Smart Technology; Changes and the Consumer

The traditional structure of the customer domain reduces the end-user to a passive consumer of energy. In the foreseeable future, the smart grid will bring about two key changes in the consumer’s role within the energy sector: local microgeneration and electricity storage.
Published: Thu 08 Nov 2012

Key Changes

Local Microgeneration

This small-scale production of electric power enables individuals and small businesses to become self-sufficient energy generators. Local microgeneration enables the public to harness renewable energy, such as solar power, to meet their energy needs. Also, the national grid benefits during peak times as microgeneration will divert energy onto the national grid.

Electricity Storage

The second main change is in electricity storage, through the addition of an Electric Vehicle (EV) to the domain. There are advantages and disadvantages to implementing electricity storage in EV's. The main advantage is that emergency supplies can be stored. The major disadvantage is that it requires a substantial charging period. This may cause grid instability if several EV's are plugged simultaneously into the system. This is something that the national grid will need to monitor.

This domestic end-user setting can also be applied to the industrial sector. The main difference is the capacity of energy required. For example, domestic energy usage is on a small-scale basis such as cooking and heating. On the other end of the scale, industrial companies consume a higher level of electricity in maintaining furnaces, for example.

Consumers: Allies of Utilities

According to the ‘Big Report’, utilities are currently facing the challenge of actively engaging their customers in reducing their energy consumption. The ‘Big Report’ has identified ORNL’s CoNNECT platform, an analyses of energy consumption, which shows that data provides utilities with consumer patterns of consumption. The data is then used to refine their incentive programs, thereby encouraging consumers to limit their energy consumption.

Uniquely, the public can also use ORNL’s CoNNECT to re-evaluate their energy consumption habits. In addition, consumers are able to use this platform to compare their utility habits with members of their community. This will give them an insight into renewable energy alternatives and the effects thereof on their future energy consumption patterns.

ORNL intends for its CoNNECT platform to achieve the following:

  • Promote and encourage energy efficient and renewable energy technologies in the energy sector and in the consumer’s home.
  • Promote consumer engagement through user-generated content
  • Increasing consumer awareness of energy efficiency

Final Word

It is clear the relationship between utilities and consumers has to be more engaged and connected in order to achieve energy efficiency in the future.