Submitted by New Energy News Blog
The exclusive and ambitious group of folks gathered for ConnectivityWeek are designing new R2-D2s and C-3POs to allow consumers to resolve the energy crisis and mitigate global climate change for themselves.Right now, electrical power is coming from The Borg (or maybe the Cylons).To most, electric power is a force coming into the home, the office, the warehouse and the manufacturing plant from some other place, from some kind of energy, from utilities and power companies with strange acronyms for names, Con Ed, SCE, PG&E, Xcel, FPL and AEP.
A change is coming. New Energy is at the tip of it. The global climate is demanding daily attention. Gas pump and utility bill prices announce to even people who care more about American Idol than daily headlines that Old Energy supplies are failing.Buildings use 40% or more of all the electricity consumed and are therefore responsible for that proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change. Yet buildings waste 20% or more of the energy they consume. While the Borg indiscriminately push any and all energy it can generate at the consumer (attacking as relentlessly as the Cylons), if R2-D2 and C-3PO saw what was happening at the point of consumption, R2-D2 would be frantically screaming and C-3PO would be madly beeping.
But R2-D2 and C-3PO would do more than just scream and beep. They would analyze and offer alternatives.Power producers behave like the Borg or the Cylons because their job is to keep the power flowing on the grid. Like the Borg, the grid doesn’t discriminate, it assimilates. It takes in coal-, natural gas-, nuclear-, wind- and solar-generated electricity and sends it on. If power producers fail, the lights don’t go on and everything stops. So they become as relentless as the Cylons.
When there seemed no end to the inexpensive power the grid could assimilate, power producers were no more concerned with consumers’ inefficiency than the consumers themselves. But the time has now come when somebody MUST be concerned because the world’s climate and the world’s energy supply both demand it.What would be great would be to have a pair of ‘droid-like friends with calculating capacities adept enough to consider what is going on at the power company end of the grid and help consumers adjust their demand to fit the new picture created by varying supplies and rising prices.
The folks here in Santa Clara for ConnectivityWeek
are inventing a ‘droid-like intelligence for the home. They’re designing it to act all along the electricity supply chain, from the power plant headquarters to every electrical outlet in every home, office, warehouse and manufacturing plant in the system. They call it the Smart Grid.The Smart Grid, they promise, will smoothly reduce loads when energy is scarce and expensive, predict when problems are coming and head them off, recover quickly from even big emergency outages and draw power from New Energy as well as Old Energy.
They’re using terms like interoperability (making power equipment uniform from the power company offices and grid boxes to the user’s meter, machines and appliances, so systems that act from one end of the chain to the other can be integrated) and convergence (what happens when all the efficiency systems have interoperability and more tools are added to make the system smarter and smarter).
The 2 basic goals: (1) Make it possible for the power companies to interact with power users to roll back energy use and (2) make it possible for users to know and react to the changing circumstances of power supply and demand to roll back energy use. Between the power producer’s computer-managed precision with supply and the consumer’s data-informed decisions about consumption, demand can be better controlled and the ‘droids can stop screaming and beeping.
Technical hero: When Smart Grid is as omnipresent as today’s Internet (in maybe 10 years; the earliest rollouts will be 2009/10), the name Zigbee Alliance will be as widely known and distinguished as Energy Star is today. It is “…an association of companies working together to enable reliable, cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked, monitoring and control products based on an open global standard.”Standardized products for buildings will allow end users to see the energy they are using and the costs they are incurring. The assumption is that when consumers know the kind of energy they are consuming and the price they are paying, they will change their habits.
Consumers are now like drivers without gas gauges or information about the pump price. Smart Grid will give them digital meters so they can know what they are using and how much they are paying in real time.
Other discoveries at ConnectivityWeek: Entrepreneur Gary Sorkin of HomePlug Powerline Alliance says it’s only a matter of time, a few years, until home appliances themselves will be smart. Until then, he wants to make plugs available for homeowners to allow the outlets to become smart.Tendril is one of many companies now installing smart systems for homeowners. They, too, are preparing plugs to turn electrical outlets smart.Most fascinating new business: Check out
EnerNOC on Nasdaq. It is a load shedding aggregator and is quickly becoming a leader in the field it helped invent over the last 5 years.Load shedding aggregators obtain contracts with huge power consumers around the country. EnerNOC has 2000 contracts representing 1600 megawatts.
When a regional utility is reaching peak load and willing to pay “very high” prices to Enron-like power hustlers, EnerNOC steps in and offers to take megawatts off the load for a higher – but not “very high” – price. EnerNOC then arranges with its contracted partners to reduce their demand in exchange for the higher power prices at which it is symbolically but not literally selling back power to the utility.
The contracted power consumer rolls back its consumption enough to help the utility avoid a brownout but makes more money from the power sale than from continuing production. EnerNOC gets a cut, of course. What a way to make money. Only in the free market…
Coming up Wednesday: Demand Response.
May 20-22, 2008 (Clasma Events, Inc.)
– Day 1 of ConnectivityWeek, May 20, 2008.
– Smart Grid will be in the planning and testing phase for many years. Early elements that can make homes more efficient are now being marketed. Widespread use is not expected until the end of the next decade.
– The Smart Grid will go from utilities’ control centers and down the transmission lines to every electricity consumer’s every kilowatt-hour.
– ConnectivityWeek is in the heart Silicon Valley at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California
– Global climate change, rising world energy demand, compromised supplies and skyrocketing prices make the Smart Grid urgent.
– ConnectivityWeek Key Topics: (1) connectivity in smart energy efficient, (2) how to retool the design, building, owning and managing of the built environment, (3) implementing effective management of energy supply-demand, (4) the security implications of energy and smart devices, (5) new business models (6) new opportunities with smart connectivity, (7) bringing out new service-oriented business opportunities, and (8) how the U.S. can take a lead role in the Energy Revolution
– BuilConn covers IT in building systems.
– HomeConn covers Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)
– GridWise is about smart grid technology and the billions that will come from it because of the 2007 Energy Act.
– There are also sections on business opportunities(ZigBee Expo), industrial IT (IndConn), Demand Response (DR-Expo) and machine to machine connections (M2M).
– Tendril: “Tendril gives 21st century consumers the ability to manage their energy usage through its system of software and smart devices that are friendly to the planet…Tendril’s Energy Management System is the first open software and hardware system that facilitates dialogue between consumers and suppliers.”
– From the ConnectivityWeek brochure: “The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century, followed by the Information Revolution of the late 20th century is paving the way for a new “Energy Revolution”, a revolution that centers on utilizing IT to fundamentally change how we create, distribute and employ energy…The future of billions of connected smart devices from home appliances to environmental controls to industrial robots lie at the heart of this vision, with intelligent connectivity of these devices as a critical element for success…”
– Nora Brownell, former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: “We can’t build our way out of the energy crisis that we are facing today…”
– Anto Budiardjo, President/CEO, Clasma Events: “Demand Response is the interface between the supply side and the consumer side…Demand Response leads toward improvements in efficiencies…”