February 2012

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The Path to Smart Energy
Smart energy looks to each home, business, and industrial site to take responsibility for the management of its own energy in the face of an ever-changing supply.

Toby ConsidineToby Considine
TC9 Inc

The New Daedalus

Contributing Editor 

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The power industry of North America has provided its customers with the greatest life style that any civilization has ever had. The old service model assumes an ever-present supply of power that is predictable, abundant, and inexpensive. World-wide, our plans are to reduce the power supplied by predictable an inexpensive power sources, to replace them with power sources that are intermittent and less predictable, and that are widely distributed across the grid, including within homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. The old service model will not survive.

None of us wants to face deteriorating life-styles or reduced ability to provide quality services and products as energy supplies become less dependable. For those of us whose business is in building systems, none of us wants to try to sell lower quality service. Smart Energy is the means we will use to expand both amenities and service quality.

Smart energy looks to each home, business, and industrial site to take responsibility for the management of its own energy in the face of an ever-changing supply. While efficiency is important, it is a small part of the story. Early efforts react to infrequent temporary and perhaps unanticipated shortages by degrading services, i.e., by turning things off. The proactive approach is to pre-consume energy, to take advantage of the more frequent periods of energy surplus in ways that there will be no degradation of service during shortages. As this shifts energy purchase to times of inexpensive supply, smart energy will provide better service for less.

Energy use is more than power use; smart energy is about more than power markets. Smart energy systems use thermal, pressure, chemical, and potential energy to support their purpose. Through balancing a changing portfolio of energy resources to meet the demands placed on them, smart buildings, homes, and facilities will use changing processes to provide consistent and high quality results.

Every node on the power grid, i.e., commercial buildings, homes, and industry, will act as a microgrid. Smart microgrids manage their energy use, generation, storage, recycling, conversion, and rely on market operations (buying and selling) only to make up the difference. Off-grid facilities already act as microgrids; they will become more prevalent as smart energy improves the quality of this choice. Microgrids can be combined into larger microgrids to enhance resilience, to encompass the neighborhood, the office park, the military base, and the campus.

Smart energy is information based. Systems and devices will provide information on their present and anticipated future energy requirements. They will consume information from energy markets and from the predictions of their peers. They will gain situation awareness from weather services and other external sources. They will exchange schedules and requirements with the personal and enterprise systems they support. New energy moves beyond performance to doing the right thing at the right time. Smart energy systems will be autonomous, self-monitoring, and self-managing.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Smart energy takes advantage of the greater fungibility of energy as it gets close to its use. Smart grids can only store electric power or electric power equivalents, i.e., things that can be converted back into electric power. Microgrids use electric power in processes, and so can also store energy in those processes. Microgrids can also take advantage of any new or waste energy that can be converted into something used in-process. Storing energy is ice-water in the “middle” the HVAC process is an example of in-process storage.

Our homes, commercial buildings, and industry, will share the burden of energy quality, reliability and production with their suppliers. With the new standards ready to use, we have the opportunity for market-driven innovation incented by grid-based economic signals. Today we have the public interest and attention to bring products rapidly to market. The innovators and ventures able to take advantage of the opportunities in these new market realities will reap large rewards.

The end nodes of the grid are consumer-driven, and so are able to support more vibrant technology markets than can any central service. The promise of smart energy is to achieve societal benefits by aligning energy supply and use while offering better amenities to buildings, homes, and their occupants while costing less. The challenge of new energy is to bring the digital systems in every system and appliance in our lives into the internet of things, and to have them respond to our needs and wants.


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