In Worcester, MA, National Grid has launched a pilot program for a ‘smart grid’, which will enable consumers to observe their energy usage in real time. Domestic Energy consumption will always be a massive issue for governments and consumers, in terms of both the impending environmental catastrophe and consumers vying for the best energy deal. An important difficulty which has been present up to this point has been the complexities which families and individuals experience in getting precise information on their electricity usage, for which the new technology should be a useful tool.
The Worcester pilot scheme will involve 15,000 customers, potentially offering more choice and control for users over their home energy use. In addition, the smart system should increase the extent to which the authorities can respond to power failures and should improve general reliability for electricity transmission. Electricity supply failures, as made infamous by the NFL blackout, could be reduced or eliminated by better management and resilience of energy supplies.
Homeview Energy Display
National Grid will use a display unit manufactured by CEIVA (famous for their digital photo frames) to allow customers who take part in the pilot to keep up to date with their usage. The display system will feature instant figures for energy consumption, alongside photo slideshow which the users can customise. The system also allows energy users to connect with others and create groups, as well as to utilise analytic systems to help make their usage more efficient.
Energy costs are a large part of any household budget. Understandably, customers will be seeking ways in which to economise on this bill. The 21st century home is packed with technology which makes life quicker and easier, but this also represents an increase in the potential energy usage for people, meaning that it is financially advantageous to find ways of reducing consumption. In addition, consumers stand to gain by finding the best energy deals which are available from the energy providers, especially in that many consumers don’t get around to checking what is available from alternative providers. Often customers are reticent about the effort involved in switching suppliers, but by doing the right calculations it is possible to work out how much a family or individual can save and whether the the move is worthwhile. In this sense, systems like the smart grid represent a new opportunity for the customer to take ownership of their usage, and to make better choices.
Software and Power
Another provider which will be participating in National Grid’s pilot is the firm EcoSoft, which will provide advanced systems to track and map energy usage. EcoSoft uses a ‘Software as a Service‘ model, wherein a large portion of the systems and information exists in the cloud, on company servers and accessible through the internet. EcoSoft’s cloud systems will be able to collect and analyse huge amounts of data, to be used in making the grid more efficient and responsive. In addition, Ecosoft’s systems can easily integrate with CEIVA’s displays, allowing for the use of this information in the domestic setting. Now that the necessary connectivity and processing power is available, new systems like this can create grids which are more environmentally friendly and interactive.
It is difficult to overplay the significance of developments such as this smart grid system. With USA‘s current financial straits ongoing, problematic household spending is one of the main issues which currently threaten the nation. Many households currently have trouble budgeting, which is especially problematic for those with mortgages. A more responsive electricity system represents an opportunity for households to take greater control of their budget.
In 2011, More than a third of US-generated electricity was used in the home, so the environment stands to benefit as a result of these efficiencies too. Only 12% of this energy was produced by environmentally friendly sources such as hydro-electric or solar power (not including nuclear energy). As a result, a reduction in household energy usage will have a direct effect on the amount of greenhouse-gas production along with the release of other pollutants.
If this pilot is successful, it will demonstrate how science and technology can be great allies in the campaigns for increased consumer power and choice, and for the necessary tackling of climate change.
Evelyn Graham is an expert in intensive care procedures. Having graduated in International Business and Journalism a few years ago, she has covered everything from science to local news, environment, sustainability issues and a lot in between.