Sustainability Trends in the Energy Sector to Watch

Back in the 1970s when alternative power sources like solar energy and wind power were more expensive and environmental issues did not garner mainstream attention, the concept of sustainability was hardly given a second thought. However, with the appearance of climate issues in recent years and the push towards industries that positively contribute to environmental measures, sustainability in energy has become an industry onto itself that is set to dramatically change the landscape. While the aftereffects of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference remain to be seen, approximately 74% of those surveyed by Ethical Corporation believe that sustainable development goals can be achieved by 2030 in the extractive industry. As our expectations and growth models continue to adjust to the future world, here are some key ways that sustainability will be broached in the coming years.

Advanced Building Controls

It’s no surprise that technological advancement is sticking its neck out to improve the outlook for electricity use in the future and enable smarter building solutions. As it stands, buildings consume approximately 42% of the electricity in the world and produce up to 38% of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Fortunately, there are now smarter solutions for monitoring the systems of a building and its flow of energy, which can help to prevent outages and will also work to manage energy use. In the long term, these types of smart systems that are automated and self-monitoring will be able to identify issues before they become significant problems. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has been around since the early 2000s, but in these times its ethos have really taken off, particularly at the University of Buffalo where more than 210 power meters have been installed that enable the university to better manage power consumption. The internet-based nature of this system enables many users to review the energy consumption data, so that all can be a part of conservation measures for long-term savings.

Emphasis on Alternative Energy

The push towards alternative energy sources that produce no carbon dioxide emissions has long been a matter of great consideration around the world, but with the fall of oil prices, the power of wind and solar energy are being unleashed as useful, sustainable resources that represent the future. Because government subsidies around the world have encouraged the creation of alternative energy, the cost of solar energy and the batteries used to store it has actually decreased in recent years, making it a much more solid investment than it was in the 1970s.  While there is still much that is unknown and uncommon about the use of these alternative energy sources, the use of solar power has doubled seven times since the year 2000 and - in the same period - wind power has doubled four times, proving that forms like these will offer solid investment potential for those leaning away from traditional forms. As of 2013, more than 140 countries had a renewable energy target to reach with China making up 21% of the world’s renewable energy investment. Of course, Germany’s recent growth in this direction is even more admirable, with more than 80% of its generating capacity in the last decade coming from renewable sources.

Sustainable Urban Planning

The city is the centerpiece of modern life, and – as a result – its creation and infrastructure is responsible for the way we live our daily lives and the choices we make that will impact its sustainability over time. While urban planning was once focused more on accessibility and outward development, planning for neighborhoods that offer a multitude of transportation options and alternatives to vehicle ownership are key to a more environmentally friendly and functioning city. Beyond the creation and completion of progressive buildings that function in an optimized manner, areas like green spaces, urban landscapes, waterways and pedestrian-only streets serve a sense of overall community well-being and retain the ethos of a balanced, forward-thinking center. As many popular metropolitan centers are expecting significant growth in the coming years, urban planning that takes sustainability into consideration means that density and growth will be considered through the construction of multi-use housing and community-centric living spaces. While growth is necessary for any metropolitan center in the post-modern era, the urban planning mandates of today mean that it cannot eat away at the fabric of what creates a balanced community.

Integrated Energy Retrofits

As businesses look for ways to conserve energy in the short term in order to save money and be environmentally conscious in the long term, many organizations are looking at deep energy retrofits for their buildings to improve their efficiency. While conventional energy retrofits were quite common in the past, deep energy retrofits have become more popular with the rise of climate issues since they can reduce consumption by up to 30% and increase the value of a building in the long run. From the mechanical and ventilation systems to moisture management and solar energy, this kind of upgrade is comprehensive and takes in all the operating systems of a building. While this type of upgrade is better for the environment and overall energy use, it’s also been proven to reduce the number of sick days that employees take and can increase the overall happiness and productivity of an office. An example of how cost effective this can be is the Empire State Building in New York City, which underwent its very own deep energy retrofit in 2013. The projected energy reduction of the retrofit was 38% annually, which equates to about 4.4 million in savings each year.

There are many changes on the horizon that need to be made in order for our world to effectively combat environmental issues, but many of these changes that are set to reduce energy emissions and provide alternate sources of energy are beginning to see the light of day. From smart buildings with integrated technology to those that prioritize the power of sustainable urban planning, there are set to be many shifts towards a world that uses technology in a sustainable, progressive way.  



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