Danfoss's Envisioneering Symposium, held in June in Washington, DC, featured presentations and discussions related to the future development of energy efficiency technology, despite immediate and long-term obstacles.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, delivered the keynote address. Bingaman opened the discussion with a four-part proposal for making the U.S. more competitive in clean energy technology, by:

  • Renewing the commitment to clean energy research and development
  • Strengthening the domestic market for clean energy technologies
  • Expanding the financial infrastructure for investment incentives in clean energy products and equipment,
  • Promoting US manufacturing.

Robert Wilkins, Danfoss vice president for government affairs, outlined the new energy efficiency challenges facing the HVAC and building industries. He suggested a three-part approach:

  • Mapping the present situation
  • Looking at longer-term research being launched and what it might make possible
  • Exploring ideas surfacing in the marketplace to drive energy efficiency technology.

"Since 2008 we’ve witnessed an economic blitz, policy that has stalled, a House of Representatives that has changed hands, and a Senate that may yet," Wilkins said. "Progress will depend on exceptional leadership and industry creativity."

Stephen Yurek, CEO, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), described the evolution of efficiency standards. He said that although the U.S. has made strides with energy efficiency standards since the 1970s, it needs focus on a deeper problem: the concept of "Max Tech." Yurek said current equipment is approaching maximum levels of potential efficiency. Essentially, a natural cap exists, according to the laws of physics, on how much efficiency can be achieved with current HVACR product designs.

"A whole building systems approach would open a new range of possibilities. It would require a radical departure from most existing practices, and a fresh look at the way we approach standards," Yurek said.

David Kyle, vice chairman of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) board of directors, emphasized that only a small amount of energy efficient equipment currently installed is functioning at optimum performance levels.

"A lack of enforcement has resulted in equipment installation and maintenance that is frequently below par. In effect, the building industry has been suffering from the belief that that buying equipment meant getting efficient performance," Kyle said. He added that the key is to reward quality contractors if the goal is quality performance.

Creating the 'New Building'. Greg Dobbs of Penn State University outlined an even more radical approach to the future of buildings. Dobbs described the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) for energy-efficient buildings as an experiment into buildings of tomorrow. He said it’s a "vision rooted in whole building systems, highly professional building delivery and maintenance, and a new grid-building relationship."

GPIC is a joint project between Penn State and 22 other members funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It provides real-life demonstrations of integrated, whole building systems at The Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Strategies for Higher Efficiency. Reid Detchon, head of the Energy Future Coalition and vice president for energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation, outlined new opportunities for low-cost financing to support energy efficiency technologies.

BOMA International Vice President for Advocacy Karen Penafiel addressed the challenge of data acquisition on multi-tenant buildings and its link to broader building efficiency strategy issues.

"Under current regulations, tenants must give permission, for buildings to collect aggregate data, but tenants frequently either decline to have the data aggregated or cannot be reached," Penafiel said. "The ability to get this information could strengthen the argument for a whole building approach."

Eugene Smithart, director for systems and solutions at Trane, said the the longstanding challenge of "first cost" could be overcome with existing technology and a major dose of ingenuity.

As an example, Smithart outlined an ice-based approach to energy efficiency and energy savings. With this approach, a system uses a chiller to create ice overnight or during times of lower load, to be used with the chiller to cool the building throughout the day, reducing first costs, life-cycle costs and energy costs.

"If we as an industry can figure out a way to tie together first cost orientation, delivering on the promise of life-cycle costs through better education and accountability, and keeping that promise over the long run, we can achieve great strides— certainly, we will be a lot further along than we are today," said Danfoss North America President John Galyen, in closing remarks. envisioneering.danfoss.com

Danfoss Research Reveals 'Smart Grid' Communication Gap

People just aren't sure what the ‘smart grid’ is, and what it can do for them, according to a research report recently commissioned by Danfoss.

"Industry Research & Report: Smart Grid" summarizes the company's qualitative research on how building owners, engineers, and manufacturers view the smart grid.

The research — conducted by The Ivanovich Group, LLC — was designed to measure respondents’ understanding of the smart grid. It was based on responses by senior executives in facilities and plant services for industry, K-12 schools, university campuses, commercial offices and government facilities, as well as senior executives in engineering firms, and senior executives for HVAC product manufacturers.

"Survey responses indicate there is skepticism and still low awareness on what the smart grid is, what it can do and how much it will cost, which underscores the need for communication," says Robert Wilkins, vice president public affairs at Danfoss. "The report also highlights the obstacles and challenges that must be addressed by all stakeholders if we are to realize the benefits the smart grid offers, including multiple opportunities for reducing peak load."

Although most respondents believe that elements of the smart grid will be in place within three to five years, 43% feel it is unlikely the smart grid will be substantially complete in that same time frame. However, 52% of the participants, however, indicated that they’re currently engaged in some form of smart-grid activities.

The report says the value of the smart grid needs to be thoroughly communicated to better encourage building owners to act. At the same time, by increasing the channels of communication, utilities will learn about the unique wants, needs, and expectations of individual building owners, as each typically has a different set of motivators.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Building owners, engineers and manufacturers agreed on the top four motivators to invest in smart grid technologies – more effective communications from utilities; financial incentives; significant cuts to electricity rates; and security.
  • In addition to costs, respondents expressed concern about reliability and power quality.
  • HVAC manufacturers have assumed a leadership role in the development of the smart grid and relevant products.

To view the full report, visit http://bit.ly/danfossgridreport