Energy Efficiency Innovation
Innovation in product design and production processes can help us conserve energy, by developing:
- products that, when used, allow us to consume less energy to get the same level of service.
- products that require less energy to manufacture, deliver, maintain and eventually recycle.
Such innovation can be:
- Incremental - refinements to product design and production processes by the manufacturer, often in collaboration with component suppliers and customers.
- Radical - the development of new technology by universities and research centres, often in collaboration with manufacturers.
Drivers for innovation include:
- Increasing product functionality and attractiveness for users.
- Increasing worker productivity.
- More efficient use of energy, water, materials and other natural resources.
The need for energy efficiency is an important driver for innovation, because:
- There is a growing demand for energy efficiency due to increasing demand for energy services combined with the need to reduce greenhouse emissions, and other energy supply limitations (eg infrastructure).
- Many innovations that improve energy efficiency also bring a range of other benefits.
- The barriers to the development and application of energy efficiency technologies, are also barriers to innovation generally.
- Improvements in a region's innovation system - in the flow of ideas and information, in the application of human resources (more job opportunities), in awareness and development of emerging technologies, and in problem analysis and solution specification - facilitate both energy efficiency innovation and innovation more generally.
- Innovations, including those involving the development and application of new technology, have demonstrably improved human welfare in many cases, and are likely to do so in future, especially if carefully managed.
Energy Efficiency Technology
New, Demand-side Energy Efficiency Technology
Beyond 2010, there will be an increasing need to bring forward and deploy new and emerging energy efficiency technologies, products and services.
[Hence increased need for] Government funding for research, applied research, development and demonstration (RD&D) across a range of potentially high-impact energy efficiency technologies.
Government intervention is [needed] when the market is not delivering public policy goals as fast or as effectively as is needed. The rate of improvement of energy efficiency is one such case.
Government intervention [can] increase the rate of energy efficiency improvement - by creating more buoyant markets for energy-efficient products generally and through technology innovation specifically.
- Increase in the rate of energy efficiency technology innovation and commercialisation.
- Stimulate the transfer of investment from existing technologies and
products to the innovation and commercialisation of new and emerging
technologies and products.
- codes, standards and test procedures.
- product (or building) labelling in order to differentiate new product performance from old - and thereby begin the process of market transformation.
- minimum standards for products.
- higher quality standards for the product supply chain, including training for installers and specifiers.
Support for RD&D [can]:
- accelerate the natural process of market transformation.
- address gaps in the process, such as the current inadequate attention being paid to demonstrations, monitored trials and “learning by doing” projects.
- build confidence in the minds of product manufacturers and suppliers that a faster pace of technology innovation will bring them commercial returns at acceptable risk.
- Create a pipeline of energy efficiency technology RD&D opportunities.
- Increase the rate of deployment of existing technologies and measures.
- Provide a long term, stable signal to the market [to encourage]
private sector investments in RD&D and applied research leading
to new product development.
- emissions trading.
- building regulations.
- enhanced capital allowances.
- product standards.
- public procurement
- the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
- Incentivise product improvement and applied, commercially-driven
research with significant private investment.
- blue skies research grants.
- R&D grants.
- wider use of tax credits to stimulate incremental and step change R&D.
- incubator support.
- venture capital investment.
- sector technical and infrastructure support.
- demonstration projects.
- minimum standards.
- Develop the necessary skills at all levels to ensure the steps from design through installation to operation are not compromised.
- Encourage higher supply chain quality standards to improve consumer/customer confidence.
- Raise awareness, overcome myths and misunderstandings about the cost- effectiveness of energy efficiency technology.
- Provide support for training schemes for installers, specifiers, etc. allowances, product standards, public procurement, the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
- Boilers and steam systems. Requires technology push through applied R&D on boiler and burner design combined with technology pull in the form of regulation and development support.
- Advanced controls for buildings management systems including home networking systems. Requires technology push through demonstration schemes and technology pull through regulation.
- Advanced application of light emitting diodes (LEDs). Requires fundamental R&D followed later by regulation and government procurement policies.
- Dematerialisation / lightweighting and decarbonisation of products. Requires fundamental R&D as technology push followed by network support and information exchange.
Energy Efficiency as an Innovation Driver
Source: Innovation and Energy Efficiency - DOC - Alan Pears, Natural Edge Project, 2005
A stronger focus on energy efficiency as an objective within the innovation process would result in a higher rate of development of energy efficiency attributes in new products, technologies and systems.
It is often easier to incorporate energy efficiency improvement into systems during the RD&D and design phases than to adapt equipment or behaviour later.
A stronger focus on energy efficiency during the RD&D phases can lead to spin-off benefits by influencing other system features, or can help to justify more aggressive changes.
The emergence of a carbon-constrained global future means that countries that drive energy efficiency from a full lifecycle perspective and across the full range of activities will be well positioned for the future.
Most efforts to drive business innovation policy treat energy efficiency as a separate, and marginally relevant issue. Most energy efficiency programs do not focus on innovation, but analyse existing practices looking for marginal improvements. Both these approaches are inadequate.
The reality is that innovation and large energy efficiency improvements are inextricably interwoven. Energy efficiency involves people, systems, software, technology and organisations linked together in new ways.
[Australia should aspire to be a leader in energy efficiency technology development. Not just a fast follower, taking up such technologies when available.] [Otherwise] it will fail to capture significant innovation benefits, [and] lose the opportunity to improve competitiveness, create more employment and improve the environment.
In many cases, Australia is actually a world leader, or could become a world leader quite quickly if modest resources were committed.
In many cases, Australia is a world leader. For example, our appliance energy efficiency program is a world leader, as is the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating scheme for office buildings, and the Australian-designed Dishlex dishwasher was an energy efficiency leader for five years from 1995.
Or could become a world leader quite quickly if modest resources were committed.
Energy efficiency improvement can deliver a number of possible outcomes, including:
- doing the same task with less energy.
- using the same amount of energy but producing more useful product or higher value product.
- redefining the task so that it can be done in a way that uses less energy
Many innovation activities that aim to increase yield, reduce wastage, optimise performance, reduce material content, and so on also improve energy efficiency.
[The HiSmelt technology developed] by CSIRO and others to develop new metal smelting techniques are aimed at productivity improvement, utilisation of waste materials, and improved competitiveness through cost reduction, [also] uses 20% less energy than traditional steel making techniques.
A manufacturer of gearboxes for the automotive sector who replaces metal components with plastic not only reduces manufacturing energy, but also cuts resource consumption and improves vehicle fuel efficiency.
Raising the Bar - Industry Australia, 2006. How energy management, innovation and training in the beverage industry has delivered increased profits, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased productivity, enhanced safety, and positive cultural change.
Energy Efficiency Innovation Review: Summary Report - PDF - UK Treasury, December 2005
Energy Efficiency Best Practice Program - Industry Australia - The program, funded from 1998 to 2003, assisted companies in the baking, beverage and packaging, dairy, pulp and paper, resource processing, supermarkets, and wine industry sectors, to achieve energy efficiency through innovation and capacity building.
Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund - Promotes innovation in energy efficiency, renewable energy and water-saving technologies and practices. Provides funding to help offset the technical risks associated with developing, adapting or demonstrating new technologies or process improvements
Energy TechNet - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Energy US. Toolbox for energy technology development and commercialisation- idea development, market assessment, intellectual property protection, fund raising.
Inventions and Innovation - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy US.