January/February 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 1
Last year undoubtedly brought many changes to our lives and habits, and how we think about energy use in the home is no exception. Many of the trends that have developed over the last few years have only accelerated, resulting in an opportunity
to drive change in how we think the overall electrical grid operates, how it adapts and the role that homeowners will play in contributing to its efficiency and reliability.
When offices began closing in early 2020 in response to the coronavirus’s arrival, most States saw an immediate and sustained increase in home energy use as many employees began to work from home and children transitioned to remote learning.
In states as varied as California, Texas, Ohio, and Massachusetts, we observed mid-day consumption of in-home energy increase anywhere from 20 to 40 percent vs. previous years. Beginning in March, this held steady through much of the year.
During the summer, western states also suffered from rolling blackouts driven by grid operators’ increased caution during high wind conditions. Even with these preventive measures, wildfires continued to flare up throughout the year,
resulting in a loss of power for many Americans.
When the home has become a de facto place for business and/or schooling, ensuring that home energy is reliable, stable and resilient has become a growing concern for many homeowners. Simultaneously, with solar and home-battery-system
adoption increasing throughout the country, the mass availability of alternate energy sources is finally becoming a reality. Consumers want to understand how these new technologies can help to guarantee continuity of service and energy security
for their families.
Increasingly, the answer can be found in the numerous smart devices and communication systems in the modern home. It is not unusual to find connected thermostats, lighting, plugs, and home energy monitors present in a newer or remodeled home today.
The key to helping provide reliable (and, if needed, long duration backup) power capability, reducing stress on the overall grid, and assuring mass grid stability will be in harnessing these millions of “smart” devices to respond
to signals both from the local utility and established consumer use preferences.
By marrying historical data on how people live and consume energy in their residences with the ability to receive and act on grid stability and home battery capacity data, we can begin to envision a future where Americans have more stable and
reliable electricity. And, we can achieve this future state with zero loss of comfort or productivity. Imagine the ability to shift a megawatt of load by dimming the lighting in a million homes by just 10 percent for 30 minutes or extending
the length of your battery back-up for hours by simply adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees.
The technology is increasingly available, and the intelligent networks required to be the backbone of this infrastructure are being deployed today. By combining in-home connected devices with grid-level data, realizing true grid-to-plug intelligence
is visible on the horizon. The benefits to both homeowners and grid operators have the potential to improve our lives immeasurably. What an optimistic way to begin 2021. ei
Chair, NEMA Board of Governors