The Social Media/Smart Grid Nexus


 

When you think of social media, your initial thoughts come to posting a link on Facebook, trying to connect with a potential employer on LinkedIn, or tweeting about the latest Major League Soccer game on Twitter.

The second aspect of social media networks most people think about is leveraging marketing opportunities to sell products and services online.

What you may not think about social media is its potential to enhance smart grid capabilities to improve efficiency, accuracy, and maximize the customer experience.

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Social Media by Giulia Forsythe via Flickr. Creative Commons Some Rights Reserved

In simple terms, smart grids utilize Internet-based technology to provide two-way communication between devices and the utility, according to the US Department of Energy. Components of the smart grid include smart meters, sensors which transfer data to the service, and web-based energy management systems.

While the current grid system was excellent in providing energy management for the 20th century, which used fossil fuels, today’s energy system in 2016 is a lot more complicated than of prior regimes.

Blackouts in recent history, changes in technological habits, along with increased extreme weather risks due to climate change have strengthened the need to implement smart grids.

Currently, we are seeing smart grid projects seen all over the world, including projects in Austin Texas, and in Germany, to improve energy costs and emissions. Elements of the smart grid are being implemented in wind, and solar farms, and utility power plants in better managing energy systems.

Smart grid global market value is expected to reach $400 billion US by 2020, according to GreenTech Media. The World Economic Forum called for in 2015 a $7.5 US trillion investment within the next 25 years in improving our global grid system to meet our current energy challenges, while mitigating climate change risks.

Early in the 2000’s author Jeremy Rifkin predicted the implementation of a smart grid. His 2002 book The Hydrogen Economy, he argued that end users would use similar smart technologies and principles which helped propel the World Wide Web in the 1990’s to plug and play their fuel cells into localized Hydrogen Energy Web’s (HEW). Rifkin also notes this would help decentralize the energy system, as consumers would be able to share clean energy with each other.

While his initial prediction did not necessarily come to pass about the hydrogen economy, his ideas have flourished about a World Wide Web of Energy through the Smart Grid and the Internet of Things. He added further context in his 2014 book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society. Rifkin discusses the three broad components of the Internet of Things: A communications Internet, an energy Internet, and a logistics Internet.

Based on Rifkin’s analysis, the communications Internet through social media can play a role in easing the energy Internet through smart grid implementation.

Social media analytics can provide massive amounts of data in tracking where extreme weather events affect power outages.

Meanwhile, many companies are using social media to create a universal smart grid experience for customers.

 

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Smart Grid by IBM Research via Flickr. Creative Commons Some Rights Reserved

 

Oracale’s Opower, creates social energy software for utilities to enhance a client’s smart grid experience. Opower’s software runs on both computer and mobile apps (tablets and smartphones, which allows a customer to get real-time data on how much energy consume while providing suggestions on how they can cut their use. Utilities who have used Opower’s public service customers have created 11 terra-watt hours in energy savings (TWh), with 3TWh, coming in the past year alone.

Meanwhile, expect further social networking and smart grid integration into the future as dynamics shift from baby boomers towards millennials. A recent study suggested millennials are demanding a mix of more smart technologies, renewables, and social media be implemented by utilities, as they become the biggest consumer demographic.

I would expect the next few years to provide some disruptive, exciting development for utilities, as they look to make Generation Y happy, lower their carbon footprint, and create a plug and play consumer energy experience.

Social media is much more than snapping a photo on Instagram, or uploading a video on YouTube. Mashable said it best in 2011:

As the smart grid continues to reach more American homes, it truly will form a nationwide social network unlike anything ever was seen.

SnapGrid Perhaps?

What do you think of social networking merging with smart grid technologies? Is this a good thing? How can clean tech, renewable energy analysts and social media marketers collaborate here? What challenges do they face?

Let me know. Drop me a line on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+. You can also email me at adamjwpg@mymts.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Inconvenient Truth: Ten Years On


Ten years ago, Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup, sending Italians into a frenzy. Yet, perhaps just as significant was the release of An Inconvenient Truth.

This documentary featured former US Vice-President Al Gore discussing on a slide show, about the consequences climate change would have on our planet in the future. It was a visual tour de force for the eyes, as Gore hit the point home, slide, after slide, after slide, about what will occur if we do not make necessary changes in order to avoid future damage. An inconvenient Truth won the 2006 Best Documentary Feature Oscar. It also became one of top grossing documentaries of all time, taking in $49.1 million, globally.

So what has happened since An Inconvenient Truth has come out?

A lot of things have happened. I won’t go into every crook and cranny on what’s happened since, but I will discuss some key points.

Weather events are getting more extreme: Ok, as much as I love watching a good extreme wrestling bout, the same can’t be said about extreme weather. There is nothing funny, nor pretty about flash flooding, droughts, and intense heat waves.  In, fact it’s quite scary. Consider since 2006, six years have been the hottest globally on record, (2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015). There is a 99% chance 2016 will be even warmer (and it’s not even June yet). Climate analysts suggest these types of events will only increase in warming world, as we head into a “New Normal” of expecting the unexpected in weather. If that won’t get you, perhaps increased insurance rates in the pocket-book will from these situations.

Increased investments in renewables and cleantech investment: While doom and gloom abounds about climate change, one positive has occurred, which is more investments into renewable energy and clean technology. Renewable energy and clean technology has seen revival, thanks to reducing carbon emissions, but also thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which poured $31 billion US into new American clean energy projects. Since then, global renewable energy investment reached a record in 2015 with $329 billion US, with emerging market countries leading the way. Electric vehicles are also finding their way, as they are becoming more affordable, as Tesla Motors has taken already 373,000 pre orders for its affordable ($35,000 per car) model 3 vehicle, and is considered a “game changing” event within the automobile industry due to the amount of rapid sales for an electric vehicle.

Ten years on. An Inconvenient Truth, if anything got more people talking about climate change and began a serious conversation in mainstream society. It’s been used in universities, and schools about what needs to occur about taking climate action. Sure it has its detractors.  Yet at the end of the day, it’s a discussion that needed to be out in the open. Look, I love talking about money (I prepare income taxes, and took economics), but we can’t continue to beat up our planet Earth day in and day out in the sake of maximizing return. There is no economy with no planet. Today we have to technology to move forward, with wind, solar, biofuels, battery storage, and electric vehicles.  The Internet of Things will help to ramp up renewable energy through smart grids, as smart cities will help to ensure improved energy efficiencies in major urban centres.

We owe it to ourselves. If not to save our Earth, but in the very least to upgrade our outdated 20th century infrastructure into the 21st century, and save ourselves future costs from extreme weather events.

So watch An Inconvenient Truth again. Discuss what has changed since. Debate with your friends and neighbors. Be inspired by it. But in the very least come out of it with something new, and take action. Because there is No Planet B.

 

Nevada Gov. Sandoval Sells Out on Solar Energy

Nevada Gov. Sandoval Sells Out on Solar Energy


Incase you have missed it, major US solar installer SolarCity is shedding many solar jobs in Nevada.

According to the Sentinel Source, 550 jobs are being scrapped in the state, as regulators have voted for new solar rooftop utility fees.

 

Obviously, SolarCity opposes such action, as they would see this as a major hindrance in solar’s growth within Nevada, making it not as attractive, despite having some of the best solar radiation within the US.

You think this smells like rotten cheese? You bet. Consider first, NV Nevada, is one of the state’s biggest utilities, and is owned by Warren Buffet’s investment group Berkshire Hathaway. According to the Sentinel Sourceis looking to regain lost revenue from decentralized solar, like what SolarCity offers. Recently, NV Nevada won, and is now charging an extra $17.90/month as of this January to its solar customers.

Second, Nevada appointed Paul Thomsen, as Chairman of their Public Utilities commission last fall. Thomsen, was past director of business and policy development of Ormat Technologies, in Reno Nevada, with facilities in Israel. While Ormat Technologies does invest in solar, its big stake is within geothermal. Smell something wrong here? Perhaps a case of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval falling to entrenched interests?

Don’t get me wrong, I think geothermal is great, but it’s not just as cost of effective as solar in a region where sunshine is plentiful. Consider solar costs are becoming much more competitive with coal, oil, and gas. Geothermal costs, on the other hand, drilling to have geothermal energy in place can be pricey.

At the end of the day, decentralized solar energy makes sense. A disruptive opportunity, thanks to SolarCity waits in the balance in Nevada. Places like where I live in Manitoba, would love to have the choice of which SolarCity and solar energy provides in many US states. When the hearings begin tomorrow on Nevada’s solar future, protesters in front of the building should take this chant and yell it out loud and clear tomorrow as Gov. Sandoval has done this: You’ve Sold Out!

US Adds 1.3GW of Solar PV in 1st Quarter of 2015: GTM Research/SEIA


United States solar market continues its growth, fuelled by residential PV installations, which advanced by 76% (437MW) in the first three months of 2015.

Solar Energy Industries Association/Green Tech Media (GTM) Research, who co-publish the US Solar Market Insight quarterly reports on the state of the industry, said overall installations were 1.3GW in Q1 2015. This was the sixth straight quarter where more than 1GW of new solar capacity was added.

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Image Credit: Photon Energy via FlickrSome Rights Reserved

This also accounted for 51% of new US electricity generation brought online, said senior vice president of GTM Research Shayle Kann.

Kann expects greater than 3 million home solar installations in the next five years, thanks to a more extensive movement towards customers engaging in energy creation, management, and use.

California (not surprising) lead the way in 2015 first quarter installations, followed by Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. Texas, New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico, and Maryland, round out the top ten in new capacity

Image credit via: GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight report

Image credit via: GTM Research

Prices also fell this past quarter for home solar systems by 10% compared to 12 months earlier, at $3.48/watt. This is especially good news for consumers who are looking to take advantage of solar’s falling prices, with improved technologies.

One interesting side note from this report which kind of surprised me was how North East US record snowfall this past winter did not hamper new solar capacity:

The Northeastern U.S. experienced one of its worst winters ever recorded, but that didn’t prevent the residential solar market segment from having its best quarter of all time. The first quarter tends to be the slowest time of the year for the solar market due to weather, accounting and tax considerations. Despite these headwinds, the residential market still grew 11 percent over last quarter, its previous high-water mark.

What this recent report is solar is becoming the real deal. It’s a testament when despite pitiful weather conditions could have hurt new solar pv in Northern Atlantic states, places like New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland were in the top ten for new overall installations.

As SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch said “Solar continues to be the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States. By 2016, the U.S. will be generating enough clean solar energy to power 8 million homes.”

Resch added solar power can 8 million cars off the road, or 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Not bad, considering fossil fuels like Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson mocks renewables, despite its growth,and ignoring 97% of scientists who suggest climate change is real.

If you want to go deeper into this report go to the SEIA website, where you can download the report.

Infograph: Union of Concerned Scientists: US Solar Growth


Ok, I figure I would share this info graph with everyone from US-based Union of Concerned Scientists regarding the jaw-dropping growth of US rooftop solar energy since the start of 21st Century.

Consider this:

In 2005, the average rooftop solar system cost $40,000. However by 2013, a roof based solar power plant would cost $20,000. If customers decide to lease a solar system, installations costs are $0.00. Examples of companies providing leasing options for those wanting to go solar include SolarCity and Vivant Solar.

Add by 2017, more than 50% of US states will have solar electricity prices cheaper than local utilities. Currently, many states, including California, Texas, Arizona have prices as affordable as the grid.

What’s more impressive is how many households have gone solar. In 2006, 30,000 households had added a solar system to their home. By 2013, those numbers reached 400,000. By 2020, depending estimates, range from 900,000 to 3.8 million homes going solar.

So what has drove solar’s ascension? Here are three critical reasons.

1. Climate change concerns and mitigating risk.

2. Declining solar costs (and even more proof here).

3. US Government tax credit policy.

Without all three, I don’t think you would see the disruption you are seeing in the US utility sector.

So what does Canada have to do to duplicate the United States growth?

Feel free to email me at adamjwpg@mymts.net your thoughts. You may also contact me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

From Cleantechnica: US Solar Residential Financing Expected To Top $5.7 Billion By 2016


Here is an interesting story for all of those interested in finance and renewable energy that I just wrote today for Cleantechnica. The question is why is Canada’s residential solar financing so pathetic compared to the US? Better programs are needed, especially here in Manitoba.


US Solar Residential Financing Expected To Top $5.7 Billion By 2016 (via Clean Technica)

US solar residential financing is expected to reach $5.7 billion according to GreenTech Media Research. The new report suggests solar financing for residential homes will grow from $1.3 billion in 2012, to $5.7 billion in 2016, more than four times the current rate. Much of the strength anticipated…

Continue reading

Time To Go Big Or Go Home on Renewable Energy (Infographic)


Often, I go through my Twitter feed trying to find good information relating to what is impacting the 21st century. This time, I found an infograph (see below) that the Pew Charitable Trusts released today relating to United States clean energy policy. Here is some interesting numbers:

– Between 2012-2018 could see global revenue for clean energy reach U.S.$1.9 Trillion, which is quite an astonishing number given the rapid rise globally of renewable energy within recent years.

– 118 nations (sorry, Canada and U.S.) have some sort of national renewable energy goals. Heck, even China, and India, two of the world’s top emerging markets have some sort of national targets.

– What is even more interesting is China currently has 30.1% of the global solar photovoltaic manufacturers in their own country, and 26.7% of companies producing wind turbines. Just showing how emerging markets are embracing clean energy.

So, isn’t it time for countries like Canada and the U.S. to go big or go home? We know likely Barack Obama mentioned in his inauguration address in January his commitment to battling climate change and boosting renewable energy targets. I wonder if Stephen Harper will too face up to that challenge. In Manitoba, will the spirit of entrepreneurism and activism finally rise up to create new and exciting businesses? Or will the lack of entrepreneurial spirit seal this provinces fate as a renewable energy leader.

So what do you think? Do you think that It’s time to go big or go home with clean technology?  Email me at adamjwpg@mymts.net, or contact me on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Google+.

Image Credit: The Future of U.S. Clean Energy via Pew Environment

Image Credit: The Future of U.S. Clean Energy via Pew Environment