Five energy efficiency solutions to hasten the global energy transition

The World Economic Forum – in collaboration with PwC – published earlier this year a most interesting research paper on five technologies or measures that could save “up to $2 trillion per year” and slash global energy consumption by more than 30 percent.

This could make fossil fuels’ exit a much quicker one, how exciting ! This is the kind of magnititude and effort we need to actually halve greenhouse gases emissions as fast as we can. This could actually help the world become net zero by 2040.

For this week’s post, I delved into the solutions advocated in this new report :

1. Retroffiting buildings, this is no mystery to me as I wrote my Master’s thesis on this very topic almost 20 years ago (“tempus fugit” if you ask me). The massive potential savings in both residential and tertiary sectors have been well documented for quite a while now.

From homes to hospitals, from residential buildings to offices, the potential of insulation and weatherization is staggering, especially if we trap carbon by using nature-based materials such as wood, hemp, straw and many others.

2. Artificial Intelligence can finetune HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditionning) settings to the closest that is actually needed and thus lead to massive savings, up to 25% . To the research, payback time can be within a year.

If this might sound new to you, I have read case studies dating from 2020 of such technology use and one of the hospitals I happen to work with is already benefitting from AI to cut energy use. This will become mainstream in the next decade and this is really exciting. Be sure I’ll get back to that soon.

3. Electrifying (and automating) transport. While the benefits of going electric for buses and cars alike is well documented, I am more prone to push for electric assists bikes. (which outsell EVs in the United States, and I imagine in many other countries).

EVs may be four times more efficient than their ICE counterparts, but the balloooning size of cars undermine this. So, to me, electric cars are nice, but getting people to bike more would be so much better, more ebikes are needed and cycling infastructure needs to become much more common.

4. Reusing waste industrial heat is a massive economic opportunity as dozens of industrial processes in hundreds of plants around the world are just wasting ginormous amounts of heat. Some of which could be used to heat up entire cities in the colder months.

As I noted over a decade earlier in my book review of Crossing the Energy Divide, “The potential for such systems in the United States alone is about 100 GW of capacity, up to ten percent of the electricity capacity”. To a recent search paper, “at least 150 TWh per year of electricity could be generated by harvesting currently untapped thermal energy” in the European Union.

5. Industrial clusters are just the logical continuation of the previous element. Systems thinking just needs to become much more prevalent if we are to become much more energy and resource efficient.

To conclude on a personal note, I am quite happy to be directly working on four of these elements. Making the local hospitals and nursing homes is my priority and AI is a very promising mean that I will delve more and more in the near future. Urban heating networks are a great mean to heat dozens of places and hundreds of homes and are even better when using some waste industrial heat. Finally, getting some charging stations at our main sites is an endeavor I also work on.

Image credits : World Economic Forum and Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

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