In addition to conducting research and presenting on recent market developments in energy storage for PG&E, NRDC, and ICF Consulting (on behalf of EPA ENERGY STAR), Ecos Research had the opportunity to engage on this topic internationally in early 2019. Chris Calwell received a Fulbright Specialist award from the US State Department to conduct the following research with partner organization CSIRO in Australia:
Conducted market research into available federal and state incentives in Australia for residential energy storage and any relevant performance specifications battery systems must meet in order to qualify for them.
Reviewed available residential solar and battery sizing and payback calculators to better understand which aspects of battery performance materially impact the financial attractiveness of competing systems.
Investigated other performance testing efforts and product reviews currently underway in Australia to understand which aspects of battery performance are already well understood, and which aspects are not currently being tested or considered when specifying and installing competing products.
Developed a prioritized short list of battery systems to test among those already on-hand at CSIRO.
Developed a prioritized list of tests to conduct on those battery systems, focusing initially on what testing can be conducted quickly with present CSIRO facilities and capabilities, but also including recommendations on longer term testing needs that may require associated capital expenditures in a future budget cycle.
Worked with CSIRO staff to conduct initial tests on a subset of those battery systems.
Developed a Powerpoint presentation summarizing key findings from testing to date, and illustrating how the different measured test results for battery systems would impact the payback times for competing products.
Tesla Battery with Heat Escape
Home Battery Storage Systems
A Look into the Market, Their Energy Efficiency and Performance
This report for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), funded by a grant from the US EPA, looks at emerging residential battery systems that can provide backup power, store and reclaim excess solar energy, and offer reserve grid capacity to a utility or third party.
While these systems are in the very early stages of adoption, with only a few thousand units installed to date nationally, the number of installations is expected to skyrocket given decreasing purchase costs, the growing number of homes with roof top solar panels, and increasing interest in having round-the-clock access to electricity during/after extreme events such as hurricanes, forest fires, or earthquakes.
Storage systems can also help grid operators integrate higher fractions of renewable energy into their systems and help policy makers achieve zero-net energy goals for new homes.A typical residential battery system is about the volume of a file cabinet and is wall- or floor-mounted in a garage or utility space. A system that costs about $10,000–$15,000 can store 10 kWh of energy (enough to supply a typical home for a day), with peak power output of 10kW. Current costs are in the range of $1,000-$2,000 per kWh; cost reductions to $250-500 per kWh, as some project, would open up large-scale markets for home battery systems.
The research for this report took a high-level view of available products and trends, with a focus on overall efficiency and energy losses in standby and active modes. This report also reviews the status of test procedures and regulations for battery systems. The main findings include:
Residential batteries form a nexus with solar PV systems and electric vehicles, with potential economic and performance benefits flowing from combined systems.
There is currently a lack of official consensus on test methods and standards for residential battery systems, although national stakeholder groups are aware of the need to develop them.
Long-term performance needs to be considered in battery selection, sizing, and operation, as system capacity degrades over time.
Most grid-tied residential batteries are sold as backup power systems, creating the potential to harness unused capacity for grid services, such as peak load management, voltage support, and spinning reserve.
The most common storage configuration is AC coupling (where all DC devices convert their power to AC), but DC coupling could improve efficiency. For example, sending DC power directly from solar panels to batteries (without converting to AC) reduces conversion losses.
Residential battery systems can “consume” roughly 300-500kWh per year—about as much as a typical home refrigerator consumes annually. This consumption or energy loss occurs in two ways:
energy lost during conversion from incoming DC power from the solar panel to the battery, and
standby power losses from a fully charged battery.
Variation in published round-trip (RT) efficiencies and standby power losses appear to be significant, but without standardized testing it is difficult to tell the difference between products, and harder still to tell how unit performance in the field will compare to claims.
Opportunities to support the development of residential batteries include:
Coordination of standards and test methods by working through IEC TC120 and other forums
Field testing and measurement of real-world cost and performance
Building on European and Australian experience, where thousands of systems have been operating for a year or more
Inclusion of energy storage into building, energy, and electrical codes. Measures could include safety and sizing requirements, efficiency minimums, and elements such as “storage-ready” electrical system design.
Ecos Research provides strategic and technical support to the US EPA ENERGY STAR program, specifically focusing on:
Audio and video equipment (big-screen and hi-def televisions, soundbars, digital assistants, and commercial amplifiers)
Electric Vehicle Stationary Equipment (also known as car chargers)
Residential energy storage (batteries)
Small network equipment (set-top (cable) boxes and digital streaming devices)
Electric grid efficiency opportunities (transmission and distribution systems)
Home Audio Equipment
Ecos Research is supporting the ENERGY STAR program’s development of updated energy efficiency test procedures and specifications for home audio equipment through
data analysis, and
participation in conference calls of industry stakeholders.
This includes determination of sound pressure levels and power consumption under standardized conditions for powered speakers, and corresponding input and output power levels for standalone receivers and amplifiers.
Your TV May Be Using More Energy Than You Think: Findings from Our Recent Research
In the 15 years our researchers have been studying televisions, we’ve encountered a number of surprises along the way. There are remarkably large differences in the energy use of different TV models of similar size, when all of them are measured the same way. But the energy use of a given TV model can vary quite widely too, depending on how we measure it. The details about how the testing is conducted matter.
After our 2015 research for NRDC found significant power increases associated with 4K resolution and HDR content, NRDC asked us in 2016 to take a closer look at the underlying test procedure itself. They wanted to better understand differences in TV energy use when being tested by the government vs. being watched normally in the home.
What we found is that many televisions enable a range of energy saving features like automatic brightness control (ABC) and motion detection dimming (MDD) when first taken out of the box and plugged in for use. This allows them to obtain very low energy consumption values when tested by the government with its standardized test clip, so they can report low annual energy bills on their Energy Guide labels and qualify for the voluntary ENERGY STAR label.
But once users make even small changes to picture settings or modes, those energy saving features often shut off. And when the content being played on screen is more typical of what people often watch than the government test clip, energy use goes up even further – sometimes dramatically. NRDC’s report highlights these problems and identifies differences in the way various manufacturers’ televisions behave. The report concludes by calling for major changes in the way governments test and label televisions for efficiency.
Overall, we have found that much of a television’s energy use is proportional to how much light it produces. That’s why the brightest models will often use more energy than typical TVs. Models displaying high dynamic range (HDR) content or operating in really bright picture settings like Vivid or Dynamic will experience dramatic increases in energy use relative to the values produced by government testing in default conditions. Energy-saving features like automatic brightness control (ABC) and motion detection dimming (MDD) achieve their savings by temporarily dimming the screen even further from default conditions when room lighting conditions are dark or scenes are changing rapidly on screen.
By the same token, some television models still use a significant amount of energy when their screens are displaying a completely black image, while others can scale their power consumption downward dramatically in that situation. This offers another opportunity for energy savings, by recognizing and rewarding the TVs that do the best job of reducing their power consumption proportionally as the light being delivered by the screen is reduced.
ENERGY STAR is now revising its television labeling specification to address the persistence of energy saving features and some of the concerns raised recently about the representation of test results. For more information, see ENERGY STAR’s webinar and data set.
An NRDC info-graphic, summarizing key findings from the NRDC report:
With an estimated 300 million installed televisions in the United States—almost one per person—it is clear that Americans love their televisions, and many of them are constantly seeking bigger and better models. The newest variety quickly entering the market is known as ultra high-definition (UHD) due to its superior picture quality, with 8 million or more pixels; sometimes these are called 4K TVs because the images are about 4,000 pixels wide, with four times as many pixels as a high-definition (HD) television. Unfortunately, our analysis shows current UHD models use on average about 30 percent more energy than HD models of the same size. As the shift to UHD televisions is now in its early stages, there is still time for manufacturers to incorporate more efficient designs and components into all new models and prevent much of this potential additional electricity use and resultant pollution.
Ecos Research was hired by the NRDC to analyze public databases of UHD television energy use and market share sales data, and perform power use measurements on 21 televisions representing a cross-section of 2014 and 2015 models. Assuming that all of America’s 300 million televisions were using the same amount of energy as today’s HD televisions, which is far less than their predecessors, what would happen if each of these sets larger than 36 inches was replaced by the latest-generation of UHD televisions? Would we undo some of the hard-fought television energy savings achieved over the past decade? Our analysis found the national impacts would include:
8 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in additional electricity use per year, or as much electricity as 2.5 large (500 megawatt) power plants produce annually — three times the amount of electricity consumed by all of the homes in San Francisco each year.
$1 billion in additional annual costs to consumers to operate their televisions.
5 million extra metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution emitted annually from the additional electricity use.
Policy and Program Recommendations
One of the bright spots of our analysis was the finding that the most efficient UHD TVs were just as efficient as their standard high definition counterparts on the market today. This does not mean that the most efficient UDH TVs will be the leading product choice for consumers. Ensuring the adoption of the most efficient technologies during the transition to UHD TV will be the challenge for consumers, industry and government. Only through engagement on all levels will we mitigate the negative consequences of increased energy use and cost of TV ownership.
Policymakers and government agencies need to act to ensure that our televisions do not waste electricity, leading to an increased need to burn polluting fossil fuels to generate it. A critical element is ensuring that the tests used to measure the energy use of new televisions are continually updated by the U.S. Department of Energy so that they capture the amount of consumption from such new developments as 4K video shot with HDR cameras. Our recommendations for action are:
The Department of Energy (DOE) should update the federal television test method to better reflect conditions likely to exist in actual consumer use.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should establish a centralized, online version of the EnergyGuide label with more up-to-date comparative information than is now on the mandatory TV labels, and should also provide 10-year lifetime operating cost information to help motivate buyers to choose more-efficient models.
Utilities should design incentive programs to reward products at the most efficient level or, at the very least, at some percentage better than ENERGY STAR to ensure that rebates draw the market toward best practices.
Manufacturers and retailers should provide more detailed guidance to consumers about how to operate televisions efficiently.
How to shave hundreds of dollars off the lifetime energy costs of a new UHD TV:
Buy models with the ENERGY STAR® label
Ensure Automatic Brightness Control is enabled
Avoid the quick start feature on Internet-connected televisions that results in significant amounts of wasted standby power.
Previous work by members of the Ecos Research team on dryer efficiency showcase the unique mix of creativity, research and public policy employed to cost effectively find new ways promote energy efficiency.
Dryers were first introduced in the United States around 80 years ago, bringing a new level of convenience to an important everyday chore. This convenience led to rapid market expansion. There are currently about 87 million dryers in the United States, consuming 6% of household electricity and costing $9 billion dollars per year to operate, making dryers one of the largest energy consumers in the nation. When it comes to energy efficiency policy, dryers were able to escape scrutiny and as recently as early 2013 there were still no energy star labels, energy guide labels, or rebate programs in place.
Market Research Unveils Opportunities
Our team commonly utilizes public and private databases to create models that help us place proposed changes in a context that is realistic. Our technical research is framed with models that synthesize data about technology innovations, the policy landscape, the rate of technology adoption, price competition, and the size of a market.
Understanding how dryer technology changed in other countries provided the insight to start building a case for the adoption of new products and policy incentives in the United States. While dryer technology has not gone through significant innovations in the United States, Europe was introducing a vastly more efficient option: heat-pump dryers. The lack of US efficiency labels and rebate programs mixed with this new breakthrough technology was a clear indicator that a great opportunity for improved dryer efficiency is in reach.
Developing a Test Method
Understanding the size of markets and different technologies is not enough to paint an accurate picture of how new technology will affect the energy consumption of an entire nation. The interplay of technology and real world application is complicated and requires us to utilize many tools – from engineering to scenario development – so we can ask the right questions and uncover false assumptions that could skew results. Here are just a few of the questions we asked about dryers:
What does a real life dryer load look like? A typical dryer load includes a mix of fabrics with a variety of sizes and thickness. How do you create test methods that reflect this mix?
How does dryer time differ in humid Florida compared to arid Colorado? What is a good “average” humidity level for uniform testing?
How do you create a climate controlled test environment?
How do dryer technologies affect clothing wear and tear? Will your jeans last longer with heat pump dryers when compared to regular dryers? How much money and electricity can be saved by longer lasting clothes?
What is the definition of “dry clothing?” How might manufacturers try to gain an advantage over a weak test standard by calling damp clothes dry?
What are the trade offs between different drying modes?
Thinking through and addressing considerations such as these is important if we want to be serious about decreasing energy and greenhouse gas pollution.
Informing the Policy Process
From market research to lab testing and report generation, we utilize every tool at our disposal and internationally recognized expertise to help guide our clients through the regulatory process and advocate for the strongest energy efficiency standards possible.
In Support of
Ecos Research is currently supporting NEEA to understand the how different dryer technologies impact wear and tear of clothing. Will the average household spend less on clothes because they buy a heat-pump dryer and if so, how does that impact the cost of ownership over the life of the dryer?