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Big Data and Energy Efficiency

June 16, 2020 • Zachary Amos


Sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s minds lately. It’s a necessary step for individuals, businesses and governments across the globe to protect the environment. One way to help this movement is by improving energy efficiency. Most commonly, urban buildings take up significant portions of energy that ultimately go to waste. However, big data can help. When big data and energy efficiency work together, cities can improve their sustainability.

Energy Efficiency Issues

Energy efficiency is a serious concern for many locations throughout the world. Cities, in particular, contribute to a high rate of energy emissions. In fact, urban regions make up about 75% of energy emissions in the world. The focus for cities should now be how to best lower that percentage. 

Since urban areas consist of corporate and residential buildings as well as schools, restaurants, small businesses and other public buildings, 75% makes sense. These facilities use primary energy sources, water and electricity. Too often, these resources go to waste, though.

This energy then turns into costs — much of which can decrease with the right measures. Something as expansive and powerful as big data has arrived at the right time.

How Big Data Can Help

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the digital network that connects any device that uses the internet. As it expands, its devices compile and transmit more and more data — big data is then the extremely large and complex datasets that emerge from these devices. Almost all tech will result in some form of data, even from the smallest actions like online purchases and energy usage.

Within energy efficiency, big data can operate through cloud-based programs, mobile devices and any tech-based resource. It gathers intelligence based on energy usage, measurements and spending. From there, homeowners or business owners can respond quickly when they see fluctuations in energy efficiency and spending. In terms of a business example, Google has implemented big data in its environmental projects.

Big data allows users to benchmark their progress with energy usage. They can replace wasteful lightbulbs with LED ones, opt for power-saving devices and things like automatic light switches. Once their energy bills start decreasing, they will see how big data is what leads to this environmentally and budget-friendly change.

Big Data for Sustainability

Some changes are subtle and effective, like replacing lightbulbs and light switches. Other changes, however, are more drastic, like switching to renewable energy sources. Solar and wind are leading the sustainable energy sector. As they do, their prices continue to drop, which makes investing more and more plausible.

Big data can then help these renewable sources themselves. One of the biggest qualms people have with switching to wind or solar is the unpredictable weather patterns. Now, big data is making it easier as it can use data and insights to predict patterns — a feature that will help store and use energy appropriately and efficiently.

Challenges of Implementation

For big data to successfully help energy efficiency, it will need to overcome three different challenges. First, homeowners and business owners will need to normalize the transitions. Using big data for energy needs to be a common practice within urban cities. After that, the next transition is working with materials and resources that waste less energy.

This obstacle ties in directly with the next — value. How will people invest in big data for energy? If they see that the return on investment (ROI) and savings are beneficial. The desire to help the environment alone isn’t enough — big data needs pricing on its side.

Last, with data comes privacy issues. The security of any big data that contains personal information will come into question. If big corporations own this data, how can individuals ensure that they handle it correctly? Privacy guidelines will need to be explicit and secure.

The Path Towards Energy Efficiency

Each step of the way, big data can help reduce energy emissions and increase efficiency. With monitoring energy usage, big data monitors spending. With the switch to renewable energy, big data optimizes storage and usage. As more and more cities invest, the path that combines big data and energy efficiency becomes the solution.