Bryan Fried, Chairman and CEO of PANGEA global technologies.
According to a study published in 2018 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, we waste as much as 68% of all the energy we generate in the US Blackouts and brownouts have become commonplace in the US during peak periods. States like California were on the verge of energy crisis events and, according to Politico, are far from out of the woods.
Macro issues such as increasing nuclear production or green, renewable energy are contentious. However, there are existing solutions that are non-hostile and can be implemented easily and cheaply.
According to energy storage expert Fuergy, one solution is to create a ‘Smart Grid’. Radoslav Stompf, CEO of Fuergy, writes, “Through the analysis of collected ‘Big data’ in real time, it is possible to accelerate the response time to changes in the electricity grid and thus ensure a high-quality and stable energy supply. Or, in other words, devices can dissipate unused energy in favor of other equipment that needs it.”
While there is a continued focus on the big picture, significant energy savings can be achieved at the micro level. That saving starts with a clear insight into what our current consumption is. Commercial and industrial consumption forms a large part of our energy grid. By collecting data and analyzing what energy is needed for operations and what energy is consumed, a company can optimize its energy use using a software interface with its energy-using devices.
Virtually all energy-dependent devices, including lighting, machinery, HVAC, communications, and appliances, can be equipped with a software interface and control device that collects and relays information about the device to a central command center. That command center can collect data on the activity of the device and analyze where there are opportunities for energy savings and conservation. A software-based command center with automation or AI capabilities can also act on the data, enabling optimal energy usage schedules and reducing instances of wasted energy. On a larger scale, this information can be shared and analyzed by energy suppliers to better understand consumer needs and shape their electricity grids to meet those needs, as Stompf points out in his article.
These types of devices can be installed inexpensively on virtually any electrical device, providing data visibility, analysis, and causal responses to device events as well as information related to energy consumption. What is a practical example of this type of environment? Consider a business or commercial structure where these types of devices are built into the lighting system. Lighting can be individually programmed to use energy only at key moments where lighting is needed and only where people are present or lighting is needed for business operations. Essentially, this will reduce energy consumption to only business necessary levels. It will also enable compliance with the many regulations and statutes emerging in US municipalities that now require this type of power control. Unsurprisingly, utilities in the US offer lucrative rebates to companies with this kind of energy-optimizing capability. By using them, companies waste less energy, lower their energy costs, and at the same time energy suppliers reduce the load on their networks.
Companies that want to take advantage of this approach can make a count of the electrical appliances in the company, which can benefit from energy monitoring and optimization. Each device can be rated based on its current energy consumption and estimates of potential savings can be made based on optimizing the use of those devices. The software vendor can provide guidelines on how to achieve this in a specific environment. This method provides a full assessment of energy consumption and potential savings. That’s why it’s important to choose a software vendor that’s not only adept at this process, but can also talk to any hardware interface that may be needed to optimize power usage. The provider should also be able to advise on any utility discounts that may result from such optimisation.
It is also important in a technology purchase to “inspect what you expect” with regard to the software itself. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for some software vendors to exaggerate the current capabilities of their software. Often software vendors will promote functionalities in the technology that are still in development and have not yet been proven. It is therefore critical that the business owner requests a hands-on demonstration of the software related to their own specific requirements. This is the only way to ensure that the software in its current state can meet the needs of the business.
In addition, the same question should be asked of any hardware interface that the software needs. For example, energy use in a device such as a motor requires a hardware interface that connects the software to the motor to collect data about the operation of the motor. It is important to ensure that the interface device is fully functional for this purpose by asking the software vendor that question.
Remember that understanding technology can be complicated and difficult. But a business owner’s focus should not be on understanding the technology at a detailed level. Rather, the focus should be on understanding how to achieve the business owner’s energy optimization goals in an easy-to-understand, down-to-earth way. If the provider can do this, the installation is more likely to succeed.
By optimizing energy use at the individual company level, we can reduce demand on local, state and national power grids while lowering energy costs for organizations. This is a clear win-win for both energy consumers and providers.