Monday, January 14, 2008

Investment Opportnity? Grid shock absorbers (aka: real time pricing)

This is an example of the sort of technologies which would appear to be no-brainers but for which the current industry setup has thus far failed to provide sufficient incentives. If we had a price for carbon these 'smart grid' technologies would rapidly be deployed.

"A year-long "smart grid" study showed consumers saved 10 percent on power bills and cut power use 15 percent during key peak hours, the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announced.

The small-scale GridWise Demonstration Project involved 112 homeowners on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Ron Ambrosio of IBM, which participated in the study, said nationwide use of the method could save $120 billion in power plants and transmission lines that won't have to be built."

The sort of technology being used has a very simple principal. Not everything always needs to have access to power. If you are going to make a cup of tea then your kettle will need to respond but if you have an emersion heater that intermitantly turns on to keep your water hot then letting the water cool by a degree or two for 15 minutes would rarely have any consequence, and if you where just about to go in the shower you could temporaraly over ride this. The idea that emersion heaters, fridges, and larger industrial equipment could be intelligently turned off in order to avoid huge peaks such as at the break in sports games or major tv events is known as load shedding.

In it's simplist form load shedding can be carried out by cutting power to whole areas and then you have rolling black outs, this is increasingly an issue in the US, the traditional alternative being to spend billions on infrastructure. The next level of sophistication might have the ability to cut off power to only certain appliances, this would typically be used in conjunction with manual override so that all services are always available but automatic heating, cooling cycles can be marginally delayed. The most interesting development of this technolgy is with real time pricing where you can sign up for a pricing scheme that is dependent on the supply and demand balance; this would be used in conjunction with smart appliances. Using dynamic pricing people can put of doing there washin untill late evening when rates are cheaper, or do the ironing early morning...transparency is introduced and significant saving can be made by the customer whilst also increasing profitability of power companies as they dont need vastly over specified power lines and sub stations to cope with extreme peaks, peaks are radically reduced.

This recent news is from the GridWise project, more on this can be found at:

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