The clean energy revolution is here, RIGHT NOW! Right-sized, clean, and resilient power generation is the exciting new norm and the future we are building together. Renewable energy has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and widespread adoption has been enjoyed throughout the country in all major market sectors.
This year in the United States alone, 24 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generation capacity will come online, 66 percent of which will be provided by solar PV, wind, other renewables, or battery energy storage. Eight GW of capacity will be retired, the majority of which is from fossil fuel sources. While this represents significant progress, renewable energy (including hydropower) accounts for just under 20 percent of the overall U.S. energy mix, underscoring the tremendous challenge in front of us—to achieve a 100-percent, clean energy future.
This data shows we’re chasing a moving target—a growing target that still adds eight GW of fossil fuel capacity every year. For us to achieve the future we desire, we must think holistically and with resolute purpose. By adding solar and renewable energy to our electricity grid, we are all helping bring clean energy to our communities but only addressing part of the problem: we are ignoring our energy use and we are ignoring our behavior toward energy.
Comprehensive energy: What is it, exactly?
The first step in developing any comprehensive energy solution is to understand the building usage profile on both a monthly and a 15-minute interval basis. How we are charged by utility companies for our energy use can often be very complex, and while understanding how much energy we use is important, when we use energy can be even more crucial.
In the built environment, we think of comprehensive energy in three areas: consumption, generation and behavior. When we evaluate a facility for energy solutions, we always consider all three legs of this energy stool. This means understanding every unit of energy a facility uses including, but not limited to, lighting, controls, heating, cooling and ventilation. We must evaluate rooftops, land and parking lots for solar and consider ground-source heat pumps to take advantage of energy beneath the earth. Building owners must consider all energy solutions and technologies to maximize their return on investment.
An energy-use profile is a living function of the occupants’ behavior in the facility each day. The behavior of building occupants must be studied and analyzed, so that we can educate and change behavior to reduce energy usage with minimal capital cost.
Using less energy is something people think about, whether the goal is to reduce their environmental impact or the impact on their pocketbooks. The good news is using less energy achieves both goals. However, many people don’t know how they can make a measurable difference. This is where the power of information in today’s world can be leveraged in our clean energy revolution. Integrating real-time facility energy-use data into the daily routine of building occupants puts the right information in their hands to make an immediate difference. Facility energy use and on-site generation can be tracked and displayed in ways that can be easily understood by anyone. Innovative technical services, such as McKinstry’s Active Energy Management offering, allow building owners to audit, analyze and monitor energy use across their facilities.
Our role in the transformation
I believe we are at an inflection point and are transforming our thinking toward smarter and more comprehensive energy solutions. Together, we will create the innovative solutions of tomorrow that address our behavior, drive clean energy generation, and reduce our energy use through energy efficiency.
For Energy Efficiency Day (October 2) and Energy Action Month in October, McKinstry is challenging everyone to save energy and money in our “Kill-A-Watt Challenge.” We’re giving away a nine-watt LED light bulb to our employees and asking them to take a video of them swapping out an energy-wasting bulb with an LED bulb — challenging five people to do the same via social media. We hope to bring awareness to the fact that small actions can have big impact. Join the challenge and make sure to tag your post with #KillAWattChallenge!
With big-picture thinking, we will develop improved overall energy solutions for our clients and for the built environment. These smart solutions will stop the limited thinking toward one technology or approach and instead, will serve a greater purpose for the first time, truly addressing our energy use in a comprehensive way for the health of our communities and our planet. The time is now to take energy action.