Wednesday, March 11, 2009

ETech: Smart Energy and What Lies Ahead

I'm in "Smart Energy and What Lies Ahead" with Rob Faludi. We have energy problems, but whose problem are you talking about?

The planet has problems, energy causes pollution, which leads to melting ice caps, mass extinctions, mass migrations and change we don't know.

The utilities have problems, structured for one way energy flow, forecasts use historical models. The grid has issues, the grid is built for peaks, high cost load smoothing, carbon emergency, renewables and needs storage.

Although the utilities don't want to spend money, they'd love to have more customer information. Faced with their problems somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps they want to lower usage, shift load throughout the day to even out the peaks, and have communicating pricing and two way energy flow.

People have problems, they get a (moderate) bill once a month, very occasionally there is a power outage, we're concerned about the planet's problems, we're interested in smart energy (it sounds neat), but we're (generally) all thumbs.

What's really going on here? A lot of things don't use much power, and the cost of energy is actually pre low right now. Economically 'smart' energy generates only 5 to 20% savings, maybe $15 per month? We treat power like air, it's available everywhere...

But there is a real carbon emergency, and energy independence has obvious benefits, both political and economic...

We're going to run out of oil, the dinosaurs aren't going to make any more...

While it's important to measure your power consumption, that isn't very useful unless this data is visible to the consumer, and it has to pass the 'Grandma Test'. You have to ask whether your grandmother can use it?

There is also the problem of capital expenses to fix longer term problems have a problem, consumers like things the pay for things in a year, not ten years...

Demand response and management is the utilities' version of just-in-time inventory, you try and even out the peaks and reduce the needed capital expenditure needed to service those peaks.