• Danfoss Climate Solutions president Jürgen Fischer.
    Danfoss Climate Solutions president Jürgen Fischer.

Danfoss Climate Solutions president Jürgen Fischer, explains why it’s time to rethink energy efficiency.

Our power grid – the infrastructure delivering our electricity – is something most of us give little more than a passing thought.

This is a paradox really since electricity has become so essential in our modern life.

Everything from factories, hospitals and ports depend on a working power grid. When blackouts hit, losing light is indeed the least of our problems. And while these outages have become more frequent and longer lasting, this is nothing compared to the challenges we are facing in a future energy system, where the demands for electrical power will increase significantly.

We need to rethink energy efficiency and place it at the core of energy policy and climate mitigation strategies. By 2050, renewables need to make up roughly 70 per cent of the energy mix if we are to reach net zero and the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Despite this, there is a lack of attention to what this entails for the energy system. Will we have the capacity and infrastructure to efficiently use all that renewable energy once we have it? Which steps must we have taken today to ensure this decarbonized future energy system becomes a reality.

Let’s start with wind and solar, the darlings of the renewable energy discussion. The energy these sources produce comes mostly in the form of electricity. But if we don’t have the infrastructure in place to effectively use that electricity – across transport, buildings, industry – producing so much of it is a relatively pointless endeavour.

To use the electricity generated by renewables, we must undergo an engineering-led revolution to electrify all possible elements of our energy system. An electrified society could cut up to 40 per cent of final energy consumption simply because electric technologies waste less energy than their fossil-fuel counterparts.

At the same time, energy efficiency measures can accelerate the electrification of sectors – for instance, making heavy-duty vehicles more efficient is fundamental for reducing the size of the batteries needed to electrify them. This is why we must begin thinking about electrification itself as a form of energy efficiency.

Timing is everything. In the future energy system.  Fortunately, energy efficiency in the form of demand-side flexibility solutions can better mediate the relationship between supply and demand, which is necessary to avoid carbon-intensive demand peaks.

Through existing demand side-flexibility technologies, we can save money, reduce CO2 emissions, and stabilize the grid. Even in the future, not everything will run directly on electricity.

We will still need clean alternatives to deeply decarbonize sectors such as heavy industry, aviation, and long-distance shipping. Here, hydrogen is the most promising alternative. Hydrogen will be crucial in the future energy system, where there inevitably will be periods of excess renewable electricity.

Renewable energy production will not be near sufficient to meet the energy demand in an electrified energy system serving a population of 9.8 billion in 2050. To supplement demand, excess heat will be our best friend.

In 2030, up to 53 per cent of the global energy input will be wasted as excess heat. But by capturing and reusing it, excess heat can replace significant amounts of electricity, gas, or other fuels that are otherwise needed to produce heat.

It can help stabilize the future electricity grid and ease the green transition. As the above themes indicate, energy efficiency is not an afterthought to renewables. In the future energy system, energy efficiency must take centre stage.

About the author

Jürgen Fischer was appointed president of Danfoss Climate Solutions in 2021. Prior to this, he was president of Danfoss Cooling. He joined Danfoss in 2008 and was appointed president of the refrigeration and air conditioning division in 2013.