Changes in the energy industry over the last two decades have been driven mainly by the high cost of coal and oil, global warming, new technologies and consumer demand. The pace of change has been extraordinary. Yet, as we noted in a previous post, renewables still account for just 10 percent of U.S. energy consumption—meaning there’s still a huge opportunity for growth. According to industry experts, this opportunity is coming at us like a World Series’ fast ball—or rather, a fastball of data across a smart grid.

At the recent Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) Technology Forum in Minneapolis, experts talked about the new era of Clean Energy in which smart devices such as meters, thermostats and other appliances will be capable of intelligent energy utilization to match specific consumption needs.

Clean energy, they said, is more than reducing our carbon footprint. When gadgets can communicate with each other to manage usage at a micro level and learn from data, energy innovators can use these insights to wheel and bank energy and protect energy sources during peaks and valleys to preserve precious resources. The energy grid is about to get very, very clean – and very smart.


Clarifying energy’s new currencies

The panel of experts also talked about how to sell the new energy value story to a wide variety of constituents. Parents want a safe and enduring environment for their families. Corporations want reductions in supply chain energy costs. Others want automated efficiency that makes the machination of green-living invisible. Low-income, low-broadband communities need innovative solutions that piggyback smart energy tools onto community-provided smart phones, and aging neighborhoods have commercial building stock that they want to make available for new advancements.

Spanning these scenarios, one can imagine the insight gathering that will be available once Alexa, Nest, the air conditioner, the solar panel and community-provided smart technologies are connected – talking to each other and the broader smart-energy grid. Once this happens, the volume of data generated, then automatically exchanged in order create net-new insights will rival the data volume of media, health and financial industries. To make these new data values a monetized reality and the foundation for managing global energy demand requires new transparency, financial modeling, stakeholder engagement and some brilliant algorithms. And foreshadows the need for data scientists, analysts, cyber-security specialists and of course, messengers.


Speaking in the future tense

Users in the new energy economy will need to make a paradigm shift from peak load capacity concerns to managing (and caring about) network efficiency. Creating consumer portals where real-time kilowatt rates can be observed will help audiences understand their role in managing usage and mitigating future energy deficits.

As systems change, the necessity to connect actors across supply chains, encourage policy makers to keep pace with industry conversion, and educate and inform communities is critical to the evolution.  As the grid gets smarter, success metrics will change and all audience segments will need to understand how their behaviors contribute to energy goals.

While complex and demanding, these are happy communication problems and nothing that solid strategic planning can’t solve. Messaging will need to connect the current mindsets to the modern capabilities and shift behaviors to match new goals. This includes consumers, manufacturers, policy makers and civic planners. Let’s light it up.

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