Energy consumption will become the new carbon footprint for businesses wanting to establish their environmental credentials with consumers
Fundamentally changing the way we use electricity
Our future homes, cars and businesses will need to be smart enough to purchase energy when generation is high and prices are low.
For consumers the key to moving away from our twice a day peak power consumption and living with a highly renewables grid will be household battery storage and hydrogen generation.
Energy-storage devices or physical systems that store energy for later use, was named by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2013 as one of the 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and transform life, business and the global economy.
Geoff Matthews, Energia Potior’s Vice President, is regarded as one of New Zealand’s best marketers with a special interest in consumer behaviour.
“While I generally agree with the statement that all technology is usually adopted just in time, this is one area were the consumers are ahead of current technology.”
“Consumers don’t need to be sold on the benefits of moving to smarter, cheaper and more sustainable ways to use power. They are already there, waiting on four things; availability, price, convenience and integration.“
"Consumers will welcome the day they can come home from work and park their electric vehicle in their garage and it charges wirelessly from a battery that’s been charged from solar panels on their garage roof, or topped up from the grid after automatically scanning spot rates on the electricity market for the cheapest price."
“Cars in the future will cost virtually nothing to operate. It’s not a hard sell to consumers once electric vehicles meet their expectations on price and performance,” Geoff says.
The range of these vehicles won’t be a problem in the future either, as batteries improve and the technology to be able to charge vehicles wirelessly from the road as you drive is commercialised further.
Moving to an electric vehicle is also the single greatest thing individual households can do to lower their CO2 emissions, which is an important motivator for the environmentally conscious.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology may be the preferred choice for people whose daily drive is a large SUV or a tractor. Hydrogen will be able to be created and stored from household wastewater and solar energy, with top ups from the grid at cheap spot pricing.
Advances in household energy storage will disrupt the existing electricity markets, by enabling homes to store both electricity generated from their own solar sources, or purchased from the grid at low cost times.
“Household energy storage will give consumers the choice of when to buy electricity from the grid, and at what price,” Geoff says.
“Our energy storage devices will be smart enough to take advantage of low spot prices on the grid by topping up when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and the big generators have excess power to sell, or even give away.”
Its also likely that hydrogen generation and storage will also play a part in our home heating needs, as excess electricity generated from home solar systems or the grid, can be used to make and store hydrogen for later use.
Geoff says that changing household infrastructure is an expensive proposition so any uptake of new technologies will rely heavily on the cost benefits for consumers.
“Stanford University made a significant breakthrough in 2015 with the development of the aluminium-ion battery. The aluminium-ion battery could be the disruptive technology we need to bring the cost of household energy storage down and make it accessible across the globe.
“Combine that with solar power, which in terms of energy generation capacity is doubling every 22 months, and we are not that far away.
“The real tipping point for consumers however, will be when they can easily have a system installed in their homes that not only saves them money, but takes out the hard work by being able to self-monitor, and buy when the price is right,” he says.
What does this mean for our businesses?
Geoff Matthews says that at some stage in the near future, energy consumption will become the new carbon footprint for businesses wanting to establish their environmental credentials with consumers.
We are at least two decades away from producing renewable energy in abundance
“If individual consumers have to alter their consumption patterns and make personal investment to fit in with the intermittency of a heavy renewables grid, then they will expect the businesses they deal with to be equally committed,” he says.
“While the long-term outlook is for the planet to generate renewable energy in abundance, we are at least two decades away from that becoming a reality, so in the short to medium term it will be important for businesses not be seen to be hogging power at times of low generation on the grid, as we try and wean ourselves off fossil fuels,” Geoff Matthews says.