Collage zu erneuerbaren Energien
Massimo Cavallo / Fotolia
2018-03-16 publication

Electrical energy efficiency: the opportunities lie in the system

Energy efficiency is the greatest untapped energy source and a mainstay of the energy transition. The second, updated version of the "Electrical Energy Efficiency" standardization roadmap shows that the key to greater energy efficiency lies in adopting a systemic approach – in system standardization as well as in setting the regulatory course for energy-efficient systems.

Electrical energy efficiency is a prime example of successful standardization. The EU Eco-design Directive has played a major role in reducing the energy consumption of household appliances alone by more than 30 per cent in recent years. Magnitude: annual output of a large nuclear power plant. However, the first version of the "Electrical Energy Efficiency" standardization roadmap made it clear that energy efficiency will increasingly need to be addressed at the system level. After all, highly efficient use of energy is required at all stages – from generation, transport and storage through to consumption. It is made possible by the intelligent networking of all components in the energy system. The revised standardization roadmap opens up new development paths. The main areas of focus: energy transition, sector coupling, digitalization - and in particular, a systemic approach. Only by combining a systemic approach with technical innovation can the entire energy efficiency potential be tapped.

Frank Steinmüller

Energy transition as an integrated project

Concentrating on aspects such as the energy transition, sector coupling and digitalization, the new standardization roadmap takes up the major development trends in energy supply. The energy transition will make the electrical energy supply more decentralized, and energy will no longer flow in just one direction. Power availability will depend increasingly on whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. To ensure reliable grid operation even with a high proportion of renewable energies, it is necessary to make electricity generation and demand more flexible and to intelligently combine electricity generation, consumption and smart grids.

Herculean task of sector coupling

Energiewende - Bild

The future is electric! The consumption of fossil energy is significantly reduced through improved energy efficiency, sector coupling and the use of renewable energies.

A further development trend is sector coupling. Electrical energy engineering can no longer be viewed in isolation. Rather, it has to be seen in interaction with other types and sources of energy and with a wide range of producers, storage facilities and consumers. The use of electric vehicles, heat pumps and electrode boilers will increase in the traffic and energy sectors in the future. Fossil fuels can thus gradually be substituted by electrical energy, the energy efficiency increased and CO2 emissions reduced. By networking the electricity, heat and mobility sectors (sector coupling), surplus electricity can be stored during periods of oversupply or otherwise used as Power2X, e.g. in the form of Power2Heat, Power2Gas or Power2Fuel/Liquid.  The interaction of the various parts and sectors of the energy system, in particular the interlocking of electricity, heat and mobility, will thus become a decisive factor for the success of the energy transition. This also opens up a broad field for electrotechnical standardization. The future tasks of system standardization go far beyond traditional electrical engineering and the standardization of individual components.

Energy efficiency through digitalization

Digitalisierung und effiziente Vernetzung - Bild

Digitalization opens up new, more efficient ways of using use energy.

Neither the conversion of the energy supply system nor sector coupling would be possible without digitalization and intelligent networking. The energy transition, Smart Home, Smart Grid, Smart Metering and the "Internet of Things" are changing the world of power generation, distribution and use – and tapping into new potential for energy efficiency. The emerging "smart world" is opening up new ways of optimizing energy consumption. In particular, smart networked devices can use their sensors to perform their tasks in an energy-efficient manner.

System standardization as a future task

A systematic approach to optimizing energy efficiency is required –  with regard both to the (cross-sector) energy supply as a whole and to its subsystems. The challenge for standardization is therefore transitioning from product to system standardization. This applies in particular to the development of standards that take an integrated approach towards electrical energy efficiency, e.g. in grid-connected photovoltaic systems with inverters, battery storage, heat pumps, e-mobility charging stations and, in principle, any number of other components. There is still untapped potential, especially in systems and plants. In industry alone, for example, energy management systems or efficient, speed-controlled motors could save at least 200 TWh of energy per year – around 30 per cent of German industry's total energy requirements.

Von Produkt- zur Systemnormung - Bild

The challenge for standardization is transitioning from product to system standardization.


Most systems and plants are discrete entities. The control software is adapted to their precise needs. Software development thus helps to determine efficiency levels. There is still considerable need for standardization with regard to the efficiency of systems and installations. For example, further increases can be achieved through the control, regulation and automatic switching of electrical systems, appliances and lighting. In terms of standardization, the new EU 801/2013 regulation on the energy efficiency of network equipment and intelligent household and office equipment, for example, now demands an interdisciplinary approach.

Take consumers with you, involve legislators

Energielabel - Foto

Anyone wishing to increase energy efficiency must take the consumers with them – the best proof of which being the success of the energy label.

But it is also clear that anyone wishing to increase energy efficiency has to take the consumers with them. The best proof of this is the success of the energy label. Thus, consumer relevance is and remains a major challenge for standardization and regulation. A large selection of wash programs is described in the washing machine standard, for instance. Yet in the regulation, the two most commonly used wash programs have been selected (with different loads) for the energy label and used to determine the energy efficiency index, as a compromise between practical relevance, consumer behaviour and testing costs. Standard-based testing thus yields results which are then compiled and evaluated by the legislators. The consumer relevance of energy efficiency indices is therefore not only a challenge for standardization, but also for regulation.

Wanted – Bloggers for i-deal e-fficiency

System standardization also involves close cooperation between all stakeholders, experts and interested parties – across disciplines, sectors and industries. Networked, digital, electrical. In addition to the work in the relevant DKE working group we also make use of various social media channels (XING, LinkedIn, Twitter) . This is because we want to reach the "next generation" i-dealists in order to make the world more energy-efficient – and also to further optimize the efficiency and system competence of our standardization.

What challenges and trends do you see in energy efficiency? What wishes do you have for system standardization and innovative, energy-efficient technologies, systems and concepts? And which ideas would you like to see developed? We look forward to receiving your comments and your input.

Your standardization manager
Frank Steinmüller