I emailed Chris Dalby of Current Cost a question about their devices a few weeks ago. Chris, not only answered my question but also offered to send me one of their energy monitors to try for myself!
I love my Current Cost Envi 128. It is incredibly straightforward to setup – even I could do it, despite living in an apartment complex with no access to the electricity meter. I had mine up and running within minutes of receiving the delivery (I attached the clamp to the wire going into the fuseboard)!
One of the really great things about the Current Cost energy meters is that they can be connected to a computer. This may not sound like a big deal but it means you can use software from the downloads page to chart your energy usage in real-time as well as for storing historical data. This allows for fascinating comparisons of energy use across different scenarios.
The software for Google PowerMeter is available on the Current Cost site [after registration]. One disappointing aspect of the Powermeter software is that it is Windows only. Fortunately I have Windows installed (via Parallels) on my Mac so this wasn’t a major issue for me.
The biggest issue I came across with the Current Cost Envi and PowerMeter software is, if you want an accurate picture of your energy use, you need to leave your computer turned on running the PowerMeter software all the time! Obviously this is not very energy-efficient!
Why would Carbon Trust do that? After all, what does mobile network optimisation have to do with energy management? According to the newenergyworldnetwork story:
Rachael Nutter of CT Investment Partners said, ‘Energy consumption in mobile phone base stations is a significant proportion of the opex of mobile operators, as high as 50 per cent in the most extreme cases.
That’s the thing about sustainability – it doesn’t need to be seen as a cost center… rather it can, and should be, part of optimisation activities. Lower carbon, lower energy, cheaper mobile roll-outs. What’s not to like?
If you’ve been following GreenMonk for a while you should know we’re wedded to bottom up sustainability approaches – “from the roots up” as we call it, which is one reason we’ve sponsored, and contributed to the awesome UK HomeCamp community, founded by Chris Dalby, who now works at UK smartmeter firm Current Cost. Seems things are moving along there too.
One of the key players attempting to drive home automation as an activity for “civilians” is ZigBee. It just started working with GreenPeak, which specialises in ultra low power mobile silicon chips, designed to be used in battery-free devices. [See a theme emerging? ] No batteries isn’t just a lower carbon play though- it also means less heavy metals and toxic chemicals. What’s the news? GreenPeak is now Zigbee compliant.
Ironically enough, when I searched for a creativecommons attribution only shot of a smartmeter i found one from my colleague Michael Coté in Austin. His utility called it a smartmeter, but unless he has access to the data generated I don’t see how it deserves the name. But that’s a subject for a different blog, and indeed a line of Greenmonk research.
The really keen eyed among you may have noticed how many of the links above come from newnet news. No accident. I love the feed. Its like a shot of good news tequila every morning – something to warm your spirits.
Apple’s application talks of using powerline communications to control appliances’ energy consumption around the house.
Unlike Google and Microsoft though, Apple have an amazing track record of making sexy devices/applications. If there is anyone who can make home energy management sexy, it would be Apple software running on the iPad.
Let’s hope they make it so – what are the chances?
The output from smart meters is incredibly granular. Far more so than is obvious from the smart meter output graph above.
In conversations with Dr Monica Sturm (Director of Siemen’s Center of Competence, Metering Services) last November (2008) she confirmed to me that it is possible to identify individual devices in someone’s home down to make, model and year of manufacture by looking at their energy profile – the output of their smart meter.
This kind of information is absolute gold and don’t think the utility companies aren’t starting to wake up to the fact. They are, and they are not alone. Why else do you think Google have jumped into this space with their PowerMeter offering. Not to be outdone, Microsoft have also stepped in with their Hohm product.
It won’t be long before Apple joins the fray with a sleekier, sexier iHome application!
For the utilities themselves, there are data protection issues to be worked through but once they are (and they will be), the utilities will use this data to help make up for the earnings lost as customers become more energy efficient (consuming less expensive energy).
One revenue model you will start to see emerge is utility companies selling appliances (and possibly even cars!). How will it work?
Because the utility company will have full visibility of our energy consumption, they will see when your devices are inefficient/faulty. I can very easily envisage receiving a communication from my utility company in the not-too-distant future along the lines of:
Dear Mr Raftery (actually, as I am based in Spain it would be more likely to be Estimado Sr. Raftery but let’s stick with the English version),
We notice from your energy profile that you own a 2004 Indesit BAN12NFS fridge freezer. Our records show that in the last 3 months the compressor in that freezer has become much less efficient and it is now costing you €25 a month just to run that one appliance.
We have partnerships with service companies who could try to repair the compressor in that fridge freezer for you, or alternatively, we have a special offer this month on new energy efficient fridge freezers.
We can have a brand new fridge freezer installed in your home before the end of the week. We can take away your old one for responsible disposition. And all this will won’t cost you a penny, in fact it will save you €10* per month off your current bill!
So, to summerize, if you call our hotline now on 555-123 4567 you can save €10 off your monthly bill, have a brand new fridge-freezer installed free and reduce your CO2 emissions by 12kg a year.
What are you waiting for?
*We charge you €15 per month for the new fridge thus saving you €10 per month off your current bill. Terms and conditions apply.
That’s just one possible scenario of how the utility companies will make use of smart meter data to generate alternative revenue streams for themselves – can you think of others?
Tom Raftery – Influencer, Thought Leader, and Storyteller focusing on Sustainability, Supply Chain, and Technology's take on how digitization and innovation are creatively disrupting our world