Is the Smart Grid or Energy Efficiency a Technology to Watch?

October 28, 2009

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) hails the smart grid as one of “5 Technology Trends to Watch” in 2010. The CEA’s annual list is a barometer of emerging technologies.

It’s great the CEA is recognizing the smart grid as an emerging technology that can save us energy, but in doing so it all but ignores that many electronic devices available today can save people energy—and that more are on the way. Energy-efficiency is the true technology trend to watch, and the smart grid is just one future part of that.

In writing on the smart grid, Chris Ely states:

Energy efficiency and green-energy production (including solar, wind and hydro) is a growing component in national energy policy.

The report goes on to discuss widespread green energy (years away) and the effect of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (years away), and it provides beginner’s primer on the smart grid utopia (also years away).

The report also states:

The key to consumer acceptance of smart grid technologies is consumer awareness and that must include, among other things, a better understanding of energy consumption (i.e., variable pricing).

But what of a better understanding of energy consumption in the home? We recently wrote how energy efficiency is being widely considered the easiest and most cost-effective way to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet again, energy efficiency is overlooked in favor of something still being conceived.

CEA’s own research finds that 70 percent Americans are concerned about the cost of their monthly electricity bill, and according to the Associated Press, an EPA analysis says the average household would pay an additional $80 to $111 a year to power their homes and fuel their cars if the climate change legislation before the U.S. Senate becomes law.

The CEA’s report also hails a host of green future innovations, from self-charging cell phones to printable batteries to a solar-powered laptop.

So why isn’t the CEA placing more emphasis on the emerging energy-efficient technologies of today?

It appears that from its “5 Technology Trends to Watch” report, that the CEA wishes to address a wide range of green and energy-efficient technologies that are either in development or years away from reality, while ignoring how current technologies can help us be more energy-efficient in our homes and businesses. Energy monitoring systems, for one, aren’t just a part of a smart grid future; they already exist. Granted, the better ones are overly expensive and smart grid services will likely usher in the demand for more affordable energy monitoring, but it is not a technology of the future. Only its widespread use is.

Home control systems were mentioned as a way to control energy via thermostats in another section of the report, but much more could be covered here.

  • How about the growing amount of custom electronics installations that address cutting wasteful vampire power by using switchable surge suppressors and power conditioners with individually controlled outlets—and automating them?
  • Or the many homes now using energy-saving LED lamps, often in conjunction with dimmable lighting control systems?
  • Or the growing use—finally—of motorized shades and drapes to help regulate indoor temperature and lighting levels?

How about how energy efficiency with these technologies is evolving in the home? That is the real technology to watch.

GreenTech Advocates lauds the CEA for recognizing the smart grid as an emerging technology to watch, but energy efficiency through green technologies is not something to look for in the future. It is here today, and it should be recognized.


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