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A Google Earth for energy efficiency?

A company in the United States aims to provide a visual heat map of the entire nation, using techniques similar to Google Earth. Essess is featured in a BBC video, in which the company’s CEO Tom Scaramellino, explains its rationale and methods:

“About 30 per cent of a building’s total energy use ends up getting lost”.

An unfortunate choice of words; energy is never ‘lost’ and efficiency in this sector is more about making sure more energy is used on-site for the purposes it was intended, reducing bills and emissions. But innovation is certainly necessary to tackle the leaky buildings in every part of the world.

This kind of advanced information-gathering does come with responsibilities. With the advent of smart metering, arguments about whether utilities or technology companies should own and manage the data are academic next to concerns about ensuring that citizens’ right to privacy is maintained, and that data is proofed against outside attack or acquisition. While some may object to the idea of ‘energy snooping’ on the streets, more important is what’s done with the information after it’s gathered.

There is no doubt that better data is an important tool in tackling the huge number of energy inefficient homes - and visual representation of where the work needs to be done can be extremely helpful. Our Home Analytics programme provides geographical data - minus cameras on cars that the US scheme employs.

Unlike the ‘Google Earth’ approach, Home Analytics uses no personal information, instead employing statistical modelling from deep analysis of a range of data sets. And the near perfect accuracy of the data works hugely in the favour of successful Green Deal and ECO schemes, solar installations and other local retrofit initiatives.

Collecting and presenting data can be a double-edged sword but one thing’s certain - our chances of cutting carbon and bills at an affordable cost is increased by using accurate, detailed information. 

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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