Boy, the New York Times is on a roll! First they have a great article on British home electricity technologies and retail price signals last week, which I mentioned in my post that critiqued Rebecca Smith’s recent Wall Street Journal article on Texas electricity markets.
Now they have a really good article on in-home energy monitoring technologies:
“We have all the technology we want in our cellphones and plasma TVs and cars, but in electricity we’re still like our grandparents were,” says Ahmad Faruqui, an economist at the Brattle Group, a consultancy based in Cambridge, Mass.
Possibly coming to the rescue are home automation networks, which can help monitor all of our power-sucking devices (the typical American household has 27 that are always on, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, an energy research and consulting firm).
Some analysts expect so-called “smart metering” to boom nationwide. ABI Research, a technology firm, estimates that the market will jump to 52 million by 2013, from 560,000 this year — which would be more than a third of the nation’s meters.
Good home automation networks, which run all of the electronic and technologic gizmos in a home, have traditionally cost more than $30,000. Now, thanks in part to companies like Control4 and Colorado vNet, these systems can be had for as little as $5,000, says Sam Lucero, an ABI analyst.
This is what has happened over and over and over again in technology; Moore’s Law, scaling up of production, and other effects lead to falling prices over time. Now is the time to recognize that as technology gets cheaper, and if fuel prices stay high, it will increasingly make more economic sense to invest in digital smart grid technology instead of building new generation plants and new transmission and distribution wires.
Bits are cheaper than iron.
My only quibble with the article is that it doesn’t point out the one-two punch that technology + dynamic pricing would provide. Look at the screen captures of the in-home portals in the article. It would be easy to integrate electricity price signals in those displays, and to set them up so that the consumer could program in their own demand functions to enable autonomous response to price signals from their own devices, without their having to be there to do it.