The Clean Revolution
Climate Week NYºC
On 20 September, as part of Climate Week NYºC, The Sallan Foundation, NYC-ACRE and the NYAS hosted Market Makers: Developing Energy Efficiency Technology in NYC.
David Biello, award-winning associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American moderated this panel, which discussed advances in energy efficiency strategies and technology with a view to what is needed in the future to address increasing electricity demand.
Colin Smart, Section Manager for Demand Response at Con Edison, spoke first on the panel, asking the audience rhetorically: "What is smart grid...?" The point being made that the term means something different to everyone. In any case, however, with smart grid we can't look for a clear destination or end point. For example, if we approached cell phone innovation so linearly, we wouldn't have achieved the level of mobile device innovation that we see in the world today.
With respect to Con Edison's challenge to provide enough electricity to future customers most of them in New York City — Smart hopes innovation comes swiftly. New York City's electricity demand is projected to skyrocket over the next few years, all thanks to the growth of window air conditioners. The City has 6.1 million window air conditioners and expects to add 1 million more over the next 5 years. Con Edison is often asked about how they will adapt to the increased demand on the grid from EVs being charged at night. Smart's response is, "I'm much more concerned about window air conditioners than [electric] cars." While utilities need to be thinking about how EV infrastructure will affect electricity demand, night time charging fortunately will pull electricity from the grid at a time when demand is the lowest.
Mei Shibata, co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer from ThinkEco, spoke about how her company works to increase energy efficiency of plugged-in devices with their outlet cover called the Modlet. Shibata feels that New York City has been a great locale in which to launch an energy efficiency start-up. The company has been piloting the devices in partnership with Con Edison around New York City this past summer.
Shibata and Think Eco have found that in rolling out the Modlet, if the discussion focuses less on energy efficiency and more on empowering consumers in how they're able to use energy in their lives, this drives people to become more interested and encourages adoption.
Allen Freifeld, Senior Vice President, External Affairs for Viridity Energy, brought the prospective of an energy services company (ESCO) to the panel. His company has been able to reduce the energy bills of its customers by allowing them to curtail their energy usage in a way that's predictable for grid operators. Curtailing loads when prices are the highest, is where the savings start to materialise for the customer. But the predictability for grid operators ultimately reduces electricity prices across the board for all consumers in the market — a win-win-win situation.
All presenters agreed that empowering the consumer to make their own energy choices will ultimately increase energy efficiency measures, and smart meters enable this energy empowerment to occur. Yet, Freifeld opined, "Smart meters without smart prices is a real dumb idea". We have to make sure to complement these energy management devices with real time pricing.