Building Efficiency Now Biggest Business in Advanced Energy

March 10, 2015
Light bulbs and insulation may not be sexy. But it turns out building efficiency is the biggest business in advanced energy — despite all of the highfalutin power tech of today.

If there were any doubt that advanced energy has become big business — particularly building efficiency — a report out today puts it to rest.

With $199.5 billion in annual revenue, the advanced energy industry is now bigger than the airline industry, equal to pharmaceuticals, and nearly equal to consumer electronics in the United States, says the report commissioned by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE).

In fact, advanced energy  — clean and sophisticated approaches in power, fuels and transportation  — grew 14 percent last year. That’s five times the rate of the U.S. economy.

And saving energy, particularly in buildings, topped all advanced energy segments with $60.1 billion in revenue. This represents 43 percent growth over four years in the U.S.

“The report reinforces what we’ve known for a long time,” said Kevin Self, vice president strategy and corporate development, Johnson Controls. “Building efficiency is a critical and important growth sector because the outcomes, including reduced operating costs, reduced energy costs, greater reliability and resilience, are in high demand.”

Prepared by Navigant Research, the report pegs global revenue for advanced energy at nearly $1.3 trillion, up 12 percent over last year.

“We are seeing a transformation in the way we make, manage, and use energy in this country and around the world. This transformation is driven by dynamic changes in technology, policy, and markets,” said Graham Richard, AEE’s CEO, in the report’s foreword.

AEE looked at seven categories of energy: transportation, fuel production, fuel delivery, building energy efficiency, industry (including combined heat and power), electricity generation and electricity delivery and management.

Lighting worldwide winner

Worldwide, building efficiency ranked as the third largest segment of advanced energy. At $209.5 billion, it was up 40 percent since 2011 and 12 percent year-over-year. Building efficiency was bested by electricity generation and transportation in the global analysis.

Lighting represented the largest category — $103.6 billion —  in building efficiency globally.  Commercial energy efficient lighting earned $54 billion and residential $44 billion.

Improvements to building envelope represented the fastest growing market year-over-year in the global category. Up 18 percent, it netted $18.7 billion in 2014. Chief drivers were commercial and residential energy efficient retrofits, and zero net energy buildings, according to the report.

In the U.S., building envelope improvements represented the fastest growth segment of building efficiency, up 28 percent, with $9.3 billion from homes and $266 million from net zero buildings. Smart appliances more than doubled in 2014, to $465 million.

Disruptive energy trends

The rise of distributed generation marks one of the most important and disruptive energy trends, according to the report. It pegs the distributed energy market at $6.3 billion in the U.S. and $35 billion globally. Navigant included solar PV, small and me­dium wind, fuel cells, and natural gas generator sets in its DG calcualtions.

The U.S. dominated the microgrid market with $2 billion in revenue, representing 44 percent of the global revenue in 2014, and 21 percent year-over-year growth in the U.S.

The demand response industry also continued to be centered in the U.S., with a $1.25 billion in revenue in 2014 out of $2 billion worldwide.

Other notable findings for the energy efficiency, smart and disruptive energy sectors, include:

  • The building energy management systems (BEMs) market grew 44 percent in the U.S. from 2011 to 2014, and has now reached $1.1 billion. The US represents 38 percent of the global BEMS market.
  • The energy service company (ESCO) industry grew 10 percent to $611.2 million in the U.S. from 2013 to 2014. This doesn’t include ESCO-installed HVAC equipment ($4 billion nationally).
  • Industrial combined heat and power (CHP) saw five percent revenue growth in the U.S. year-over-year, and 216 percent over four years, reaching $3.2 billion in 2014. The U.S. is now 11 percent of the $28.5 billion global CHP market.
  • Industrial energy management system (IEMS) represent a $4 billion US market, up from $3.2 billion in 2011. Schneider Electric, Siemens, Invensys, and Rockwell Automation are leading suppliers. But large IT companies are making their way into the field, among them SAP and IBM
  • The home energy management systems (HEMS) market is seeing dramatic growth from $44 million in 2011 to $150 million in 2012, to an estimated $366 million in 2014.

Revenue is down 19 percent for hybrid vehicles in the U.S., but up 34 percent for plug-in electric vehicles year-over-year. EV charging station revenue grew 31 percent in the U.S., to $201.5 million, a seven-fold increase since 2011.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

Facebook:  Microgrids

ICT Visionary Q&A with Allen Griser, Chief Commercial Officer at Clearfield

Dec. 1, 2023
ICT Visionary Q&A with Allen Griser, Chief Commercial Officer, Clearfield

Download the full report.

Microgrid Implementation Challenges and Key Technologies

Schneider Electric identifies the main challenges faced during a microgrid project implementation and provides practical information for addressing them.