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From Dumb to Smart: Stepping into the Future of Energy

By 3p Contributor

Editor's Note: This article is the second installment of a two-part series, “From Dumb to Smart: The Future of Energy." To read the first part, click here.

By Gregory Craig

What does the future of energy look like?

New advancements in smart and mobile technology are creating an exciting future for the energy industry. Smart thermostats like Nest, for example, are helping to regulate home energy use by automatically adjusting temperature, saving homeowners 12 to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs.

We see this as just the first layer of the onion. With the right technology, consumers can take even greater control and benefit from a new generation of energy efficiency tools.

It’s about to get real (time)

If you already manage your personal banking from your tablet or phone, imagine managing your electricity in a similar way. Gone are the days of waiting for monthly statements to come in the mail. Soon you’ll be able to tap into a user-friendly platform showing you, in near real-time, useful information like how much electricity you use, when you use it and its cost.

Combined with near real-time price alerts and tailored recommendations, this kind of customized insight into your energy use will allow you to save money and help balance the grid.

Our home will outsmart us

The adoption of smart home appliances will make this kind of real-time information easy to act on -- saving you big bucks on energy. For example, connected devices will allow people to set up personalized ‘if/then’ scenarios for powering up or down certain appliances. Think, “if the price of electricity drops to $X before 5 p.m., turn on the dishwasher.”

As smart technology becomes even smarter, our appliances will begin to learn our habits and predict our needs automatically. If the weatherman is calling for a scorching heat wave or deep winter freeze, your robot (let’s call her Dolores) is going to recommend you run the dryer tonight, or wait until after things cool off. You’ll be able to load your laundry in the morning before leaving for work, and then set it to start when energy is cheapest.

This kind of rationing response by customers is exactly what energy industry innovators have been dreaming about. It will help utilities manage surges in demand on the grid and help you avoid paying surge pricing. Talk about win-win.

Greener pastures await

The surge in renewables and self-generated energy solutions such as Tesla’s new solar roofs will only make the future even more brilliant. Historically, these kinds of cutting-edge solutions have been pretty expensive — and are still prohibitively so for most consumers. But the price of turning your home into a solar-powered machine is reaching new lows. Just since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over. That’s unlikely to slow down.

At the same time, mobile apps are being developed that can alert customers when there is more renewable energy on the grid, which usually correlates to when energy is cheapest, too. Ultimately, these innovations enable consumers to “vote” with their electricity use for a cleaner, sustainable future.

Join the club

In some ways, the future is already here. The next generation of retail energy services and cutting-edge tech tools are helping first adopters capitalize on the progress we’ve made in the energy industry. Griddy, for example, has introduced an energy club that allows its members to bypass energy brokers and buy energy at-cost. With enhanced mobile technology powered by smart meter data, Griddy members get access to real-time usage information and when they should conduct energy-intensive tasks – everything from doing laundry to charging an electric vehicle.

With these innovations, nothing is stopping us from catapulting into an excitingly brilliant future – let’s go!

Gregory L. Craig is a 25-year energy industry veteran and the founder and CEO of Griddy, a next-generation energy company. He is also the founder of PowerToConfuse.org.

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Read more stories by 3p Contributor