The Village Green

A blog about how Canadians can achieve energy independence by powering down and then powering up the right way.

All kinds of things rear their heads again in spring, reborn after the winter, generally forgotten but still alive; rising like hibernating bears or like Lazarus from the dead, or the insects and bugs that somehow are all over my apartment after just a few days of warm weather.  

Errant bloggers who are high-performance building entrepreneurs are no exception. This is my way of saying that it’s been a while since my last post. 

Cool applet 

A client of ours sent me this link to a cool little on-line applet.  Check it out.   

I like this little applet because it’s really nicely designed, clean, reasonably functional and highly graphical.  It nicely illustrates where metering and monitoring of the home is heading.  

The fact is, our homes, condominiums, apartments and commercial buildings are going to get smarter.  Google has launched an energy company, ostensibly to manage the energy use in its server farms but you know they’re going to be heading into monitoring.  Apple similarly has filed patents for energy monitoring and management.  

Technology in the home is converging and it’s going to be converging based on open-source and standardized communication protocols.  

In the United States, President Obama’s national broadband plan effectively anticipates and makes possible a national “smart meter” standard that will create an entire industry and set of technologies for next-generation efficiency, home automation and information convergence.  One of the explicit goals of the US national broadband strategy is ensuring that America leads the clean-energy revolution. 

With these open protocols, energy metering, indoor climate control, home comfort enhancement systems, security systems and health monitoring for an aging population will come together on one integrated platform.  Think “Google Energy”, “Google Health”, “Google Security”, “Google Home Comfort”, all available on your iPad.  

I’m aware of no similar discussion, strategy or policy development in Canada.  In fact, Canada is the only industrialized nation without a national energy policy.  As this technology gets developed and deployed, once again Canadian industry will be on the margins, existing as technology “takers” as opposed to suppliers with all the resulting wealth creation happening in other countries.  

The risk of too much green “stuff” 

There's going to be very significant movement toward home automation and intelligence. You’re going to see an explosion – and you have already – of renewable energy-related technology, tools, systems, applications and boxes.  Some of this stuff will be great, much of it will be over-hyped and not all that effective and some of it will be outright scams.  I see fellow blogger, Tyler Hamilton, has already started warning about these stock promoters and pushers.  

The bias so far in Canada has been toward providing incentives for, and promoting, energy generation, that is, the supply-side of the argument.  What’s being lost in the “noise” is the demand-side or efficiency and conservation side of the equation.  

The greatest opportunity for energy efficiency remains the simple stuff of doing a better job of heating and cooling our buildings where 2/3rds of our building energy use is required.  There remains a system-level bias against improving thermal performance for the simple reason that the stock market does not reward it because you can't as readily issue an IPO for a business dedicated to insulating properties.  Thus the focus remains on "boxes" of "technology" instead of basic good design principles. 

The technology is cool and the applets will abound.  But the laws of thermodynamics will remain biased towards not using energy in the first place.  And we know what eventually wins out when the laws of thermodynamics collide with the laws of economics. 

Gabriel Draven 

April 2010