly specified and operated heating, cooling, and lighting systems. Many of the fixes require a simple tune up and quite inexpensive equipment but once again assessing the range of options out there is overwhelming to the average small business.
For similar reasons, energy utilities have continued to under-invest in energy efficiency and over-invest in new infrastructure, leading to billions of dollars of unnecessary expense, and ultimately increased energy bills for consumers.
We set out to address these barriers by providing two things:
- a rigorous and independent calculator for comparing energy saving options
- a trusted clearinghouse for energy saving products and services
In doing so we think we can offer the information and coordination to bridge the energy efficiency gap and drive a transformation in how energy is used and generated in buildings.
Aren't tools like this already available?
We reviewed a broad suite of calculators and found they fell into one of two categories.
On the one hand we reviewed a suite of simple tools developed to provide consumers with advice on their energy bills. While they were quite user-friendly, they lacked a rigorous physical simulation basis, meaning they couldn't provide targeted advice or bankable estimates of the bill savings.
On the other end of the spectrum we reviewed several more sophisticated tools developed to simulate and optimise building performance. While these tools were quite accurate they typically required extensive training to use and were time-consuming to specify. This meant that not many energy auditors, builders, or architects used them and, if they did, the simulations were performed at the end of the design process, when most of the important decisions were already made.
We decided that we needed to break down this historical compromise between simplicity and sophistication. See our next post for how.