In recent decades, energy has become one of the most important resources for humanity. However, the lack of attention to the subject has created a pressing need to review the current energy use in order to optimize its consumption without lowering our quality of life. Numerous solutions have been proposed to address the issue. The paper outlines the most feasible approaches to improving the Energy plan by increasing the proportion of renewable energy in the energy mix and reducing demand for energy in the construction and transportation industries.
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Two overall directions are considered viable in the energy plan optimization process. The first direction is the reduction of the demand for energy. The proposed change can be achieved by implementing a number of innovative solutions in the construction industry. One such innovation is AERspire, a roofing technology implemented as a part of the AER II cross-border project. The project provides a roofing solution that is both visually pleasing and highly functional. The system uses photovoltaic elements integrated into glass panels that are capable of producing electricity sufficient for powering an average household. In addition, AERspire uses solar thermal heat to provide the supply of hot water necessary for personal means (InnoEnergy, n.d.). The installation process begins with the assessment of the power requirements of a specific household, after which a certain amount of photovoltaic elements is installed. The remaining space is then filled with dummy panels to ensure an aesthetically pleasing result. The described modular system provides the necessary flexibility and visual attractiveness for the consumers, promoting the adoption of green energy use while simultaneously redistributing energy load more evenly across the system.
Another consumer-level solution is Plactherm, a smart floor heating system included in SMEInst-09-2016-2017 initiative as an energy consumption reduction technology. Plactherm uses an automated, remotely-controlled system operated through a cloud-based application for maintaining a stable room temperature that is adjusted according to a set of factors. The solution is oriented primarily at offices and similar environments designed to contain a large number of people. The heating element is made in the form of a floor tile with embedded sensors and is compatible with a number of energy sources, including renewable ones (Plactherm, n.d.). Most importantly, the system is capable of creating several thermal zones within a single space. These zones are individually configurable and can be adjusted automatically, creating a highly adjustable energy consumption plan. According to the estimates, the consumption of energy for heating purposes can be reduced by up to 30% as a result of Plactherm installation (Plactherm, n.d.). In addition, an individualized climate enhances the quality of workplace conditions, increasing the possibility of adoption.
The third technology suggested for energy demand reduction is OGGA, an intelligent consumer-level energy management solution included in a Smart Buildings Alliance for Smart Cities program. An OGGA unit includes a thermostat, energy meter, and a circuit breaker that connects heating and lighting systems to the grid. The purpose of OGGA is to optimize energy consumption by disabling unnecessary devices or reducing their operational capacity to nominal levels (OGGA, n.d.). The system has two main advantages over competing solutions. First, the energy consumption control is facilitated using smart adaptive technologies that determine optimal distribution based on the behavior of the residents, which maximizes its efficiency. Second, the unit is designed with simplicity and accessibility in mind, which results in a relatively low cost and improves the appeal of the technology to wider audiences. Admittedly, it is difficult to estimate the average percentage of energy savings due to a large number of variables. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect a significant reduction in individual energy consumption, especially considering the automated principle of operation.
Finally, it is possible to suggest innovative insulation solutions as a part of an energy plan. One of the possible candidates is the Active Insulation technology, a system of adjustable insulation panels that change their thermal conductivity based on external conditions. A channel structure embedded in insulation panels allows controlling the environment inside the building based on the difference between internal and external temperature (“Active insulation,” n.d.). Once a sufficient difference is detected, the channels are opened via a forced ventilation switch, effectively disabling an insulation effect and, as a result, normalizing the temperature without the use of external power sources. Importantly, the described principle works in both directions, ensuring heating or cooling of the environment depending on preset conditions and resident preferences. The use of Active Insulation decreases the need for additional heating equipment and, perhaps more importantly, mitigates heat from internal sources, minimizing the need for air conditioning and, by extension, reducing the demand for energy.
It should be noted that the proposed technologies are used as examples since the market provides a much wider array of innovative solutions for reducing energy demand in the construction industry. It is also worth noting that all of the options described above are consistent with the emerging trend of power grid decentralization, which gradually gains momentum among individuals and corporate entities (Sorrell, 2015). Thus, it is reasonable to expect that at a certain point, they will be used in combination, ensuring exponential growth in the energy-saving domain.
The second direction is the increase of renewable energy proportion in the energy mix. The increasingly rapid depletion of resources necessitates a solution that would allow for sustainable sources, thus ensuring long-term development. The transportation sector offers great potential in this regard. The recent advancements in the domain of electric vehicles (EVs) allow both individuals and organizations to switch to electricity as a main source of power. Admittedly, some electric power plants still run on fossil fuels. However, it is possible to expect that in the long run, the mass adoption of EVs will boost the demand for cleaner energy sources, thus contributing to the cause.
Several approaches can be identified that are expected to facilitate development in the desired direction. The first approach has been incorporated as a component of green building philosophy and includes several interconnected principles. One of the most recognizable features of green construction is the reliance on green energy in powering the facilities. The progress made in the field of renewable energy generation is especially prominent in the area of solar panel design, where the latest generation of hardware allows for the highly efficient conversion of solar energy into electricity. In addition, solar energy does not require additional space since it can be mounted directly on the structure, which, in the cases of small-scale buildings is sufficient for powering the entire house (Kibert, 2016). This principle has been developed into an independent concept of solar architecture – an approach in which the exposure to the Sun is included in the design process as a source of clean renewable energy. Solar architecture incorporates multiple aspects that differ in complexity, cost, and efficiency (Kibert, 2016). Thus, it is reasonable to acknowledge these principles in order to achieve a sufficient increase in renewable sources in the energy mix.
Another aspect of resource use covered by the green building approach that may contribute to renewable energy adoption is water consumption. It has been established that water consumption by an average household can be reduced at least twofold as a result of innovative approaches and technologies (Kibert, 2016). First, the water heating process can be optimized through various automated solutions such as an adaptive heating unit that estimates the need for hot water and adjusts power distribution accordingly, thus reducing waste of energy. On an industrial level, it is also possible to introduce designs that would require a minimum amount of water for heating, thus driving energy consumption down. Finally, the issue of using drinking water for non-consumption purposes can be addressed through innovative design solutions. For example, it is possible to install reservoirs that would allow collecting and storing greywater as well as runoff from external surfaces and using it for irrigation and technical reuse. When implemented at the industry level, the proposed approach will eventually result in the reduced waste of resources and, by extension, increase the percentage of renewable energy in the energy mix. It is also worth mentioning that this approach is consistent with the goals of Water Security Strategy 2036. Specifically, the introduction of water-saving designs and tactics is expected to contribute to the total demand for water resources as well as increase the water productivity index by improving its reusability capacity. As a result of decreased consumption, it is also possible to expect a reduction in water scarcity in the long term.
Currently, energy is one of the most valuable resources on the planet. Its availability and quality determine the possibility of further development of science and technology. The implementation of the outlined innovative solutions is expected to optimize the current energy generation and consumption process in order to ensure its sustainability and efficiency.
Active insulation. (n.d.). Web.
InnoEnergy. (n.d.). AERspire. Web.
Kibert, C. J. (2016). Sustainable construction: Green building design and delivery (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
OGGA. (n.d.). Heating management. Web.
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Plactherm. (n.d.). Product. Web.
Sorrell, S. (2015). Reducing energy demand: A review of issues, challenges and approaches. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 47, 74-82.