Changing the economics of energy
Until now, we’ve thought about energy as ‘always on’ and little thought is applied to when we use energy and what the economic impact is. However, the economics of energy are changing. Utility companies are remodeling the way energy is distributed and priced. At the centre of this change is the Smart Grid. Building on the current electrical grid, the smart grid integrates smart meter technology which are in home monitors that aggregate electrical use and pricing by time of day by each appliance. As energy suppliers begin to integrate variable pricing based on demand and availability, there is a need for new technologies and tools to allow consumers to understand the economic impact of their energy use in much more details.
General Electric is leading the way for consumer energy management systems. In 2011, they will be launching Nucleus, GE Brillion’s first home energy monitor. Nucleus is a small device that plus into any electrical outline in a home. The device then communicates wirelessly with smart appliances in the home and energy companies and then transmits data back to the homeowner’s computer or iPhone. Consumers can then see detailed information on their real time energy use, current electricity rates, and historical usage over time.
Often times, the idea of Personal Metrics is only associated with taking feedback about your behavior and making changes that only affect your lifestyle and environment. But, it is exciting to see the idea of Personal Metrics begin to influence and integrate into a community. One central element of Personal Metrics is competition as a means of motivation. Such models of group goals and competition have emerged in the area of weight loss as groups of people whether from a family, company, or social group compete against each other to see which group can achieve the most weight loss. It would be interesting to see if the same principle could be applied to energy consumption. I’m curious if the pilot program involves any type of social gaming. Could a pilot program be designed where early adopter cities compete against each other to see the lowest aggregate energy use or bill? What would be an appropriate reward in such a program? It will be interesting to see what types of strategies are applied to encourage consumer adoption of the Nucleus.
To learn more about Nucleus and communities participating in pilot programs, visit General Electric.