Sunday, May 21, 2006

An 'Internet of Energy?'

That's the metaphor the UK's Green Building Press uses to describe microgeneration schemes outlined in a new report by CarbonFree, "Householders as Energy Providers." While the full report is a little too pricey for me, the introduction and table of contents provided for free demonstrate some really innovative thinking on the notion of distributed renewable generation as a viable alternative to current centralized methods of producing electricity:
In the US, 61% of the housing stock is detached. If the owners of just 10% of these 70 million houses installed a single kilowatt of energy generation capacity, up to 7 Gigawatts of energy demand would be removed from the grid and annual demand for fossil fuel could be reduced by the equivalent of 14 million barrels of oil. However, there are a number of key issues that have to be addressed as the market for small-scale energy generation installations residential use develops. Choosing the most suitable technology – solar, wind, geothermal or hybrid – for a particular location will be key to the success of the installation. As the householder is basing investment on projected fossil fuel prices, there is the potential for the formation of a market bubble that distorts investment decisions throughout the industry.
I really think renewable distributed generation looks awfully promising in terms of the lower environmental impact, the security of not having energy supply centrally located, and the relative ease at which systems could be up and running. I imagine there would have to be centralized (at least locally or regionally) "traffic stations" that would direct energy supply most efficiently, but even that seems much easier to construct than massive single production facilities. Again, I also think that this kind of development is nearly ideal for countries and regions looking to build an electricity infrastructre for the first time. The passage above mentions some challenges; what other downsides are there to such a plan? And, if anyone has the opportunity to read the full report, let us know what you think.

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