October 29, 2009
| by Steven Castle
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) hails the smart grid as one of “5 Technology Trends to Watch” in 2010. The CEA’s annual list is a barometer of emerging technologies.
CEA research finds that 70 percent of Americans are concerned about the cost of their monthly electricity bill, which is predicted to rise with growing demand.
In writing on the smart grid, Chris Ely states: “Energy efficiency and green-energy production (including solar, wind and hydro) is a growing component in national energy policy. In fact, the Obama administration included $28.3 billion in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for alternative energy production.”
The report states that “demand for electricity is projected to increase nearly 26 percent from 2007 to 2030, or by an average of one percent per year,” and a need for energy efficiency will rise dramatically. “A growing population and rising disposable incomes increase demand for products, services and floor space – all of which increase electricity consumption.”
The report warns that our current electric grid infrastructure is outdated and “largely stuck in the 20th century. … By adding more digital technology, the [electric] grid can operate much more efficiently and reliably.”
The report also hails the smart grid as a launching pad for a host of innovative products.
Smart grid technologies to watch are:
- Energy monitors that show usage information from a home-based device or web application.
- Technology that allows consumers to set their thermostats, automate home lighting and
even select what type of power they wish to purchase (i.e., solar, wind, nuclear, coal, etc.) and pay accordingly.
- Grid-tied appliances that can be run according to variable, time-of-day pricing, such as when rates are lower in off-peak hours.
- Chargers that recharge phones, digital cameras and MP3 players during non-peak times.
- Battery-like devices that store larger amounts of electricity for later household use.
- Smart-charging plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
The CEA’s report also highlights several green innovations, including:
- Buckywires used for photovoltaic systems.
- Geobacter microbe that consumes oil-based pollutants and can produce electricity.
- Printable batteries.
- Organic Free Radical Battery Power.
- Self-Charging cell phones.
- Kinetic phones – power through shaking.
- Photosynthesis as a power source.
- Slider notebook.
- Solar-powered laptop.
Kudos to the CEA for recognizing the smart grid as a technology to watch, though there are numerous hurdles yet to clear, such as the many standards that are needed for a true smart grid to develop. It is definitely an emerging technology to watch.
The report also recognizes that consumer awareness is a key to smart grid acceptance. Though it does little to address the awareness and education needed that energy-efficient electronics are available today and can help people save energy and money.
This year’s list of technologies to watch also includes: the evolution of content, growing the connected home ecosystem, the future of TV, and the connected cars.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates