"Energy efficiency" has become a buzzword term in environmental circles, and the public at large, for more than a decade.
It could mean many things to many people; it could be as simple as turning lights off when you're leaving the room, or putting the thermostat at a lower setting to conserve energy.
Of course, in a larger sense "energy efficiency" is a term thrown around by major corporations trying to make their products in a more environmentally-friendly way, and by architects and designers concerned about the future who are making buildings from the ground up that are much more economical in how they use energy than buildings were even 20 years ago.
But as often as we talk about "energy efficiency," there aren't really that many set guidelines on what makes something energy efficient. A private non-profit organization called the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
has decided to try to come up with a roadmap that examines what standards can be set in the future.
In mid-December ANSI announced the creation of the Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Collaborative
(EESCC), which will, according to their press release, "assess the energy efficiency landscape and carry out the development of a standardization roadmap and compendium, identifying gaps in existing standards, codes and conformance programs, and working to support the adoption and implementation of new standards, codes, and conformance activities that will advance energy efficiency.
Sounds like quite an ambitious goal, and one that is being supported by the U.S. Dept of Energy; the public sector co-chair of the EESCC is Benjamin Goldstein, a DOE official who has experience working with energy efficiency issues.
Jana Zabinski is a program manager for the Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Collaborative, and she explained to me exactly what the EESCC's goals are.
"The first thing to make clear is that we're not here to set standards," she said. "We are coordinating what standards are out there, and trying to create a roadmap. The reason for this roadmap is to help raise awareness of all the energy efficiency guidelines and programs that are out there. There are no shortage of activities that are available to the public, but do people know that they're out there? Hopefully this roadmap that our partners, and ANSI create, will be beneficial and show people what the standards are."
ANSI itself has been around for a long time; its mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and the American quality of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the integrity of the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.
Its membership is comprised of businesses, professional societies and trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, and consumer and labor organizations. The Institute represents the diverse interests of more than 125,000 companies and organizations and 3.5 million professionals worldwide.
Zabinski said the DOE first approached ANSI about creating a roadmap for energy efficiency after seeing ANSI's work in creating standards for electric vehicles, and other federal organizations, such as the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are also cooperating with the EESCC project.
To get the EESCC off the ground, ANSI is trying to bring together a coalition of public and private groups that will "ensure that important decisions on the future of energy efficiency are made through consensus and collaboration."
The first meeting took place last April, Zabinski said, with 240 people in the energy efficiency arena brought together, from both the public and private sector.
"We discussed what the scope and shape of this activity should be, and we kind of underscored the whole point of raising awareness of some of the different activities still out there," Zabinski said. "We saw the need to bring in a single focal point on energy efficiency standards."
To accomplish their objective, the EESCC will set up five Working Groups (WG's), which were created under the leadership of co-chairs from the public and private sectors to oversee areas of particular focus. These five groups are:
- Building energy and water assessment standards: This group will focus on diagnostic test procedures, as well as health and safety testing.
- Systems integration and communications: This work group will focus on encompassing communications between building automation/operation systems, equipment, and the electric grid.
- Building energy modeling, rating, and labeling: This group includes whole building modeling from design to construction and rating and labeling for energy performance.
- Evaluation, measurement, and verification: This group's work encompasses EM&V; energy performance metrics; and standardized and portable data collection and reporting.
- Workforce credentialing: This group's focus is on including standards for workforce training and certification programs, and workforce skills standards.
Zabinski stressed that while each group will be assessing current energy efficiency markers and standards, they have no interest in favoring one over another.
"We're not here to pick winners and losers," she said. "We're not going to set goals for the country to achieve. What we want to do is spotlight what's out there and try to make it coherent and easy to understand."
I asked Zabinski which manufacturing sectors could most be helped or hurt by the roadmap EESCC hopes to create.
"There's been quite a bit of interest (in EESCC) from the automation sector, although I think energy efficiency is applicable across all sectors," she said. "Data centers, commercial offices, we're all very energy intensive; there's always an opportunity to conserve our energy use."
The ultimate goal of EESCC is to develop a roadmap template, but also keep updating it on a regular basis.
"This is an evolving space, and obviously the first goal is to see the collaborative group meeting the goals we've set out for now, to develop the roadmap," Zabinski said. "But I'd also like to make this a living source of information so that within a couple of years, the roadmap will continue to evolve and address the needs of energy efficiency."
Phase one of the project will be focusing on the built environment, with the completed EESCC report due in 12-18 months.
Funding for EESCC's work will come from the collaborative, Zabinski said, saying "moderate fees" will come from the organizations and entities that have a stake in the matter, through participation in the project.
The next meeting of EESCC will be Jan. 22-23 in Virginia, with ANSI hoping many new companies decide to join the project. Prospective EESCC members may also participate in the EESCC's initial WG web meetings in order to better understand the benefits of participation in the collaborative. For more information on taking part in the web meetings as a prospective member, contact email@example.com