The Past: Lessons from Demand Reduction Efforts
In the late 20th century, energy supply companies faced a significant challenge of meeting consumers’ growing energy demands. This challenge led to innovative strategies by power producers to invest in the consumer’s choice of energy consuming devices to help meet power challenges. An example I participated in was the effort by the Bonneville Power Administration in the 1980s and 1990s. They distributed compact fluorescent bulb (CFB) light bulbs for free after realizing that reducing consumer power demand was a cheaper strategy of meeting power needs than expanding power production. Similarly, national campaigns encouraged consumers to switch from gas-guzzling vehicles to more efficient, smaller cars and to adjust heating and cooling set points in homes and buildings, reducing HVAC energy demand. These efforts worked because they aligned the power suppliers’ and the consumers’ interests allowing each to save money on power.
The Present: Transition to Consumer Grid Storage (CGS)
More recently these efforts have continued with labeling on cars, LEED certification of buildings, and Energy Star ratings of appliances. As we pivot towards clean, green energy, a new opportunity emerges: Consumer Grid Storage (CGS). This opportunity comes from utilizing consumers’ existing and future new homes, vehicles, and devices as smart energy storage devices, already plugged in and seamlessly integrated into the grid. This approach enhances the utilization of our current power production systems and can accommodate the intermittency of renewable energy sources without loss of convenience or comfort.
CGS in Action: Harnessing Home and Device Power
Imagine every home contributing to a CGS system, utilizing excess energy to heat or cool, tapping into the thermal capacity of buildings and for example, a new generation of heat pumps and ceramic thermal furnaces, and using that thermal storage capacity to reduce the energy demand later. Our devices, from computers, personal and fleet electric vehicles, to our smart speaker battery could also play a role, storing energy when it’s abundant and releasing it when needed. Of course, CGS systems would not interrupt high priority critical systems, like life-critical devices such as an oxygen pump or a CPAP machine, remain running without interruption.
Incentivizing the Shift: Cost Reduction and Smart Usage
The incentive for consumers is clear: lower energy costs. Consumers should expect if not demand reduced energy bills by using energy when it’s cheaper, cleaner, and more available while deferring usage or using locally stored energy during peak times.
Earlier work I did as part of the startup iA3 found that smart energy management in process facilities subject to peak power demand charges could reduce their costs by 30% with an ROI of only a few months. Moreover, smart systems can automate these decisions at home and in the workplace, like scheduling a dishwasher to run when solar or wind power is plentiful; charging a ceramic thermal furnace when wind turbines have excess power, recharging a car at home, or warming up an office or home in the morning based on the time of peak tidal flow and energy production in order to reduce the power needed later.
The Future: A Paradigm Shift in Energy Management to integrate Smart Supply, Storage, and Demand (3SD perhaps?)
This new paradigm departs from the past expectation of an almost infinite energy supply available on demand. (And, our surprise at the need for brownouts and rolling blackouts that seem like a breach of trust that power would be available when we wanted it.) Instead, the future could embrace a supply-based power-demand system. Smart energy management would involve a triad:
- Smart storage (utilizing direct and CGS).
- Smart demand (adjusting consumption based on energy availability from local storage and suppliers).
- Smart supply (leveraging renewable energy and storage when it’s most available).
This integrated approach, encompassing both CGS and Direct Grid Storage (DGS), could accelerate decarbonization, reduces consumer costs, and maximizes the value of investments in our power grid.
Conclusion: Embracing a Collective Responsibility
The transition from consumer power conservation management to consumer power storage integration isn’t just about technology; it’s about adopting a new mindset. It’s about recognizing our collective responsibility in energy management and the significant role each of us can play. The approach is straightforward for some: moving “off the grid.” For others, the opportunity will be embracing CGS and our personal decisions as consumers, and working with policies and programs from power producers who invest in consumers’ homes and energy-consuming devices.
Speeding up our clean energy transition, and reducing consumer energy costs can come from each consumer being an integrated part of a cleaner, more sustainable, efficient, and resilient energy future for all.
Are you ready to be part of this energy evolution? Share your thoughts and join the conversation about Consumer Grid Storage and the future of energy management.
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