Tag Archives: Smart Grid

Sustaining Momentum

As I get ever so closer to vacation next week, my thoughts have started to migrate towards recharging and renewal.  In that spirit, I wanted to share some interesting pieces I’ve been reading this week that span across that spectrum.

* Martin LaMonica of CNet has a short but very in-depth series on the current state of electricity, the role technology is playing in changing our consumption and how we sustain our ever-growing electronic lifestyles.  He takes a look at both sides of the coin: home and generation.  Highly recommended and especially timely in Massachusetts where there is a growing debate on National Grid’s planned rate hikes.

* Working off of a piece by Matt Richtel in the New York Times that discusses how our brains are changing due to our (some would say over) exposure to computers, blogger Marc Gunther explores the idea further in his post earlier this week on Sustainability and Your Brain.  Marc makes an excellent point in conclusion:

“Being “always” on is ultimately unsustainable. More than that, the idea of resting and restoring (the earth, your workforce) are part of a sustainable business practice.”

As a society we are moving ever faster in the electronic/information revolution age.  It brings to the forefront a great deal of questions:

* How much is too much information?  And where will we get all the energy to sustain the information flow?

* How will we sort this information to make better and more sustainable business decisions?  There is a great recent TED conference session online about data visualization’s potential role here, fascinating and well spent 18 minutes with David McCandless.

* How can/will this information be used to avoid another BP-style disaster in the future?

We’re heading off to Cape Cod to enjoy some of the national seashore and reconnect.  I hope everyone has a chance to do something similar as we wind down the summer.

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The Power of Telling Sustainable Stories

With a nod to Park Howell, two news items from this week reinforced for me the power of telling the right story in order to energize sustainability initiatives.

* GE proactively started to help explain how the FCC National Broadband Plan – which on its surface would seem like a TV/Internet-centric initiative – actually had important long-term impact on the smart grid and individual energy consumption.  As Smart-Grid.TMCNet.Com’s Jon Arnold very keenly points out,

“…mainstream brands like GE are in the perfect spot to tell this story to the public, and show utilities why broadband has an important role to play in the smart grid. The stimulus funding has been welcome news for utilities, and part of the message here is to show that broadband will help them get a better return on this investment. In my view, if other major smart grid/energy players follow suit – IBM, Emerson, Cisco (NewsAlert), etc. – the message will become that much clearer, and more difficult for utilities to dismiss.”

Jon’s exactly right.  If these major brands get their marketing muscle behind this, utilities will have to take notice.

*The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition publicly announced a call for a National Renewable Energy Standard.   They chose to focus their “story” on competition for jobs, a powerful message to rally their states and timely with Obama being called on to spur jobs instead of health care.

“The lack of a long-term renewable energy requirement in the United States is resulting in the loss of wind-manufacturing investments in our states to Europe and other areas,” the governors said in the report.”

Both of these examples boiled down diverse complex issues for different energy styles, trimming national storylines down to easy to digest messages for individuals:

1) Broadband= short and long-term benefits in all areas of your life

2) National standards can = jobs

And that’s the power of strong and clear marketing in sustainability.  Taking what can be overwhelming for average citizens and making it not only more understandable, but relevant and meaningful.

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Wind’s PR Problem

One of the most highly debated and readily available alternative resources has a PR problem.

  • It’s not clean coal. (Is that an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp?  For another time…)
  • It’s not nuclear.  (Although there is plenty to debate about  re: safety, cost, etc)
  • It’s not solar.  Heck, everyone WANTS more sun and its easy to understand the use/value.

Yes, its our unseen but highly present element the wind.

There is not shortage of investment or perceived benefit, and worldwide capacity keeps climbing despite the recession.  Yet despite the increase capacity and environmental benefits, wind has a significant PR problem.  The core issues are outlined very well by Marc Gunter in a recent post detailing his interview with National Grid’s Tom King.  In summary, costs outweigh perceived benefit.  And that end benefit has to do with regulators and customers.

Regulators are pushing various states like Pennsylvania to reduce energy consumption and demand.  The cost for alternative energy is higher than existing sources, so making up the costs will likely be in the form of increased end consumer costs.

End consumers are going to be none too pleased about increased energy costs in a recession, likely one of National Grid’s reasons for not signing with Cape Wind as of yet.

The missing ingredient is empowerment of consumers to understand their role in conserving energy.  If increased fees came with a consumer-driven reduction in overall usage, the cost could end up being negligible.  And consumers would feel better since they were 1) in control and 2) helping on their terms.

In order to move any significant projects forward, the wind industry needs to join with electric and smart grid providers to get the word out on consumer empowerment.

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Launch of Sustain PR

Sustainability and green technology has moved to the forefront of America’s, and the world’s, collective conscious.

What it isn’t

* Lone scientific voices in the woods talking about impending climate change disasters.

*  Al Gore pushing the “Inconvenient Truth” boulder up the hill.

* “Tree huggers” spouting hard left views based on altruism.

What it is

* The DOE pushing weatherproofing jobs to bolster the economy.

* The latest James Bond movie talking centering on environmental espionage via the water supply.

* Cisco, GE, Intel and other corporate giants announcing Smart Grid funding and initiatives.

* The inflection point where green is now being equated with $$$.

The questions that remain

* What is the best technology to deploy, and in what order?

* What’s working today and what makes sense for tomorrow?

* Is the power for change in the hands of businesses, individuals, or both?

The answers hinge in large part on market understanding and education  Making sense of the vast amounts of information now flooding both consumers and corporations .  It comes down to how, why and where leaders and innovators are getting the word out.

We’ll be tracking the successes and lessons specifically around the communications efforts and strategy around sustainability.   Stay tuned….

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