Energy efficiency has become one of the most important trends of the 21st century, and rightfully so. One one hand, there are rising concerns about the reserves and limited capabilities of traditional sources and increasing environmental awareness. On the other hand, improving energy efficiency will save money, help protect the environment, create new jobs, spur economic growth and improve security of supply by reducing Europe’s dependency on imported fossil fuels. In the envisioned energy efficient Europe of the future, new technologies will have a big role to play. Information and Communication Technologies with all their recent technological advances, can play a central role in ensuring energy efficiency.
According to the European Commission’s Communication ‘Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy’, adopted in 2010, is aiming at reducing energy consumption across the EU-27 by 20 % by 2020. This goal is going to be achieved by actions in energy efficiency, infrastructure and technology, as well as choice and security for consumers. ‘Dumb energy’, squandered carelessly at the flick of a light switch or the rev of a car engine, will be replaced by ‘smart energy’, enabled by ‘information and communication technologies’ (ICTs) that allow consumers to closely monitor their consumption and energy suppliers to more efficiently meet demand.
Smart metering and smart grids are two systems through which this drive towards energy efficiency can reach its potential. And they are based on the evolution of ICTs. Smart metering systems for electricity are a big step towards energy efficiency and have been shown to cut annual household energy consumption by up to 10%. Estimates also suggest that smart electricity grids, currently at the pilot project stage, could reduce CO2 emissions in the EU by between 9 and15% and reduce primary consumption by the EU energy sector by almost 9% by 2020.
The ‘Future Internet for Smart Energy’ (FINSENY) project is specifically tackling this energy-information integration, bringing together key actors from the energy and ICT sectors to identify the ICT requirements of smart energy systems. The researchers are planning a trial of how a future ICT-enabled smart grid might work. In a similar vein, the ‘Internet of Energy for Electric Mobility’ (IoE) project is developing hardware, software and middleware for seamless, secure connectivity and interoperability by connecting the internet with energy grids, primarily with the aim of enabling the widespread use of electric vehicles. Project such as these, already underway at least in a pilot stage, could achieve the goal of an energy efficient Europe through the implementation of ICT progress.
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