Digitalization could take a big ‘byte’ out of energy demand


Innovations have an abundance of applications in transportations, buildings and industry, says IEA

It could be smart thermostats, daylighting sensors, drone deliveries or autonomous trucks.

Digital innovations are already in widespread use among energy demand sectors, with more coming up rapidly on the horizon.

In a recent report, Digitalization and Energy 2017, the International Energy Agency (IEA) looked at the new digital age, and its potential impact on transportation, buildings and industry.

Eco light dashboard

Transportation: The road to efficiency

The transportation sector now accounts for 28% of the world’s final energy demand, and 23% of CO2 emissions caused by fuel combustion.

Digital technologies are helping to improve energy efficiency and reduce maintenance costs—think reduced fuel usage in aviation, optimization of shipping routes, and greater connectivity via satellite communications.

Digitalization could revolutionize the way people and goods are moved. According to the IEA, applying digital solutions to truck operations and logistics could reduce energy use in road freight by 20 to 25%. But the potential for improved efficiency will depend on consumer behavior, government policy and vehicle technology.

Buildings: Predicting energy performance

Buildings are, to put it bluntly, energy hogs. They take up 55% of global electricity demand, and they’ve accounted for 60% of the world’s electricity consumption growth over the past 25 years.

Digitalization, in the form of smart thermostats and smart lighting, could cut total energy use in buildings by as much as 10% between now and 2040.

And by using real-time data and machine learning algorithms to monitor and predict the energy performance of buildings, there’s potential for big energy savings.

Digital buildings

Industry: Revved up on robotics

Industry accounts for 24% of the world’s total CO2 emissions, and 38% of global final energy consumption.

Historically, digitalization has boosted both safety and productivity. In the future, the combination of smart sensors and data analytics may predict equipment failure, while advanced process controls may create further energy savings.

Iindustrial robots and 3D printing are becoming standard practice — a recent study found that by using lighter 3D printed components in the American airline industry, the U.S. fleet could reduce overall fuel use by as much as 6.4%.

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