by Richard T. Stuebi
One of the virtues touted for the so-called “smart grid” of the future is the ability to help customers manage their appliance usage better, and thereby reduce unnecessary energy consumption. However, since people are heavily influenced by economic considerations, fully capturing this opportunity presupposes that customers understand how much money (= energy) they could save by reducing consumption at any moment in time.
As profiled in the January/February 2010 issue of Technology Review, a company called Talon Communications has developed a neat little product called the “edot” to address this issue.
The edot communicates wirelessly with a house’s “smart meter” to fetch updates on real-time power prices, thereby indicating when power prices are relatively high or low. At roughly $10 per unit, the magnetic edot can be stuck to many major appliances around the house, providing an on-the-spot indicator to the user whether or not it’s an especially good (i.e., lucrative) time to turn off or reduce power.
No, the edot will not save the world, but it is indicative of the many tiny but reinforcing elements necessary to bring the smart grid to full fruition — and to bring intelligence to energy decision-making at the household level.
Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.