Energy efficiency is out; Operational Efficiency in IN (and in a very big way!)
2016 is all about integration; solutions that work together to change processes rather than changing a specific technology or behavior.
The major trends for the coming year indicate that building owners recognize the financial value of measuring and monitoring building performance, and using that data to guide operational strategies and make smarter investments.
While lighting retrofits remain the most popular CapEx investment, this year we’re seeing more businesses – both large and small – developing comprehensive resource management strategies to drive cost savings even further. With the changing energy grid, rising water prices, and tighter regulations, these growing trends can give savvy companies a real competitive edge and improve their bottom line. Let’s take a closer look:
1. Intelligent buildings
By far, the most anticipated trend of 2016 is the rise of “smart” building solutions. The increasing capabilities of energy management systems (EMS) and internet-connected sensors make smart building technologies an attractive investment for businesses large and small. The ease in which facility owners and operators can capture data about energy consumption and building performance is certainly a major selling point for these solutions. However, owners have realized that installing smart building technologies unlocks a host of additional benefits that go far beyond the cost savings of energy efficiency. For example, building owners and facility managers can now collect vital data related to the health of their building, occupant satisfaction, and employee safety.
2. On-site energy generation
The growing demand for distributed energy resources, which include on-site generation and storage systems, indicates that these solutions will play a much larger role in energy management this year. This is due in large part to falling prices and increasing support from the utility companies.
On-site generation solutions are essentially smaller-scale power-producing devices, which are designed to provide either electricity or thermal energy at the point of use. Evidence of this expanding market can be seen in the recent solar boom, as the industry set numerous records in 2015. Recent reports show that the number of solar panel installations last year outstripped the total number from 2014 by 34%. This growth can be attributed to the cheaper cost of solar PV technology, newly available software monitoring tools, and increased access to third party financing.
In December of 2015, Congress renewed an important tax credit for solar, extending it through 2019, which means the solar boom is likely to remain strong throughout 2016 and beyond.
3. On-site electricity storage
The falling cost of batteries means that business can truly go “off the grid” in 2016. When coupled with an on-site generation solution, the building can shift electricity usage off of the grid when rates are higher, and instead draw from reserve energy stored in an on-site battery or fuel cell.
In 2016, the electric utilities will continue struggling to meet the growing demand using existing infrastructure. Because of this, many utility companies have switched to time-sensitive rate structures and charge more for electricity during times of peak demand. For businesses that draw a larger load of electricity during peak hours, on-site storage can provide substantial cost savings.
4. Water management
Water conservation and management will become a critical area of focus in 2016 as water prices are expected to rise. According to the EPA, 40 out of 50 US states expect to see water shortages over the next decade. Due to aging infrastructure, drought, and increased regulation, water prices have already increased an average of 40% since 2008; and they’re not declining any time soon.
Fortunately, water management can be a low cost/no cost way to reduce consumption, and there is a wide range of water-saving solutions that can generate thousands of dollars in annual savings.
5. Recycling and waste management
Until recently, recycling and waste management solutions were cost-prohibitive and often confusing. In 2016 we can expect some major changes in this sector, including more accessible programs and services that deliver a better value for the dollar spent. According to the Environmental Leader, “municipalities are already looking at how to consolidate the collection of waste across multiple categories. The result should be greater clarity for consumers on how and where to dispose of their waste.”