It’s almost a daily occurrence. We learn of new technologies that will enhance our lives, allow us to communicate from distant planets and lean on artificial intelligence to help us solve problems. What we don’t see often, if at all, is the technology to take our collective global electricity infrastructure out of the previous centuries and into the present.
There are estimates that by 2025, half of the new automobiles around the world will be Electric Vehicles (EVs). On one hand, it’s great the paradigm is shifting away from fossil fuels and their carbon emissions. On the other hand, how in the world do we expect the infrastructure to keep up with charging all these batteries without taking down the power grid?
The secret to success could very well be a technology that’s been around since 2008 and has been a growing pillar for energy companies seeking to wring out more efficiency. It’s called Zigbee Smart Energy from the Connectivity Standards Alliance and it’s been widely deployed around the world, with much initial concentration in Europe and North America. Zigbee Smart Energy is a protocol designed for monitoring and actively managing energy consumption at the end-user level. For both utilities and consumers, it can help reduce waste, energy consumption and enable utilities to monitor and manage a customer’s energy use.
The technology has proven its worth so well in Great Britain that now more than 30 million homes are being outfitted with Zigbee Smart Energy technology allowing utilities and consumers visibility through a communication hub, meter, and display. It allows the power company (or natural gas provider) to manage resources during peak consumption through Demand Response and Time-of-Use protocols so consumers can also alter their consumption – choosing to use a power-hungry home appliance immediately or postpone until later when the peak rates are lowered. The data suggests that energy consumption can be cut by 9-14 percent just through greater awareness. The whole “what gets measured gets managed” scenario.
If you think the concept just works on home furnaces and HVAC systems, other energy hungry home equipment can also be targeted like water heaters, pool pumps, hot tubs and increasingly, EVs.
For example, there will be optimal times to charge EVs at home, taking advantage of substantially lower pricing when overall grid use and energy consumption is low. Using new enhancements for Smart Energy that are in development, there can be two-way communications that can share information regarding EV presence, battery size, charge level and more. With this information, charging time, level, and pricing can be optimized, creating more grid stability for the utility and better economics for the consumer.
By original design, energy systems like electricity have been a one-way street, meaning the power flows from the substation to the home. But what about consumers who are creating more energy than they are using? How can they easily sell their excess back to the grid, especially when the utility is in a bind and paying top dollar? Zigbee Smart Energy can help create a two-way street by capturing and communicating the value of electricity coming in either direction. The emerging growth of certified solar Smart Energy devices adds legitimacy to the potential for consumers or commercial operations to monetize their energy harvesting.
For the skeptical consumer, there may be some hesitation with allowing a “provider” to exert some sort of control over their lives. The concept is not foreign, and consumers have shown a willingness to play along if they can save money. Drivers have been allowing insurance companies to monitor their motoring habits to determine pricing. Wireless service providers offer certain discounts if you agree to data throttling so they can better manage the efficiency of their network assets.
While the demand for energy consumption continues to grow, we do have tools in place to manage the impact and even turn the tide by adding our own energy production into the mix. Zigbee Smart Energy can not only help control consumer spending, but it can also help utilities wring out the most efficiency possible. To date, there are more than 1,200 certified Zigbee Smart Energy devices available from a variety of manufacturers. To get ahead of EV demand, energy providers will need to lean into Smart Energy by updating their infrastructure and enticing consumers to adopt the technology for their own benefit. This will add an element of control and a sense of accomplishment to consumers and providers alike. That sounds like a win for everyone, doesn’t it? Isn’t it time you joined the Smart Energy collective community?