Companies to Become More Involved in Energy Decisions

Climate changes and prices are forcing utility companies to meet customer demand for renewable energy sources.

The consumerization of energy will have a positive impact on energy consumption and carbon emissions, according to Gartner, Inc. At the World Economic Forum's inaugural annual meeting in Dalian, China last week, Gartner analysts predict that by 2010 climate change regulation will force energy utilities to embrace consumer-driven energy efficiency technology and consumer-deployed renewable sources as a demand-side contribution to carbon emission reduction.

"The combination of climate-change concerns and high energy prices have led to energy consumers -- industrial, commercial and residential -- becoming more active in managing their consumption efficiency and deploying their own renewable energy generation," said Kristian Steenstrup, vice-president at Gartner.

Examples of the consumerization of energy include residential solar-panel programs in Germany and micro wind-turbine programs in the U.K. Commercial operations are also pursuing this avenue such as Google's Googleplex solar-panel project where it launched the largest solar panel installation on a corporate campus in the U.S. Wal-Mart has an initiative which calls for putting solar panels on more than 20 of its stores in California and Hawaii.

"This is not about consumers 'going off the grid', but about using technology to become an 'active part of the grid'", said Steenstrup.

He noted that the power sector is the biggest contributor of CO2 emissions among all industries, and advised energy utilities to embrace consumers as significant contributors to CO2 abatement programs. Utilities are introducing time-based billing to get a voluntary reduction of usage at peak times, and as a result this will encourage consumers to store energy when it is cheap (off peak) or obtain energy from alternative solar or renewable sources, thus moving their load to off peak times.

"The maturation and affordability of renewable energy sources will result in a significant percentage of new generation capacities, introduced by end customers in the form of distributed energy resources, mostly using alternative and cleaner energy sources," he added.

In addition to energy-efficiency-enabling technologies, most of the consumer-introduced technologies will come in the form of distributed generation, based on emerging generation technologies (primarily renewables) or emerging energy storage technology.

According to Gartner, the solution to this will be a userfriendly appliance, storing and managing power in the most economical balance for the consumer. "An easy to use and convenient appliance has the potential to become the iPod equivalent of energy management," said Mr. Steenstrup.


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