Looking Ahead to 2020 in the World of Energy Efficiency and New Technologies

December 16, 2019
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Here we are, with just two weeks until the end of the year. The introspections that come with the dawning of a new calendar year intensify when the year is a milestone at the beginning of a new decade as well.

Last century’s decade of “The 20s” was such a time of change and iconic imagery, the term conjures images of flapper dresses, speakeasies, and the Roadster/ Speedster stretched autos of their time. It spurs the imagination and the question: what will the new 20’s bring? From an energy efficiency standpoint, we are at the edge of potentially watershed changes in technology and attitudes.

For fun, here are my predictions for the changes that may happen in the 2020’s in macro-actions and technology that could change our world for the better:

  1. Computers will take over managing building maintenance.

Sensors have come a long way since the motion detector was invented in the 1950s. With computer technology running almost everything already from our lawn sprinklers to our door bells, the completely automated building is not too far off. Sensors that will be able to proactively warn of HVAC or manufacturing system failure will save millions in productivity. Wired buildings will also be able to save on utility bills as well as comfort and indoor air quality will be monitored by advanced detection of temperature, carbon monoxide/ dioxide, and airflow just to name a small handful.

  • Advances in technology will lead to efficiency gains in buildings.

The building design and construction industries are facing advances in technology which will initiate the largest change to a market that has remained, for the most part, in stasis for decades. We now have better ways to design, build, automate, cool and heat buildings that are unprecedented. As labor shortages in construction spur the industry to automate – wall panelization, 3D printing whole buildings, HVAC automation – and produce needed housing and commercial structure faster than ever.  With this productivity gain energy efficiency will become more affordable and gain new ground.

  • A new type of renewable energy will finally make clean energy king.

Solar has taken some hits relative to its potential in the last few years. Funds have dried up around the country; and economic policy has made installation more costly for end users. But what if I told you an upcoming type of material is gaining traction in research labs and may be hitting the market soon? In this fine piece from Forbes comes information on the dawning of the age of perovskite solar cells. “Their high absorption coefficient enables ultra-thin films of around 500 nm (one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter, or 0.000000001 m) to absorb the complete visible solar spectrum.” The article goes further to predict that “this new technology will leave traditional solar panels in the dust.” I do indeed concur.

  • Younger generations are going to push the private sector towards more Earth stewardship.

Call me naïve, but it really seems like our youth are going to save us from ourselves. A movement is gaining traction, and not just because Greta Thunberg made the cover of Time Magazine as their Person of the Year, but because she’s just the face of a movement to push our broad civilization towards sustainability. Watch out world – you will finally have some serious caretakers. So, private businesses, take heed: integrating corporate responsibility will become more important than ever in your company practices and philanthropy.

This is just a tip of the future’s iceberg. Have some more? Leave them in our comments section.

And have a Happy – and Innovative – New Year!