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For the past week, energy leaders have gathered in Washington DC and New York to try and understand the future of energy. No, this has nothing to do with the presidential elections, though the elections will have a major impact. And no, this is not related to the economic meltdown, though again energy is key to finding the lasting solution to the US and global financial crisis.
The keynote of one conference, Jeremy Rifkin outlined the future of energy in one simple phrase, “the electrification of energy”. Wow, I thought, was that not what happened about 100 years ago when electricity was invented? And BTW, what has the electrification of energy got to do with building automation, the subject of this web site???
If you read just one book this year, I have a recommendation for you, if you don’t read books; well this is a great time to start. Thomas Friedman’s new book Hot, Flat and Crowded is about as important of a book that every business person in the US should read, specially those involved in any way with energy and energy systems (as building automation is). Friedman provided closing comments at the same conference.
At another conference, the former Vice President stated in no uncertain manner that one of the key components of moving forward in a 21st energy paradigm is the use of smarts to control energy; from the smarts of the electric grid to the smarts of green buildings. We are of course talking about Al Gore.
The combination of Rifkin, Gore and Friedman provides anyone who wants to be involved in a business in the 21st century with a roadmap, ignore it at your peril. This is a roadmap for saving the earth and also a roadmap to what will create the largest industry in the 21st century; Energy Technology or ET. For building automation players, this new landscape will either guarantee your survival, or (if you ignore it) will ensure your demise and potentially help the demise of humanity, as we know it.
Strong words indeed, and no I’m not a liberal tree hugger rooting for simply a green environment. I just have a family and have a desire that they live through the 21st century without planet earth becoming an unbearable place to live. Sorry but I’m selfish, and survival is the most basic of Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
Of course I am talking about climate change, but more importantly the opportunities for innovation that it is creating. If you are rolling your eyes by now, if you think climate change is just some political slogan or an anti-oil company initiative, please do us all a favor and stop reading, it’s clear you don’t want to be part of the solution.
Let me summarize this picture.
Friedman and Gore lay out the picture that current climate change will, if we don’t act now, create a planet earth “few” degrees hotter by mid-century, leading to significant change in weather, agriculture, social behavior and life generally. In his book, Friedman also asserts that what the West is doing (taking the lead of Americans) is insanity as we are funding the war on terror on both fronts; we pay taxes to pay for the military, and we pay at the pumps for terror organizations to flourish. High gas prices not only hurt our pockets, they embolden and fund the enemies of the West!
Electrification in the 21st century sounds strange, but is a key strategy for the energy landscape for our future. The reasons are simple, first of all our digital society is dependent on electricity, the more we evolve the digital age, the more we need energy in the form of electricity and the more we are dependent on availability and reliability of electricity. Secondly, electricity is the only form of energy that we can use that is non-polluting at the point of consumption; we can generate electricity by many means from renewable (good) to fossil based (bad). Electricity can also be easily transported vast distances.
The one strike against electricity is that it cannot be stored effectively, this necessitates that electricity be created, distributed and consumed at the same time (literally within milliseconds). Electricity is the ultimate JIT (Just In Time) product. This is the key opportunity for controls and IT.
Because electricity is a real time commodity, the balance between generation and consumption has to be perfect. Utilities have for decades been building power plants to make sure that the supply fits the demand, which is fine in the age of energy-plenty. But in the age of sustainability, the variables of solar, wind and other non-controllable sources will need to balance on the consuming (demand) side. Consuming devices will need to understand in real time the availability of electricity, and adjust consumption accordingly.
This is where IT and controls comes into the picture, and specifically for the readers of AutomatedBuildings.com, this is where building controls comes into the picture. As Rifkin, the keynote cried out last week, the mantra of real estate used to be Location, Location and Location. The mantra of energy management in the 21st century has to be Buildings, Buildings and Buildings.
Buildings consume around 40% of energy and contribute up to 50% of the harmful GHG (Green House Gasses). Planet Earth cannot reduce GHG without controlling the energy being consumed in buildings – period. Planet Earth will cease to exist as we know it unless we control the energy consumed in buildings. My grandchildren (and yours too), will not have any chance of living the quality of life that we have gotten used to, without controlling the energy consumption in buildings – Can this be stated any more strongly?
So you say, we have Green Buildings, we have LEED, etc.. Yes great, those are absolutely necessary, but as a technologist, I also understand the huge potential to use IT and controls to manage energy. Thomas Friedman at the closing of GridWeek last week communicated this as ET (Energy Technology).
All three speakers; Rifkin, Gore and Friedman stated it as clear as possible last week at GridWeek in DC and the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) Annual meeting in New York; ET (though Gore calls it the Electranet) is the largest business and innovation opportunity in the 21st century. ET will be the largest industry, dwarfing any industry in existence today. And, let me say it again, Buildings, specifically the control of building systems, is going to be a key part of this industry.
So, please do us all a favor…
Read Thomas Friedman’s book Hot, Flat and Crowded, and understand the new paradigm of energy in the 21st century
Take climate change seriously, very seriously – your grandchildren will thank you
Direct your innovation and business to this new world – done right, you will grow your business, guaranteed!
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