Chase on Smart Energy

Dave Chase's observations of developments and opportunities in the emerging Smart Energy field.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Smart Grid report from Climate Solutions

This report (PDF) is getting great response and press coverage. I was one of a broad group of contributors/reviewers that represented a cross section of utility, venture, government, political and environmental leaders. It's well worth reading and a great example of the work that Climate Solutions (a non-profit economic development organization) is doing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Smart Grid Technology Timeline

As a tech industry guy, Jesse Berst (head of the Center for Smart Energy) does a nice job of drawing parallels that I understand between technology adoption in the PC and Internet industries with what’s likely to happen in the Smart Grid arena. As he states, “The Smart Grid is likely to pass through eight phases. Or, to put it another way, eight key Smart Grid sectors are likely to hit their tipping points one after another, in roughly the order shown below.” He goes into detail on the following 8 stages of development in this article:

1. Sensors – detecting the data.

2. Communications – moving the data.

3. First-level integration – collecting the data.

4. Centralized control – using the data for visualization and control.

5. Security – protecting the data.

6. Full integration – integrating the data with the rest of the business.

7. Services and applications – using the data in new ways

8. Full automation and optimization – using the data to let the grid “run itself.”

Why the Power and Telephone industries should work together

Steven R. Rivkin is a Washington, DC telecommunications and energy lawyer who has long advocated common initiatives between electric and telecommunications providers. In this article, he lays out the case why these two industries should work together. Here’s an excerpt of the article:

Power and telco, the two legacy infrastructures, can help each other, exchanging services for capital. Though utilities seldom outsource mission-critical facilities or functions, their other connectivity choices are technically and economically inferior. Wireless, satellite, broadband powerline (BPL), etc. are not sufficiently reliable, versatile, cheap, and ubiquitous. And most utilities are clueless about how to cope with the expense and excess bandwidth if they were to try to run fiber to every house themselves.

But telcos could choose to host the Smart Grid for utilities, gaining much needed revenue and even capital investments for making critical telecommunications available in fortuitously adjacent facilities. Moreover, telcos could also benefit politically from allying with another local utility to deliver digital data with huge public benefits, rather than just packages of video entertainment that invite local franchise fees comparable to those on cable television.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Scenario planning of removing 3.5 million barrels of oil per day

Martin Tobias points us towards a simulation that was done by some highly credible people. One of the key take-aways for me is this would further accelerate a shift not only to bio-fuels but a shift towards electricity being a larger part of the energy mix. For an already stressed grid, this means that the grids 20-30% efficiency will no longer be acceptable. The businesses forming around this need (i.e., increasing the grids efficiency) would dramatically benefit -- e.g., MicroPlanet, Itron, etc.

More on the simulation...The premise is that a series of geopolitical (terrorist attacks, political unrest) and natural (cold winter) factors combine to remove 3.5 million barrels per day of supply from the market. Any of those are very plausible. Among the negative outcomes beyond the obvious expected price hikes for gas, oil, etc.
  • Fall of gross domestic product for two consecutive quarters;

  • Drop in consumer confidence by 30 percent;

  • Spike in the consumer price index to 12.6 percent;

Participants aren't people you'd expect to be alarmists so it makes this all the more credible. They included the following people:

  • Robert M. Gates, former Director of Central Intelligence;

  • Richard N. Haass, former Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State;

  • General P.X. Kelley, USMC (Ret.), former Commandant of the Marine Corps, member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;

  • Don Nickles, former U.S. Senator;

  • Carol Browner, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

  • Gene B. Sperling, former National Economic Advisor;

  • Linda Stuntz, former Deputy Secretary of Energy;

  • Frank Kramer, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs;

  • R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence.

Enterprise Sales Learning Curve and the Smart Energy sector

An article I wrote for the Center for Smart Energy (run by the well regarded industry analyst/pundit Jesse Berst) is post here. There has been a lot of press attention on the rise of venture investment in the "clean technology" sector. Much of these have business ecosystems that are far from the experience/contact base of technology industry veterans. In contrast, there's much to leverage from the technology arena into the emerging "Smart Energy" market. Learn more at the Center for Smart Energy's website.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Interview with Brian Reidy of MicroPlanet expounding on his goal of reducing 150 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year

The interview is here. Through some creative transaction they are now publicly traded (TSXV: MP).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

California's smart meter deployment

The Wall Street Journal reports on California's $3.6B rollout of smart meters to help address California's energy demands.

Op-ed piece on progress in Washington (state)

My friend KC Golden from Climate Solutions has a nice op-ed piece about how bi-partisanship won the day in progress towards a clean-energy based system.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Smart Grids, Grid Computing, and the New World of Energy

As more renewable energy production is connected to the general power grid, the more we will need smart systems managing the result. While difficult, it will ultimately be for the good. The efficiencies of smart grid management coupled with the sustainability of renewable energy will be a big win for us all.

Smart Control for Home Solar

Interesting to see the range of products from $30 to $4500 for monitoring in-home use of electricity. The high-end items also track how much energy you are sending back into the grid, etc. but I would assume the prices will come down dramatically over time.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Politics makes strange bedfellows

I'm starting to see a trend of those historically on opposite ends of the political spectrum finding common ground surrounding clean energy that I highlighted in this article...
  • In Oregon, a far left and far right legislator team up on biofuels legislation.
  • The Economist reports in their "Rethinking the Axis of Oil" article about the growing alliance between defense hawks with enviro greens to completely rethink America’s energy strategy which will force the White House to play catch-up.
  • "Set America Free" group combines noted liberals & conservatives with their recently published "blueprint" for Energy Security.
  • Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) are teaming up to get loan guarantees for the world’s first commercial scale cellulose ethanol (this process uses farm waste such as wheat straw) plant to be built in Idaho.
One of the reasons I've thrown my support behind the non-profit Climate Solutions is they have been effective at finding bi-partisan common ground (e.g., with the Harvesting Clean Energy program) to provide economic development support supporting clean energy based businesses. For example last week, I spent a day with Climate Solutions' Executive Director (Rhys Roth) and many of the leaders in Idaho's Republican delegation exposing them to what Climate Solutions is working on. Even though some don't necessarily believe in climate change, they don't have to in order to see the economic development opportunities. We all left the meetings excited about the opportunity to collaborate. For example, the so-called Smart Energy field is already a $2B business in the Northwest (collective annual revenues) and poised to rapidly grow. Read the whitepaper Poised for Profit II - Prospects for the Smart Energy Sector in the Northwest for more details.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

New rules for electricity's new era

Jesse Berst (Center for Smart Energy) does a nice job of drawing an analogy to the growth of faxes, telecommunications and computing with what's on the cusp of happening with the electric industry.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Global Finance Community Seeks $1 Billion Investment in Clean Energy

Thanks to Jeff Canin of the Center for Smart Energy for pointing this article out to me. That's a LOT of capital to put to work!

Global Finance Community Seeks $1 Billion Investment in Clean Energy

NEW YORK, May 10, 2005 - An unprecedented grouping of pension funds, foundations, European investors and U.S. state treasurers have joined with the United Nations to back a new call for urgent action by the global investment community to tackle the threat of climate change.

Faced with growing evidence of the negative economic consequences of climate change this powerful alliance of institutional investors managing some $3.22 trillion are pressing for capital market regulators to demand more rigorous corporate disclosure of climate risks.

Among other commitments, they are also seeking to unlock $1 billion in capital in the next year for investment in clean technology. The 2005 "Call for Action" was made at the 2005 Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk being held at United Nations Headquarters in
New York.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), told participants at the
Summit: "The local and global challenges created by climate change -- environmental, economic and social -- are manifold and will both multiply and accelerate in our lifetimes. For the world's financiers, investors and capital markets the time to act is now."

Toepfer continued: "If our money markets are to manage climate risk more effectively then we must have greater corporate disclosure of how companies are dealing with the economic threats posed by global warming."

The United Nations' environmental head welcomed the 2005 Summit "Call for Action" -- signed by 20 major investors - saying, "investors backing these practical and pragmatic steps send a strong signal to the markets that climate risk is real and needs to be managed aggressively."

The 2005 "Call for Action" came as more than 400 financiers, government and civil society experts met at U.N. headquarters for a summit to explore risks to the investment world resulting from global warming. The summit, which follows on from the first such gathering in November 2003, has been jointly convened by the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships, the Boston-based U.S. non-government organization CERES and UNEP.

The four co-conveners are backing three post-summit initiatives to support the call for action by the investors. The initiatives are:

  1. A new Climate Risk Disclosure Initiative (CRDI). This will be aimed at enhancing corporations' climate risk disclosure. The effort will focus on disclosure of corporate emissions, climate actions, scenario analysis, strategic analysis, and plans to address climate risks and opportunities.
  2. UNEP and the U.N. Global Compact, working with leaders in the institutional investment community, are developing Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).
  3. A new forum for International Investor Cooperation in Addressing Climate Risk. This forum will promote collaboration and information sharing among investors internationally about actions to address the financial risks and investment opportunities posed by climate change.

The New York Summit comes shortly after the world's biggest reinsurance companies confirmed that 2004 saw the largest ever insured losses from natural catastrophes.

According to Munich Re, economic losses totaled $145 billion in 2004. This included insured losses of $44 billion from natural catastrophes, the highest ever recorded. Swiss Reinsurance has published statistics that show 2004 was a record year in terms of claims, mainly dues to hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons.

"On the one hand, the negative economic consequences of climate change are clear," said Toepfer. "Yet for the financial and business communities our efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change and its impacts present emerging opportunities for those with the vision, entrepreneurial flair and commitment to embrace new business challenges," he said.

As well as seeking to understand the economic and financial risks associated with climate change the business world is also awakening to a range of emerging opportunities associated with efforts to tackle global warming.

It is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions trading markets could be worth $2 trillion by 2012 and it is further estimated that the market for clean technologies could be worth $1.9 trillion by 2020.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Smart Grid Newsletter

Well regarded industry pundit Jesse Berst and his colleagues publish a monthly smart grid newsletter. I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Smart Energy Grids in the Real World - Comverge and EnerNOC

News.com reports on Comverge and Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson backed EnerNOC's implementations at the consumer and business level that provide incentives from utilities for demand response to avoid blackouts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Hygrids -- new term from Wired

You've heard of hybrids...now hygrids is the term Wired coined for homes that mix self-generated energy (solar, wind, etc.) with grid-based energy. Solar seems to be going through a Moore's Law-like transformation.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What it Takes to Make Smart Power Grids a Reality

Utility Automation & Engineering T&D magazine has a good overview on the drivers and barriers to a Smart Grid.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Envisioning a Leapfrogged World

We've seen it happen with cellphones -- i.e., where 2nd & 3rd world countries get broadscale adoption before 1st world countries since there aren't legacy "install bases" of earlier technologies. Now the argument is made for this to happen in energy.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Book: Small is profitable

This links to the books list of 207 benefits of smaller, distributed electrical resources arguing that their benefits are often under-estimated by a factor of 10. I'll have to talk with some experts to see the defensibility of their arguments. The book was selected as Book of the Year by The Economist which adds a lot of credibility to their arguments.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Can IT fuel clean energy technologies?

Nicholas Parker, chairman of Cleantech Venture Network, a group of venture capitalists dedicated to seeking out investments in "clean" technologies is interviewed by CNET's News.com. He discusses the venture opportunities of porting IT-know-how into the Energy arena.