(November 2011) Hitachi Power Systems America wins contract from Westar Energy; City of Fort Collins selects Elster, Siemens Energy, eMeter and Tropos GridCom...
exceeds its generating capacity. Because they don’t like brownouts and blackouts, and most don’t want to build new power plants (BANANA = build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone, especially in their backyards), they’re additionally capable of understanding the need for consumer demand response to reduce infrastructure requirements.
Homework in Energy Management
In-home displays, smart thermostats and home energy gateways will take educational opportunities to a whole new level by giving consumers the ability to monitor and manage their energy consumption in real time. The latest generation of home energy gateways also have screens capable of displaying text messages from the utility, including notices of DR events and when time-of-use or other dynamic rates are in effect.
These in-home devices, along with companion dockable displays possessing color trouchscreens and mobile apps for tablets and smartphones, will make consumer education even more of a hands-on experience. Energy enthusiasts will especially appreciate these powerful capabilities, but they also will need to be made simple enough for those who have difficulty programming a video recorder.
The future holds two major changes for home energy management systems: more plug-in EVs entering the market; and more distributed generation (DG), driven by decreasing costs of wind and solar energy. The latter might also involve energy storage, which eventually might be accommodated by the batteries in the former. And it’s never too early to start educating consumers about these major changes coming down the pike so they have adequate time and knowledge to prepare.
A critical mass of EVs will have a profound impact on the grid and DR programs. Indeed, when EVs become pervasive—one in most garages—they could both extend and worsen periods of peak demand as residents plug in their cars and lower the thermostat after returning from a hard day’s work on a hot summer day. Efforts are ongoing by various organizations to standardize a smart way to charge EVs, and optionally enable the built-in batteries to provide power when needed in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) arrangements.
Residential DG today often is handled via net metering. But some consumers are getting pretty sophisticated about energy management, and are already seeking better control over generation and storage—with or without the EV—and not just consumption. As the price of solar modules continues to plummet, expect DG to become another popular course at the College of Energy Knowledge.
The days of being able to take energy for granted will be coming to an end, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of this reality. A few will blame the messenger, but utilities still have a role to play in educating consumers about the nature and extent of the changes coming, and what they can do about it. Knowledge is power, and now more than ever before, so is knowledge about power.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Louis Szablya is v.p. of sales and marketing at Energate, Inc. Previously he was director of smart grid Integration at SAIC. Earlier in his career he served in executive positions at El Paso Energy, Entergy, Dynegy, and Avista.