Sunday, May 3, 2009
Smart Solutions with Smart Grids
A new technology is on the horizon that could revolutionize the way that we consume energy - smart grids.
A smart grid is a meter which goes in someones home and measures the amount of energy the house uses. However, it also shows the prices of electricity from the utilities company. Prices are cheaper at different times of day, for example at night, so by having this information available we could decide to run our dishwasher (for example) at night and save money.
Conversely, since we pay utilities for a set amount of electricity, we could sell the unused electricity back to the utility company. Or, if your building has solar panels, for example, you could sell that excess energy to the utility company as well.
In essence, it will allow people to pay exactly for the amount of energy they use.
The New York Times recently wrote an article on this, which you can read here and it was also a major focal point of Thomas Friedman's book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.
What I think would be interesting though, is if Georgetown implemented smart grids. A lot of people don't realize that the amount of utilities we use (whether it's electricity, heat, water, etc.) is directly reflected in our tuition. How would this work?
What would need to happen would be for each dorm room/apartment to have a smart grid. For residents of those rooms/buildings, their tuition would be affected by the utilities they use.
For buildings that are shared, the utilities cost would have to be spread out, much like it is now. However, I think that if we had these grids in our rooms people would be much more aware of the amount of energy they used - and it would translate to being more aware of how much energy we use elsewhere.
There are always those people who really don't care about the environment, who will blast their air conditioner with the windows open and leave the lights on all day. But I think they'd start caring about how much energy they use when they have to pay for it.
Instead of allocating the price of utilities evenly for everyone, people would pay for the amount they actually use. Essentially, what would need to happen is a line-by-line outline of our tuition... something I think that we should know, anyway.
I know that this is unlikely to happen while I'm still here, Georgetown lacking on the technology forefront (I mean... I don't even have wireless all the time. Really?) but it's definitely something to consider for the future, especially since this technology looks like it's going to take off.