Smart Grid and Energy Management
Submitted by Ken.Erdmann on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 10:49am
There has been a lot of talk lately concerning the smart grid projects around the country and how they will change our businesses and our customers lives. For the last 18 months or so we have offered energy audits and recommendations on how best to implement changes in energy use for our customers. The results have been mixed at best. Part of the service has been to install energy monitors for the customer to see how much energy they are using, also with mixed results. After a short time the energy dash boards become part of the back ground and are no longer new neat or cool. They get ignored along with whatever behavior modifications they might have early on prompted. There is also the reluctance of the consumer to give over control of some of their electrical systems to an entity they don't trust or like, remember how many of your customers feel about the power company, the phone company and the cable company? For several years the utilities have been installing automated meter reading systems and in many areas the ability to shut off customers air conditioners and electric water heaters as part of their efforts to reduce peak loads. They can save between 4-6 dollars per meter per month with these automated meter systems by eliminating the need for meter readers. You might even hear the about something called SCADA, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. The power company uses SCADA to monitor the health of their system and collect data on the power needs and performance of the system. Where the utilities touch us is when they start talking about the HAN, home area network,
Companies are offering wireless HAN solutions that are controlled by their electric meters and allow the utility to control and monitor systems inside the home. Thermostats and appliances look to be the first devices controlled with lighting and other ancillary systems to come. I see these products as opportunities for us. We need to make certain that we are engaged and delivering the energy management solutions our customers need, even if they don't know it yet. We have an advantage, our customers tend to trust us, they are wary of the power company and their motives.
We need to be realistic here however. The average power bill across the US is 100 to 125 dollars per month. How much effort and how much money will a person spend to reduce their power bill by the expected 10% each month? Will they spend 500 dollars or more to save 15 dollars a month? Experience suggests no they will not. In a recent article in Smart Grid News a spokesperson for Southern California Edison predicted that "While 36% of customers will interact with utility data in the next 10 years, 64% will likely remain unengaged". Another expert quoted in the article described the change to smart grid as "rather slow and ugly".
The best way for a CEDIA company to profit from the smart grid is to find an application that allows the client to save money without spending much and without a lot of work and hassle. We should capitalize on our already existing relationships and help our customers see the value of energy management and conservation.