With the growing demand for electricity worldwide, matching the generation and consumption of electricity has become difficult for many countries. There are two general approaches the society can follow to address this problem: focus on increasing the generation of electricity or focus on decreasing electricity consumption. Society tends to spend more time and money on improving generation technology, as opposed to changing human behavior to consume less electricity. Technological advancements on the generation of electricity from increasing the efficiency of natural gas combined cycle systems, to increasing the power capacity of a wind farm. However, there are fixed limits on the improvements that can be made to these technologies. Technologies that serve to reduce consumption of electricity have an astonishing effect in the market place. Energy consumption behavior can be changed, especially if the public were aware of their energy usage in both a residential and a commercial setting.
By focusing on reducing electricity consumption, societies can significantly reducing the impacts of the spikes in electricity demand. The majority of people do not realize the energy that is “wasted” in their household from everyday appliances. A technology called PowerWise is a real-time electricity monitoring system that can be implemented in a range of commercial and residential buildings. This system connects to various systems throughout the house and gives an in-depth analysis of how electricity is used, where it is wasted, and gives suggestions on how to reduce usage (by even suggesting to removing lint from the dryer tray).
Figure 1: Example of PowerWise’s Customer Interface
This system can use historical data to monitor the user’s behavior and suggest long-term savings in electricity. This type of technology can help consumers understand where they use and waste electricity, and educate them on how to reduce their carbon footprint.
A similar technology produced by the TechnoWise Group not only monitors electricity consumption but also “optimizes voltages used by residential and commercial consumers” based on the performance of individual appliances . This technology uses a controller that monitors the electrical needs of a given appliance, and it matches it with the exact electricity requirement. The controller continuously matches the needs of the appliance, even if the power requirement changes during the operation of the appliance. The voltage supplied to a given household can also vary depending on the demand for electricity in the area. A spike in supplied voltage to a household can cause damage to the household’s appliances and lead to wasted energy in the form of heat loss. The TechnoWise technology manages these spikes in input power to optimize electricity usage throughout the house. If applied on a large scale, this technology could significantly reduce the strain on the electrical grid due to increasing demand, and potentially prevent brownouts and blackouts from occurring.
Using the information from these smart systems can help entities beyond the consumer. Power generation and distribution companies, as well as appliance manufacturers, can use the information generated from these systems and apply the results on a larger scale. This may be to alter the design of the existing appliance to optimize the operation of the device, or to gain a better perspective on when and why electricity demands peak during certain times throughout the day.
Applying these technologies is a step towards a society that is smarter in energy consumption. Continued innovations in smart energy technology can lend a helping hand to bring the world to an age where electricity shortages were a thing of the past.