Every year, at 8:30 pm local time on the last Saturday of March, millions of people across the world join in raising awareness of the issues facing our planet for Earth Hour. Started by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and partners as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, the event is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment.
However, Earth Hour goes far beyond the symbolic action of switching off lights – it has become a catalyst to reflect on ways we can create a positive environmental impact by reducing our energy usage and driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action.
It’s well known that innovation in smart technology is already significantly improving countless parts of society. Indeed, the benefits of using smart meters to monitor and reduce our energy use has been well documented. Looking at the four groundbreaking examples below, we also wanted to detail some of the ways that smart tech can help slash how much power we use as a society.
Charging Electric Vehicles in off-peak periods
Electric vehicle (EV) use is gathering pace around the world. In fact, Western Europe saw a new record number of registrations of battery electric vehicles in December 2020. And, with governments across the world banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from as early as 2030, this trend towards electric vehicles is only expected to rise.
Obviously, the drive towards EVs is great news for the environment, as it reduces our dependence on the scarcest fossil fuels. However, this is not the only benefit when it comes to saving energy. The connected nature of these cars also enables consumers to set up a mode that means their EV only charges during off-peak energy usage times, putting a lower load on the grid for energy manufacturers, while also providing cost savings as a bonus for consumers. In fact, it is estimated that off-peak charging would cost consumers £110 a year to power their car, versus £280 for charging at peak times – a significant saving.
With a smoother and more predictable energy demand curve, energy companies are also able to boost the proportion of green energy in total energy production.
Smart factories tweaking their power load
Industry at large can also benefit from the introduction of smart technology. By using IoT sensors, for example, companies can collect detailed analytics and enable real-time monitoring to track energy consumption. With this data in hand, factory owners can see in real-time when energy spikes are occurring, predict seasonal demand, and can help determine if there are any ‘energy leakages’.
One practical example of these sensors in action can be seen by looking at the example of the Schneider Electric factory in Kentucky. Through IoT analytics, it achieved a 12% reduction in energy consumption over the course of three years. Using IoT-enabled energy monitoring allowed them to solve issues that were core to hindering the plant from its real energy conservation efforts. In turn, this not only saved the company money but also paved the way for the true implementation of Industry 4.0 and the predictive maintenance of machinery.
Heating and cooling systems that learn your movements
Smart heating and cooling controls are the unsung heroes of energy savings in the workplace and in the household. With geolocation sensors embedded inside, many of these devices switch off the heating or air conditioning automatically when people aren’t using a room.
In addition, these energy management systems learn household and workplace schedules and adjust heating routines accordingly, as well as showing consumers how much energy they’ve saved through heating controls. Personalising the amount of heat or air conditioning needed based on demand in each operational area can save a lot of energy and money.
Smart grids to help reduce energy wastage
Smart grids can be truly transformative in the way we manage energy consumption and will be a key component of the EU’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.
By enabling a two-way flow of electricity and data, smart grids can detect, react to and predict changes in usage and multiple issues. Not only do these grids allow a more efficient transmission of electricity, but they also provide a quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances, and reduced operations and management costs for utilities – ultimately lowering power costs for consumers, who can track their energy use in real-time via a smart meter.
By looking at these four innovative ways to save and better manage energy use, it’s clear to see how the IoT is having a truly transformative impact on industry, businesses and our home lives in a variety of important ways. This will not only benefit manufacturers and consumers but also society as a whole, as we can rely on more personalised energy use and analytics to save money and to limit our impact on the environment. It will be fascinating to watch as the energy industry truly transforms in the coming years.