Last week we spent a few days at Greentech Media’s Networked Grid 2011.
A thought-provoking event, the conference covered the top smart grid trends, including consumer awareness, the critical role for the network, and integrating renewables and electric vehicles. And don’t forget the most pressing of trends: distributed automation (DA), which seeks to enhance grid reliability, security, and efficiency.
Part of the reason for the move toward DA is the less-than-enthusiastic response to home area networking (HAN) and smart meters, which Michael Kanellos captured well in a preview of the event. One stat that jumped out of his story was from a 2010 Accenture study, which explained that consumers spend, on average, a mere six minutes each year reviewing their utility bill. That’s about 30 seconds a month, or 1 second a day.
From our experience and as Kanellos noted, consumers actually want utilities to take some control of their energy use if it will mean substantial reductions to their bills. Demand response programs that incorporate top-notch hardware, software, and services give utilities this automated control.
But I digress.
Also at Networked Grid, our own Bud Vos participated in a panel about dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing has gone by a slew of different names—Critical Peak Pricing, Time-of-Use Pricing to name a few—but as moderator Chet Geschickter pointed out, it’s not the name that matters. What counts, rather, are the dramatic cost savings dynamic pricing enables.
Charging more for megawatts during peak times should encourage consumers to run certain appliances during non-peak hours. Of course, some people will choose to spend more to run their air conditioner all day on a 95-degree scorcher (I pass no judgment). At least with dynamic pricing, it’s an informed choice to spend more on energy. Consumers are empowered to control their energy costs, but in a much more automated way than with HAN: the prices are pre-determined so consumers can set appliances to run at certain times without having to read a meter every day.
It’s automated empowerment, if you will, and, as Bud shared with the conference audience, Comverge is making it happen.