I don’t often reprint someone else’s blog, but I thought this was an exceptional perspective on site selection and an inventory of a community’s assets.
« Edelman Cleantech Tracker
Smart Electricity – The New Economic Development Selling Point
By Michael McCullough
Ask any American mayor what sets his or her city, town apart from others – beyond obvious geographical elements – and you will get a familiar refrain.
“We have the best schools, a great transportation network, a talented labor pool, affordable housing…..”
Increasingly site selection pros have a laundry list of environmental questions – both technical business and policy questions, and ones affecting potential employees’ quality of life. Smart mayors are adding a new superlative to this list: “a smart grid” which sets their environmental position apart from other regions.
Affordable and sustainable electricity, which in the consumer sense has been largely confined to “what could be, what’s coming” discussions, is ready for prime time. Leaders from regions across the U.S. would be wise to add smart grid-related deployments to the lexicon and proactively partner with utility stakeholders to map out storytelling opportunities. The smartest are already doing this.
As general awareness for the benefits of smart grids increases, and significant improvement is needed, this will become a common refrain among those charged with attracting and keeping private enterprise in their regions.
Swelling populations need new infrastructure
Even in today’s economic climate, research shows the demand for energy will grow. More people now live in cities than rural areas. Research also indicates the cost for electricity will rise by as much as 400 percent by 2050. As urban populations get bigger, the regions that point to infrastructure improvements (i.e. a smart grid) designed to help manage and soften these increases will be poised for success. Studies show that same 400 percent cost increase can be decreased to just 50 percent if the right infrastructure is in place.
Business leaders want reliable and flexible electricity
A more reliable and flexible electric grid will be a key selling point for competitive states and cities to attract business, especially those looking to build advanced manufacturing facilities.
It is telling when you see where and how energy is wasted. This proves that conservation and energy-saving technology on the shop floor that works hand in hand with a smart grid are the cheapest forms of energy. Converting power to electricity is one of the biggest drains. Utilities, and their customers, who make investments today will free up resources for future capital gains and discretionary spending in the future.
These technologies will reduce consumer interruptions and customer minutes lost, which will bring tremendous savings to organizations who suffer from lost productivity in the wake of power outages.
Improving the quality of life for residents
Pressure on the family checkbook dictates the need for active involvement in managing our electric bills. In the U.S., electric rates are up 50 percent from 10 years ago.
But most people don’t know, or care, that the cost of electricity varies based on demand. Electricity is more expensive during “peak” hours when additional generation is needed. Yet most residential electricity customers pay one set price —regardless of the time of day. The drain of powering electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones could be cut by more than half through the use of the best available technology.
With this in mind, company officials touring potential site locations would certainly be enthusiastic when they learn about how their employees would be empowered to make better informed energy decisions. These are decisions that are more advanced than one dimensional changes that have been the norm, such as the adoption of fluorescent lights, the use of programmable thermostats and remembering to hit the lights. A CenterPoint Energy study showed 82 percent of consumers in its smart grid pilot project check their device at least daily and 87 percent have made adjustments in their energy usage. Satisfaction with the technology is high at 91 percent and almost all participants – 95 percent – will continue to use the monitor even after the pilot has ended.
Seizing the advantage of electric vehicles
Now that higher gas prices are here to stay the electrification of local transportation networks has moved from the fringe to the mainstream. As electric vehicles become a more attractive choice – hybrid or otherwise – consumers will begin looking for a charge that doesn’t 1) stress the electricity grid or cause small, localized outages 2) run up an undesired expense and 3) contribute to environmental concerns.
Research indicates that U.S. carbon emissions could be reduced by 25 percent if smart grid technology is implemented. Today, electric generation accounts for 40 percent of the world’s GHG emissions. By design, we don’t want to have to build new power generation facilities to support these cars. The promise of electric cars is to decrease emissions. Cities with smarter infrastructure in place will be better suited to mitigate environmental impacts and achieve sustainable growth. This will soon be popular talking point.
And it is worth noting that the goal is to become more efficient with current resources, not build new power generation facilities for additional capacity needs. Ford chief executive Alan Mulally echoed this sentiment when he said “I think clearly, because of the cost and infrastructure issues, we’re going to see a lot more emphasis now on an electrified future that includes not only the generation of electricity but also enhancements in the distribution system.”
In conclusion, here’s the generic Chamber of Commerce pitch I think we will begin to see from the cities that put smart grid infrastructure in place:
“We’ve been busy upgrading our electrical infrastructure with smart grid technology to help our local businesses and residents better manage energy costs. Our citizens are making better informed, personalized choices about their energy use and expenditures. The local utility is putting what was once wasted energy to use for its customers – and in the process found additional capacity that helped it avoid costly expenditures on new production facilities. Our streets are lined with electric car chargers readily available to the public. In times of weather crisis, the system reroutes power and balances the grid both before the event – in anticipation – and after, once lines are down. This allows us to get the lights back on quicker. The investment we’ve made provides us with reliable service, with fewer, more isolated outages and better power quality.”