Energy management: What you need to know

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As more and more states commit to clean energy targets or emission reduction goals, there’s an entirely new category of products dedicated to providing you with more control over how and when you use electricity. Once more of our appliances, and cars become electrified, it will be important for you to have improved insight into your energy usage and a way to take control of it. We'll cover what energy management is and why it’s so important for meeting clean energy and emission reduction targets. 

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Did you know?

  • Energy management includes monitoring and control of your home's energy.

  • Energy management can help the U.S. more easily, quickly, and affordably reach its climate targets.

  • Energy management systems work best when paired with solar and storage.

  • Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to compare multiple quotes for solar or solar-plus-storage systems.

Energy management might sound complex, but at its core, it's quite simple: It's a system designed to allow you to manage your energy usage. Energy management systems are slightly different from energy efficiency upgrades. Traditionally, energy efficiency programs could best be described as passive, while energy management is active. Energy efficiency measures focus on ways to reduce your energy consumption without changing your usage habits. For instance, if you replace an older, incandescent light bulb with an LED bulb instead, you’ll use significantly less electricity even if you keep the light on for the same amount of time as you did before.

While energy management systems do often come with some passive savings (by noticing and shutting off vampire loads, for instance), they focus more on actions that you can take to manage how much energy you use and when. At the end of the day, both energy efficiency and home energy management systems will save you money–and should probably be installed together to maximize your savings! However, for a system to truly be considered an energy management system, it must consist of two key components: monitoring and controls

1. Monitoring

The first piece of a home energy management system is monitoring. Monitoring consists of all types of products that can track your energy usage, or consumption, whether it’s at the whole home level or each individual outlet in your house. At its core, monitoring systems are all about visibility, giving you a window into the four questions of energy usage: how much are you using, which appliances are using the most, when are you using it, and how much are you spending on each appliance? Different types of energy monitors provide different levels of detail into your energy consumption.

2. Controls

Consumption monitoring is only as useful as what you do with that visibility into your home: You need to have control to get the most out of it. Controls are any type of system that allows you to not just see which appliances or circuits are using electricity, but to proactively change that usage. The simplest form of a control system is a power strip with an on-off switch. When you turn off a power strip, you’re controlling the consumption of anything plugged into that device. These days, controls are much smarter than a switch on a power strip. Different companies offer devices that allow you to control electricity at the circuit level or even at the individual plug level.

If you’re a solar owner, you’ll also want to make sure you have a production tracking system to help you follow how much solar energy your panels are producing. Your installer will set you up with an app run by your solar inverter manufacturer, which can often be upgraded to include consumption tracking as well. Be sure to ask your installer if that’s a possibility with your setup. If you're considering adding storage to a new or existing solar panel system, an energy management system is essential to unlock the full value of your battery.

Energy management systems are a crucial component of the clean energy future: They’re effectively the final piece of the puzzle that helps home and business owners alike to integrate all of their different energy systems under one umbrella. By providing both insights into what you use in addition to the controls to act on those insights, energy management systems open the door to optimizing how you use electricity, where it comes from, and how much you’ll spend on it. Why this is so important requires a quick primer on the steps required to reach existing clean energy and emission reduction targets.

Climate-focused targets and goals require sector-wide energy transitions

Today’s clean energy and emission reduction targets have one primary aim: to power as many things as possible with zero-emitting clean energy technologies. From homes to businesses, from vehicles to trains, and from industrial processes to manufacturing lines, these targets hope to reduce carbon emissions across all sectors of the economy. 

To do so requires electrification: the process of converting fossil fuel-powered processes into electric-powered ones. For instance, this could involve swapping out a natural gas (or oil or propane) heating system for an electric air source heat pump, or it could involve swapping your gasoline-powered internal combustion engine car for an electric vehicle.

Electrifying everything cleanly requires (a lot) of energy

Electrification alone isn’t enough to reach clean energy and emission reduction targets: The electricity that powers everything will also need to be clean and zero-emitting. If we truly “electrify everything”, the increased demand for electricity from these additional sources will be significant. A 2020 study from Cal Berkeley found that an aggressive electrification scenario would mean the US will require 90% more power than it did in 2018! 

Meeting that additional electricity demand will require a significant buildout of new power plants in the US, which is a great opportunity to deploy a greater volume of renewable energy resources on a very large scale. Distributed energy resources–like the solar panels you put on your roof–very much have a role to play, too: By offsetting your electricity usage at the point of your demand (i.e., at your home or business), you can help reduce the potential stress on the grid that electrifying everything could cause.

Energy management offers the most efficient (and lowest cost) path to clean energy targets

This is where energy management comes into play: Energy management systems allow you to get the most out of your home’s energy usage, out of a solar panel installation, and, most importantly, out of a battery. With an energy management system, you can “right size” your solar and storage system, enabling them to work smarter–not harder!–to meet the increased demand from other home electric upgrades.

Energy management systems work best when paired with solar and storage! On the EnergySage Marketplace, you'll receive custom quotes for solar or solar-plus-storage systems from vetted installers. Sign up today to compare your options and go solar with confidence!

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