The U.S. Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) may be a mouthful, but here’s an easier way to think of it: it’s an important report covering energy technology that comes out every four years.
McKinstry is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest research and thinking in our field, so we’ve been taking a look at the QTR ever since it was released a few weeks ago.
Feel free to chime in with your own opinions and questions in the comments, but here are our five main takeaways from the whopper, 505-page document:
1. The current power grid isn’t cutting it
Energy consumers want—and are increasingly obtaining—individualized control of their energy sourcing. That’s fantastic in theory, but problematic in practice. Unfortunately, our national power grid wasn’t designed for such atomized controlling.
As the QTR notes, “…grid operation is moving from controlling systems with a handful of control points at central stations to ones with potentially millions of highly interactive distributed control points.
“In short, the power grid is confronted with new requirement as it attempts to perform in ways for which it was not designed,” the report concludes. “Meanwhile, the nation’s reliance on a dependable, efficient, and resilient power grid is rising.”
Clearly, we need power grid re-calibration and reform before this issue reaches critical mass.
2. The buildings sector wastes “considerable” amounts of energy
The QTR concludes that, “Many building technologies are available today that would significantly reduce energy use relative to the existing building stock. Yet, the best available and most cost effective ones are only beginning to be widely adopted in the marketplace.”
According to the report, the residential and commercial buildings sector accounts for “about 74 percent of electricity use and 40 percent of all U.S. primary energy use.”
McKinstry is well aware of the waste in the buildings sector, and we’re committed to eliminating that waste. The built environment is inefficient and siloed, but we proudly take responsibility to change it by efficiently developing, engineering, delivering, and operating the built environment.
3. Data analysis is sorely needed
Maybe the fine folks at the DOE read this recent opinion piece from McKinstry’s Jesse Sycuro about embracing big data, because they definitely reached a similar conclusion.
The QTR authors list “data and analysis” as one of their top research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) targets, writing that, “Opportunities to apply advanced analytics transect the entire clean energy economy.
“The emerging science of extracting actionable information from large data sets is both an opportunity to accelerate RDD&D and a research need,” states the report.
We couldn’t agree more!
4. There’ve been enormous changes in four years
As any college student will tell you, a lot can change in four years. Our national energy infrastructure is a little more complex than your typical undergrad, but it’s similarly prone to seismic shifts.
The first-ever QTR came out in 2011, and this second edition notes that, over the past four years, “the nation has increased wind capacity by 65 percent, increased solar capacity nine-fold, and replaced some of our oldest, least efficient power plants with cleaner, more efficient ones.”
While that’s all phenomenal news, every rose does have its thorn. The report points out that, “at the same time, vehicle gas mileage has increased to record levels and the U.S. has also become the largest producer of oil and gas combined.”
It’s hard to imagine what our energy system will look like in 2019, but odds are it’ll be quite different than what we see today.
5. We have the tools!
To end this recap on a hopeful note, we’d like to point out that the QTR has some extremely optimistic things to say about our national energy future.
Specifically, the report mentions that, “the technology development community is beginning to take advantage of the rapidly emerging set of tools for creating new generations of materials, devices, and systems for energy applications.”
The key, according to the DOE, is to put these new tools in the appropriate hands to “drive a well-diversified portfolio of energy research that will enable leadership by the United States to provide the energy services essential to modern societies.”
McKinstry also has the tools to create a more progressive, efficient energy future. Our unique breadth and depth of expertise and commitment to collaboration enable us to deploy a special, integrated approach that cares for a facility throughout its life. As a result, we can help reduce waste, save money, and assure comfort in the entire built environment.