Democratizing The Energy Game With The ‘Power Of One’

by Elisa Wood, via Renewable Energy World

Who among us has not eagerly described the smart meter to a non-energy person only to be greeted by a blank stare, or worse the retort: “Why would I want to track my electricity costs all day?”

You try to explain the profound applications: smart appliances that talk to the power grid, consumer clubs that sell energy savings, your car serving as a power plant. But the conversation then becomes one about fascinating toys, not a world change.

A new paper by Joseph Stanislaw, independent senior energy advisor at Deloitte, eloquently gets to the real meaning of smart grid. Moving beyond the gadget talk, he describes the bigger picture, how new energy efficiency and smart technologies will democratize energy.

Energy efficiency could have “a greater impact on the global energy picture than any other development,” according to the paper, titled Energy’s next frontiers: How technology is radically reshaping supply, demand and the energy of geopolitics.

“The breakthroughs have been stunning, and often elegant in their simplicity. Among the least appreciated technologies are those that empower companies and individuals to understand and manage — and thus significantly reduce — their energy consumption. Last year, venture capitalists invested $275 million — up 75 percent from 2010 — in start-ups that make software and other technologies to manage energy use,” the paper says.

Stanislaw explains how smart technologies are bringing about the ‘Power of One’ in the energy game.  No longer passive receivers, consumers and businesses become active choosers; hence they influence the kind of generation plants we build — or if we build them at all — simply by the way they use electricity. Our market signals, not central planning, shape the infrastructure we build.

The Power of One idea often gets lost in political discourse about energy. Debate tends to focus on wind power tax incentives, solar trade wars, the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing and access to public lands to drill oil.

But when it comes to electricity, it will be the Power of One that changes the playing field most by giving the individual control over energy, much the way the Internet gave us control over information. As a result, even if governments fail to act effectively, corporations and individuals now have the ability to “make a radical difference in their own consumption — and thus to materially influence the broader energy game,” the paper says.

More specifically Stanislaw explains: “The new energy-related software and hardware on the market and in development—smart meters, smart appliances, demand management programs, and so forth — liberate individual actors from being at the mercy of broader forces.” This liberation, or shifting of control over energy decisions from nations to individuals, transforms what has come to be known as ‘Great Game’ — the wrangling of nations over energy supply.

While the Great Game previously focused on oil, technology is the new prize.

“The ‘Great Game of the 21st Century’ is the technology continuum driving along the development curve from 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0 — with each version coming faster than the one before. The future is one of continuous research and development, informed investment job creation, and greater energy security — without sacrificing the environment,” the paper says.

Rapid-fire technology change heightens the need for sustainability planning by businesses, he adds. And the ability to collect and understand data about energy becomes increasingly important. Whether the company makes shoes or semi-conductors, energy is part of its business. All companies become energy companies in a smart grid world.

Stanislaw describes a “virtuous energy cycle” that occurs for households and companies that pursue efficiency: They save money and protect the environment. Moreover, “the consumption of energy is no longer just an economic act — this is becoming a conscious act and an act of conscience. This will likely intensify in the coming years.”

Stanislaw’s paper is a good read. See it here.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many top industry publications. See her articles at This piece was originally published at Renewable Energy World and was reprinted with permission.


8 Responses to Democratizing The Energy Game With The ‘Power Of One’

  1. Gingerbaker says:

    Here is my take on “The Power of One” – solving our energy future will be a heck of a lot easier if we had just one electricity provider, operating as a non profit – the Federal government.

    Going non carbon means a lot more small-scale photovoltaic and other renewables. Local generation, perhaps as small as commuter’s cars with PV panels in parking lots pumping power back into the grid. Houses and commercial buildings doing the same. Infrastructure for meeting these needs will need to be provided for the common good.

    This means that the most efficient way to develop our new energy culture is to socialize our energy system. The entire U.S. energy system needs to be a non profit, tax-subsidized national-state-municipal enterprise.

    Considering that AGW is the most important national security challenge in human history this seems justified to me. Since the sun can easily provide a hundred times more energy than our society could possibly use on a daily basis even if there was no stabilization of our population in the next thousand years, free electricity out of the taps should be the goal and would be, perhaps, the most persuasive selling point of going fully nationalized.

  2. Kevin Wilson says:

    If you talk to someone about smart meters here in British Columbia, where BC Hydro is installing wireless ones, you’ll often get a strongly negative reaction – from those who are worried about health effects from the wireless transmissions, to those whose bills doubled or tripled after the meter was installed, to those worried about privacy issues. Makes it close to impossible to have any conversation about the positive aspects.

    If smart meters are going to have good acceptance and positive effects, the changeover has to be handled a lot better than Hydro has done here. This is just one example news story:

  3. Hmmm.

    It’s not quite a “paper” in the implied sense of something scholarly, but a POV published at an giant consulting firm web site. A soft-sell Deloitte PR piece.

    It’s about technology in the energy field across the board, with “the power of one” only a small piece in the schpiel.

    And high among the transformative technologies touted are shale fracturing and horizontal drilling to exploit underground fossil gas supplies.

    Is this really the kind of thing Climate Progress wants to be posting?

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Right on Ginger! PS-love the band! When I see or hear the words ‘market signals’, I reach for my Luger-figuratively speaking. The police took it away. ‘Market signals’ is part of the jargon of the hideous ‘neo-liberal’ market fundamentalist religion that has got us into our current devastating situation. In our grotesquely unequal societies, growing ever more inegalitarian, inequitable and iniquitous, ‘market signals’ means the weight of money power. Under free market capitalism, the rich will waste as much power as their lust for conspicuous overconsumption demands, the rapidly shrinking middle will muddle through, and the burgeoning underclass will practice the efficiency of doing without.
    As you say, basic services like electricity must be delivered by the Government, which, putatively, is the expression of the Will of the People, delivered through the Democratic Process. Market absolutism is the essence of hierarchical totalitarianism and neo-feudalism. Provide cheap power, efficient systems and appliances and tax over-consumption and people’s real, human, non-market autonomy and freedom will grow.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘Power of One’ not only stinks of PR poison and bulldust, but reinforces the atomised hyper-individualism that is one of the most poisonous features of Rightwing ideology. In all matters, we may, inescapably, be individuals, but we all live in communities, the biggest that of our species on this planet. The ‘Power of One’ must always be balanced by ‘Responsibility of, and to, All’, but, of course, that is anathema to the Right.

  6. AA says:

    I’m not really all that enthusiastic about smart meters.

    Will people really use them to reduce their energy use? How many people bother programming their thermostats?

    Large scale energy users that are clever enough to use smart meters are already practicing demand management and conservation.

    There are some neat tricks possible with smart meters, and in some markets they’re probably inevitable, but they won’t really make a noticeable difference in GHG emissions. They are a small piece of the puzzle, we need to be thinking bigger.

  7. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Knowledge is power. Some big savings can be made with some fairly small canges. This sort of technology wakes people up to the waste.

    Even the laggards will eventually follow when they realize they have the biggest enrgy bills in the neighbouhood.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Color me extremely dubious.