Tag: energy

Technology is moving us to a world where energy is cheaper, smarter, and less carbon intensive

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.51.40

The graph above is a graph of electricity demand on the Spanish electricity grid taken from the demand page of the grid management company Red Electrica de España.

The data comes from April 26th this year through to Mar 3rd. The sever small graphs along the bottom are daily demand curves, going from Tuesday April 26th on the left, through to Monday May 3rd on the right. You can see that the demand curves for each day are virtually the same.

Saturday and Sunday are however, obvious due to the lower demand on those days, and if you are wondering why Monday the 3rd looks to be lower than the rest of the weekdays, it is because that Monday was a holiday in Spain.

The large graph on top is a zoomed-in look at the demand on one of those days – Friday April 29th. From that you can see that the demand starts to rise early in the morning with the peak occurring between 8-11am. Demand then falls off until late afternoon when people are cooking their evening meals, peaking around 9pm, and then falling until it starts again the following day.

The pattern varies slightly by day of the week, as well as by season, but overall while it is variable, it is also highly predictable.

Graph of predicted energy demand vs actual demand on Spanish grid on April 29th
Graph of predicted energy demand (Green) vs actual demand (yellow) on Spanish grid on April 29th this year – graph from REE

This can be problematic though when you have high penetrations of variable energy suppliers, such as wind and solar.

Here is the energy supplied to the system by wind, for example on April 29th

Energy supplied by wind on the Spanish grid on April 29th this year
Wind energy on the 29th of April on the Spanish grid

As you can see, it doesn’t map well with the demand, and this is challenging for grid management companies, especially with increasing pressure on them to decarbonise.

That can lead to circumstances where wind power ends up supplying 140% of your demand, as happened in the Netherlands last summer. Fortunately, the Netherlands has good interconnects, and so was able to sell this excess energy to its neighbouring countries. This won’t always be the case though, and will become a more common issue as the penetration of wind and solar increases globally.


Obviously, if you can’t manage the supply side of the grid, what about managing the demand – how achievable is that?

Interestingly, this is now becoming a real possibility. Already there are companies who aggregate the demand of large organisations with facilities for reducing demand, if required, and sell that reduced demand to utility companies. This can save the utility from having to build new generation sources to meet the increased demand at times of peak load.

Demand flexibility graph
Demand flexibility

What if this were more widespread?

Looking at the chart above, if we could shift the yellow demand line up during its overnight dip, and then reduce the yellow demand line during the morning and evening, this would make the grid more stable, and allow for the introduction of more variable generators (solar and wind) onto the system, as well as reducing the requirement for expensive ‘peaker plants’.

Sounds great Tom, how to do that?

Well price is always a great motivator. In Germany last week where there was an excess of energy on the system, so pricing went negative, meaning large customers were being paid to use it.

Negative pricing on the German energy market
Graph of negative pricing on the German electricity market

Reduced, or negative pricing is a better option than wind farm curtailment because curtailment lowers the income for the wind farms, making them a less attractive investment for renewables developers, while reduced pricing moves the demand to a more suitable time.

Now, with the advent of the Internet of Things, everything starts to be smart and connected. If our electricity devices can listen for realtime electricity signals from the grid, they can adjust their consumption accordingly.

Of course, not all loads in the home are movable  – not many people will decide to cook their evening meal at 3am just because the wind is blowing and energy is cheap.

However, many loads are eminently movable. Pool pumps, are a good example. And also many loads that have a heating or cooling component associated with them, such as an electric hot water heater. When it is well insulated it doesn’t matter when it heats the water. Similarly for fridges, freezers, ice bank air conditioning, and so on. These are straightforward and affordable forms of energy storage.

Dish washers, washing machines, clothes dryers can also be made to listen to electricity pricing, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Often, when you put the dish washer on in the evening, you don’t care when it comes on, as long as the dishes are clean and dry when you get up the following morning.

As more of our appliances become connected and smart, this will become the norm. Obviously, for widespread adoption, this kind of behaviour has to be totally automated. If the device owner has to think about it, it won’t happen.

Smart grid appliance

And then there are the real storage options, using batteries. This can be in the form of batteries in electric vehicles using vehicle-to-grid technologies, in-home batteries such as the ones Tesla, and others sell, or reconditioned electric vehicle batteries – a market that is just starting to get going.

So, good news, technology is moving us inexorably to a world where energy is getting cheaper, smarter, and less carbon intensive.

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I started a new newsletter last week.

It is quick and easy to read with 5-6 story links maximum. But the stories which will relate to the topics I regularly research (the Internet of Things, Energy, and CleanTech), will be the most important stories in these areas for that week.

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Finally, if you have any feedback on the newsletter, please don’t hesitate to let me know either in the comments below, or you can email me on tom@tomraftery.com anytime.


More prestigious speaking engagements

I recently received an invitation to address the bi-annual meeting of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) in Athens.

CEPIS, if you are not familiar with it is

a non-profit organisation seeking to improve and promote a high standard among ICT professionals, in recognition of the impact that ICT has on employment, business and society. CEPIS currently represents 33 member societies in 32 countries across greater Europe. Through its members, who are the professional ICT bodies at national level, CEPIS represents 450,000 ICT professionals

Quite an honour to be asked to address them.

This got me to thinking of all the prestigious talks I’ve given in the last few months.

I addressed the European Commission’s European technology platform for Smart Grids on Energy Digitalisation last November.


I addressed the TeslaWorld event in Antwerp last year (see video above). This was a spectacular event with two Tesla Model S cars on either side of the stage, a phenomenal line-up of speakers, and I got to drive a Tesla on the way back to the airport! So that was pretty awesome, and I have to admit to seeing my Prius in a less favourable light when I arrived home 😦

I gave the opening keynote at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach last September on the topic of The convergence of the Internet of Things and Energy, and I was bowled over by the positive feedback I received afterwards from the attendees.

And I was very honoured to be asked to be the keynote speaker at the EclipseCon event in Toulouse last year.

There were other events I spoke at last year as well (SAP TechEd and ThingMonk off the top of my head).

But with the CEPIS invite, and another I’m not allowed to reveal just yet, 2016 is definitely shaping up to be an even better year for speaking engagements!


DLD Conference Highlights

I spent the early part of this week in Munich for the DLD Conference in Munich. It was an amazing experience.

The conference itself is a free invite-only event. The speaker list is unbelievable. The speakers included politicians, business people and convicted criminals!

Apart from the usual tech rock stars (Clay Shirky, Marissa Mayer, Matt Cohler, Jimmy Wales, etc.) there were people from the world of biology (Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter), literature (Paulo Coelho), extreme sports (Karina Hollekim), politics (Paul Kagame, Viviane Reding), and unclassifiables like Naomi Campbell (super-model and business woman) and David Silverman (the original animator and director of the Simpsons!).

One of the most impressive talks was also one of the shortest. It was the talk given by Shai Agassi, the onetime next CEO at SAP! In this presentation he explains how he is going to get Israel off oil in 10 years. What is most impressive about this plan is that it is completely reproducible for other countries!

Don’t believe me? See it for yourself below:

Link: sevenload.com

CIX on Intruders.tv

We held our Open Day in CIX a couple of weeks back. We invited local businesses to come in and have a look at the data centre infrastructure before we closed up all the ducts and hazardous areas.

We also invited Intruders.tv to come along and film the event. They did and they published the interview they did with Adam and I the other day.


The Open day was the day after the it@cork conference so I was quite tired. Watching the video now I realise I messed up on some of the figures! Typical data centres operate at 30% energy efficiency (not 70% like I said in the video) and CIX is rated to operate at 80% energy efficiency due to the innovative technologies we outlined in this interview.