Developing Game-Changing Technologies and Thinking

November 4th will be a busy day in California.  It’s the date of an important energy efficiency standards meeting and the date for the  UCLA WINSmartGrid Connection– the 3rd leadership forum that will discuss the state of the transmission and distribution power grids and future Smart Grid directions.

This forum, and others like it that encourage collaboration between universities, utilities, vendors, and governmental agencies, have the opportunity to get outside of traditional mindsets and to think differently about solutions that deliver on the vision of the Smart Grid – a fully bi-directional electric and communications network, as defined in the Smart Grid Dictionary.  The challenges are complex.  The existing grid in the USA was designed to meet the following expectations:

  • deliver a one-way flow of electricity from centralized, utility-scale generation to a meter
  • design processes and tools to manage electricity production from steady-state sources

The Smart Grid will include significant amounts of energy production from sources like wind and solar, which are clean and renewable, but stochastic sources.  (Stochastic means random variability, and that’s why the charts you see showing wind or solar production usually look like most stock market charts – which drives the agencies responsible for reliable electricity production crazy.)   It will also integrate distributed generation sources to the grid, which can range from neighborhood or campus-based sites to every residence with excess solar capacity.  Everything from modeling software and standards to the actual transmission and distribution equipment that handles bi-directional electricity flows has to be created and deployed.  In addition to these technology challenges, utilities also face questions from regulatory agencies with missions to protect rate-payers.  Even traditional processes will have to change to accommodate the changes coming with the Smart Grid. 

The UCLA WINSmartGrid Connection promises to be an interesting day –long session that explores promising technologies, the DOE and National Lab Smart Grid visions, and stimulus funding.   Their focus on wireless communications technologies, including RFID and RF sensors, is particularly intriguing, as well as their discussion on cap and trade impacts on the future Smart Grid.  The telemetry information that RFID can deliver has real possibilities in solutions that help manage the overall reliability of transmission and distribution in the Smart Grid.   It’s a good step in the direction of developing game-changing technologies. 

Game-changing Thinking

If you want some cheese with that “whine”, plan to attend the November 4 California Energy Commission public hearing to consider adoption of TV energy efficiency standards.   Will we hear more from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) about how these standards will hurt the California economy?  Probably.  Will we also get a reprise of the opinion that the government should really bail out electricity guzzling TV manufacturers with a cash for TV clunkers program?   No kidding – that was proposed by Panasonic.   

As previously blogged, there are currently 21 categories of appliances covered by California’s energy efficiency standards.  TVs are a worthy inclusion to that list – the average household has 4 of them!  Click here for more information about the hearing. 

It would be so refreshing and yes, game-changing, to see an industry association like the CEA thinking long term about the future of the planet instead of short-term about certain members’ bottom lines.  However, that doesn’t appear to be in their game plan.  My game plan is to put Panasonic and the other manufacturers that oppose the CEC proposal on my “Do not buy” list.  If sufficient numbers of consumers make energy efficiency part of their game plan, that will be game-changing thinking too.