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.


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.



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








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, 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

From Cleantechnica: Canada’s First Off-Shore Wind Farm Set for B.C.

Canada’s First Off-Shore Wind Farm Set for B.C. (via Clean Technica)

Canada’s first off-shore wind farm is taking shape, which is set to boost British Columbia’s renewable energy image. The multiphase project, owned by the NaiKun Wind Energy Group, will consist of 550 square feet kilometres, with a total of 396 megawatts (MW) of energy is set for phase one. A total…

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Message to Fringe Enviro Activists: Work With Renewable Energy Sector Rather Then Complain!!

With Labour Day pretty much done in the books, fall is fast approaching. That means here in Canada, trade show season for the renewable energy sector.  All three major industries are having their trade shows within a span of two months (see below).

Meanwhile, Powershift Canada, similar to the one in the US is having their conference October 26 to 29 in the Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau Quebec region.

While many environmental activists are brilliant at derailing the wrongs of climate change and global warming, some often are not has keen to work with the solutions that are currently provided in the renewable energy and clean technology sectors. In fact, some oppose those solutions

Take for example Ozzie Zehner’s book, Green Illusions. His book is a sharp critique of the renewable energy and clean technology sector. He believes that these are not solutions to today’s warming planet (trust me, I will give a full review of this book within a few weeks). However, he would prefer simplistic solutions like riding your bike, denser metropolitans, etc.

Great, fine and dandy, but it’s not as simplistic as riding a two-wheel bike all the time  in a globalized world, Mr. Zehner. Maybe we will power our own energy by bicycling all the way home!!

Or how about this excerpt from an ABC news website about environmentalists opposing solar projects in the Mojave desert:

At a conference in Los Angeles, Brown vowed to crush efforts to block renewable energy projects in California, helping them overcome permitting and environmental challenges. He signed a law earlier this year mandating the state get 33 percent of its energy from alternative sources by 2020, including solar energy.

“The sun in California is like the oil in Texas, it’s fabulous wealth waiting to be developed,” said Brown. “And those who would resist that have to offer a pretty darn good argument for me to give up on solar energy.”

Putting money where his mouth is, the governor filed a brief with the federal court asking a judge to deny a request by an environmental group to stop a solar thermal power project in the Mojave Desert. BrightSource Energy and Bechtel want to put up 347,000 heliostat mirrors around three power towers. But the Western Watersheds Project says it’ll harm the endangered desert tortoise by destroying its habitat. The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife agrees. The tortoise population is already declining. 

“We don’t really know, actually, when you clear 10 square miles of desert, how it’s going to respond in 30 to 50 years,” said Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife. “Likely it’s probably not going to go back to the way it used to be and the species that were there, the tortoises and whatever, probably won’t go back.” The Mojave solar project is just one example of how tough it is to get green projects off the ground. The delays often mean thousands of jobs are on hold.

Even some environmentalists oppose smart grids. Yep. The same people oppose the idea of transforming a grid to make our energy system more efficient.

Perhaps, maybe, just maybe environmentalists need to work with the renewable energy and clean technology sectors in order to have a realistic chance for make our planet more sustainable, while addressing the societies economic and energy needs.

I don’t see why some environmental activists needs to be the wrench in renewable energies back sometimes. I wonder if sometimes, if some of these activists are hindering progress in environmental sustainability, rather helping it. I bet you those at Exxon Mobile and Enbridge executives are in glee when situations like this occur.

Fringe activists needs to stop complaining about every fine little detail and work with the sector on the big picture. Lets get some real action going here. There is some possible hope.  Take for example the US Department of Interior who recently allotted solar energy development zones, with feedback from the environmental community.

If we ever are going to promote a way to protect our planet, without jeopardizing the positives of modern society, the small majority of environmental activists who dislike anything related to renewable energy, and clean technology should work with green industrialists, rather than have signs that say “Smash the Capitalist system.”

Down with Fringe Activism.

My question to you all? Is this what needs to be done to move environmental sustainability forward??

Protests over a proposed Mojave Desert Solar Farm. Photo Source: KQED News-


The Canadian Wind Energy Association is having their annual conference and exhibition from October 14 to 17, while the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association is having their conference from December 3 to 5, and the Canadian Solar Industries Association is having theirs from December 3 to 4.