31. December 2010 04:06
As we wrap up 2010, the topic that received the most coverage this year was "Smart Grid" - it looked like almost every business in the utility industry was involved in this market, irrespective of what their product or services offered were. Hope fully, we can now get into the actual work of converting this dream of a "seamlessly connected Smart World" into practical reality. That is going to need focused work on specific areas of the grid, various aspects of distribution services, intelligent products and networks within homes, offices and factories, and technology products and services to make them all work together. In addition, it's going to take each utility to develop a cogent strategy and plan that meets the needs of their customers and effectively implement a communications plan to educate their customers on the benefits and costs associated with their Smart Grid plans. Otherwise, the dream of Smart Grid will remain another one of those PR bonanzas that don't achieve even a fraction of their touted potential.
We wrap up our last blog entry for the year wishing all of our customers, readers and partners a great New Year weekend and a wonderful year in 2011 filled with good cheer, great health and memorable times with family and friends.
Let the good times roll.....
25. December 2010 04:45
Renewable energy - solar, wind, biogas, etc - have been touted as having the capacity to transform poor and remote parts of the world with no access to the regular power grid. But, the reality so far has proved to be otherwise - the usual factors of high costs, lack of distribution channels, support infrastructure have prevented the renewable energy from having a true transformative effect. Now, as we wind down the first decade of the 21st century, comes news that we might be turning the corner on this area.
A recent article in New York Times describes how small solar panels that can be easily mounted on the roof of a hut is helping village families in Kenya. Systems that cost about $80 are being used by villagers to generate enough power to charge cellphones, cook with solar stoves and run lights. These might seem minor capabilities to a person in a developed country with a home connected to 24/7 power from an electric grid. But, these capabilities turn out to be revolutionary in these villages:
- cellphones are not just for gossiping with friends in these places; they are lifeline to keep in touch with market prices in the cities, transfer funds and pay bills
- having lights that can be kept on during the night means children get better grades at school or a roadside food stall or store can stay open in nights resulting in profitable businesses in areas where none existed before.
- having electric power means the family saves a bundle on kerosene for lamps, wood for cooking and reduced injuries from fires.
- save on spending on long trips to cities for recharging cellphones, and so on.
UN estimates that there are over a billion people without power around the globe. Developments like these show that thinking small in the case of renewable energy - i.e., small portable solar panels for villages vs. huge solar farms that development agencies used to push till now - is actually a more effective option.
22. December 2010 09:19
As we come to the close of 2010, one area that that still seems to attract a lot of passionate arguments is climate change. Overwhelming majority of scientists and engineers - people who inhabit the fact-based universe - have seen the data and accept as fact the CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been steadily rising. There is also overwhelming consensus that increased levels of CO2 lead to raising average temperatures. [For a quick primer, check out Keeling Curve - named after Dr. Charles Keeling, who painstakingly developed instrumentation to measure CO2 levels and then documented them for several years to put this issue to rest.]
Below is the plot of the data Keeling collected:
Reasonable people can argue about the impact: Bulk of the world believes that this increase in CO2 levels will result in about 6F rise in earth which would have profound effects on the polar ice caps, weather patterns and food production. A small minority believes it will result in 2F increase and the impacts will be minimal. It would be fine if these two groups could argue using facts and research data to arrive at a conclusion that could be used for global action. The problem is that the discussions have been hijacked by various special interest groups using arguments that have very little to do with facts and more to do with political ideology. One can only hope that in the coming year, all sides involved move towards facing facts and work towards developing a cogent plan of action to take care of the issue before it's too late. In the final analysis, our planet responds only to facts and not to any opinion polls.
Additional reading: there is an article in New York Times on the life and work of Dr. Keeling that makes wonderful reading. Enjoy.
13. December 2010 11:06
Last week, DoE announced that it has teamed up with seven U.S. government agencies to launch the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, a coordinated effort to promote exports of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. In 2009, the United States exported roughly $2 billion of manufactured renewable energy goods. The initiative will use that as a benchmark for progress. This is a great opportunity for product and service providers in the DSM, renewable energy and conservation markets in the U.S. Since the market here has had a chance to mature over the last several years, they can now take that expertise to tap into the high-growth opportunities in the emerging markets around the globe.
DOE is investing in instrumental market research and discovery that can help focus U.S. government resources for trade promotion. For example, DOE will identify U.S. manufactured energy efficiency products likely to be competitive in global markets, and in collaboration with U.S. trade associations, DOE will explore the creation of guides for foreign buyers that list technologies and services available from U.S. providers. The initiative is the country’s first-ever federally coordinated effort to support renewable energy and energy efficiency exports. Through the implementation of 23 interagency actions, the initiative will help increase renewable energy and energy efficiency exports during the next five years. The concept was developed through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Working Group on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which in addition to co-chairs DOE and Commerce, includes representatives from the Departments of State and Agriculture, as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
The full PR from DoE is available here.
The export promotion initiative has its own web site with additional info here.