It’s really amazing to me that my kids are growing up in a world where nearly infinite knowledge and information is literally available at our fingertips from nearly every corner of the globe. I’m, of course, referring to the internet revolution that has fundamentally changed large portions of our lives. With young kids at home, I’m reminded of what it was once like when we depended on a central location like a library to provide depths of reference material. Today, my kids just Google it and the answer comes from a deep network of many distributed knowledge bases. And now, this kind of thinking and technology is quickly becoming one of the main growth engines of the energy space.
I’ve come to believe we are experiencing a self-optimizing customer revolution in the energy and utility industry. Where once central planners were asked to play this role, more and more customers will use the power of digital devises to self-optimize and achieve energy efficiency and cost savings.
With this sense of awe in mind about the power of a network of resources, I was asked to share my experiences with microgrids at the EnergySMART 2012 conference hosted by EnerNOC. We really are at a defining moment in the energy industry, where we move away from a fully centralized model that Thomas Edison would recognize as his own to a distributed or network model where consumers own far more of their destiny for managing electricity needs. This new paradigm calls for new approaches to assess options. Most consumers are only just beginning to understand the gamut of choices they have to manage their energy requirements. These include newly lower-cost distributed energy resources like solar and small high-efficiency clean-burning natural gas gensets. This also includes the ability to manage energy demand in real-time markets that pay for demand response capabilities, which were once untapped. And then, there is all the cool technology that will enable control and insights—we could only now dream of—into how we interact with energy.
When I was 10 years old and growing up in the Mid-West, I could never have dreamed I’d hold a device in my hand that was the key to infinite knowledge. OK, maybe I might have dreamed it, but as this kind of digital network technology now becomes a reality in the energy industry, it’s up to each of us to dream a little more about how to self-optimize ourselves and our businesses and think a bit less like central planners.