Judith Schwartz: Smart Grid Offers Tremendous Benefits to Businesses and the General Public

In part one of our series from smart grid marketing expert Judith Schwartz‘s recent Scaling Green Communicating Energy lecture, we focused on the importance of effectively introducing the smart grid to specific consumer market segments and individuals. Today, we turn our focus to the smart grid’s benefits for business, as well as to the broader public.

Judith Schwartz’s view is that the smart grid can help any business’ bottom line.  For instance, with knowledge of energy pricing, peak usage patterns, and the most cost-effective ways to be more energy efficient, businesses can change their practices to use energy at optimal times, save money, and ultimately be more profitable.

Although the smart grid can benefit any business, Judith Schwartz argues that the specific benefits and optimal utilization of the smart grid will vary by the type of business:

If you are a warehouse and what you’re storing is temperature insensitive, what do you care if the temperature goes up on a hot afternoon? It doesn’t matter, you can even send people home if the money’s worth it. But if you’re a movie theatre and you’re the destination on a hot day then you care about keeping it cool. You can also as a movie theatre say, I’m going to put ice storage on the rooftop and pre-cool the movie theater because not a lot of people come to the movies in the morning. So I can have it really cold in the morning, and by the time the afternoon and the early evening comes and people are coming to the movies, now it’s leveled off to a temperature that’s reasonable. When you’re a destination spot you have to be a little more creative in how you might flatten the load.

As for the general public, Judith Schwartz sees three main benefits of the smart grid:

1) helping them reduce their energy use,

2) facilitating integration of distributed, renewable power,

3) reducing the risk, and severity, of power outages.

Let’s think about why people should care. I want to say that what this technology enables is basically three different things. The first point is, it can be either information, incentives, or automation that will make it easy for people to reduce their energy use. It also allows you to integrate clean generation and transportation. So it will now become possible to have solar or wind at various scales. To be able to use storage when it becomes economically viable and to be able to use electric vehicles or trucks or electric transportation because it’s now going to be something that you’ll be able to use and manage effectively. It also allows you to reduce, pinpoint and restore outages more quickly. Those three levels of capability are why someone is going to care about it. But the reasons why someone is going to care is going to vary based on that.

The bottom line is that the smart grid offers tremendous benefits to both businesses and the general public. The key challenge is communicating those benefits so that consumers can take appropriate action accordingly.