One of the ideas that was brought up in our first call was demand managment / measurement, in terms of demand coming from renewable / preferred sources that tend to be unreliable versus less preferred but more reliable sources.
Demand Response background
I brought up the idea of demand response on the call and probably didn't explain it fully - it goes well beyond the demand management scenario outlined above.
Like demand management, demand response can be an attempt to shed load at times of peak demand however its mechanisms are more typically automated, and realtime.
So in a demand response scenario, the utility companies publish their electricity pricing in realtime (remember that electricity pricing is a function of supply and demand and remember also that, somewhat counter-intuitively, cheap electricity has a higher % of renewables in the mix) and the devices in your home/business programatically consume that information and alter behaviour accordingly (device on/off, thermostat up/down, etc.).
In times of excess supply, you want to stimulate uptake of electricity so you drop the price and in times of excess demand you up the price to lower the demand.
An example of this would be, you put your dishes in your dish washer at 7pm, say - you don't care when they are washed as long as they are clean and dry at 7am the following morning. If your dish washer could consume realtime electricity info it could decide when best to turn on (ie by 6am or at 6c/kWh - whichever comes first). Similarly for refrigeration (compressor on/off, thermostat up/down), aircon, heating (central heating or immersion) pool pumps and so on. Obviously there are some loads you are not going to move - you are not going to get up at 3am to put on the evening meal just 'cos electricity is cheap, however, there are significant loads (outlined above) which are movable and when done en masse have a huge effect on the grid.
Plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles using vehicle-to-grid technologies in this scenario have the power to act as a large, utility-scale, distributed energy storage mechanism for the country.
The big advantage of this is by having realtime response, you overcome the instability added to the system by increasing the % of variable supply sources allowing for the addition of extra renewables to the system without further destabilising the grid.
Think of this as the TIVOising of your electricity consumption.
To roll this out we need:
Utilities are typically command and control oriented and their current attitude to smart grids and demand response is that this is a nice way they will be able to automatically turn down your aircon when it suits them. This attitude will see many demand response projects fail.
Not sure after that where the challenge for the Process Design Slam will come from - possibly a process for rolling out a customer-centric demand response program - or is that waaaaay too ambitious?
RealtimeCarbon.org is a website which displays in realtime the carbon footprint of electricity generation nationally in the UK - see screenshot below:
The example of California
California has an independent grid operator that posts its forecast daily demand in real time on its web page.
Imagine that this demand measure included % of electricity coming from renewable sources (hydro, wind, solar) versus carbon-rich (natural gas, coal, oil). Here is their link, check out the graphs on the front page:
Maybe we build a real time dashboard showing % of renewable energy generated, and add in tons of CO2 generated. Probably we would need an efficiency measurement showing how tons of CO2 generated are much less from renewable sources.
Greg spoke with Andreas Muno (AEM) of SAP Public Sector IBU Solution Management who added an interesting idea: a feedback loop from residents to respond in real time to alerts from the grid operator if increased demand leads to increase % of non green electric demand resources. Andreas has a bit of BPM process he could tweak for this. California already has a similar concept. When demand threatens to exceed supply, a power emergency is put out by the California ISO. Electricity-intensive manufacturers who have previous agreed to cease operations during power emergencies will wind down their usage - this is in exchange for lower rates. Maybe residents and businesses could have similar benefit that kicks in if they agree in real time to reduce consumption. Would need smart meter installed for verification?
AEM adds: Along these lines, how about involving entire neighborhoods into the energy conservation efforts? People in any specific neighborhood would subscribe to an alert service of the power company. When the daily peak is near, the power company sends out the alert, asking people to postpone consumption to a later time that day. People respond by pledging to do just that (this could be a one-button mobile app for all cell phones). A variant of that same idea: Power company ask for pledges of entire neighborhoods to only use some of their appliances during the low-consumption times, where the power stations run at lowest costs. The benefit for the power company (or the households) in comparison with an individual approach is, you don't need as many of the modern power meters, if you go by neighborhood. The risk is, your energy efficiency gain is not as high, since the individual is not rewarded as much, and there will be free riders. The individual gains in the lower energy bill will be lower. This risk can be mitigated though: If there is no actual economic reward for people, they might still do it if organized in neighborhood teams that compete with each other... These green competitions seem to fare pretty well. Competition between green teams adds a playful element to the stern sustainability topic.