Oracle’s Turning Information into Power report

Oracle Turning information into power report

Oracle released the results of a research report last week called “Turning Information into Power“.

The report had some interesting findings – from the press release:

Americans are concerned about energy costs and show interest in new energy options.

  1. 94% are concerned with the energy costs of their primary residence.
  2. 95% are interested in receiving detailed information on their energy use.
  3. 76% are interested in renewable energy technologies for their home – and 72% of those respondents state that “reducing personal energy costs” is the most important benefit of renewable energy.

Other interesting findings include:

  1. When asked to give their utility suppliers a grade on their “current ability to provide detailed, useful information on energy consumption,” only 14% of Americans gave their utility an “A.” When grading themselves on the same question, only 16% of utility managers gave their organizations an “A.”
  2. While more than half (58%) of electricity and multi-service utilities surveyed currently offer net metering programs – which allow homeowners to generate their own renewable energy or sell it back to their utilities – just 11% of these utilities say their customers are actively pursuing the programs.

This clearly demonstrates a communications issue between the utilities and their customer base.

While on Smart Grids –

  1. 91% of utility managers believe it is critical that the U.S. adopts smart grid technologies.
  2. 41% of utilities have assessed the opportunity for smart grid technologies and
  3. Utility managers believe “upfront consumer expenses” (42%) and a “lack of consistent industry technology standards” (30%) will be the biggest roadblocks to maximizing benefits of the smart grid

There is a lot of interesting information to digest in this report – mainly though it is good news. The American people want more information on their energy use, they are interested in renewables and microgeneration. The renewables, for their part, believe that rolling out smart grids is critical, provide net-metering programs but don’t, as yet, provide detailed useful information on energy consumption in their bills.

Both sides perceive the biggest obstacle to the rollout of smart grids is financial.

Let’s hope that the $11bn pledged to the implementation of smart grids by the Obama stimulus plan will break down some of these barriers.

I hope to be interviewing Guerry Waters, vice president, industry strategy, Oracle Utilities about this report in the coming weeks, if you have any questions you’d like me to put to Guerry, please feel free to leave them in the comments.


Recent research round-up

Photo Credit tk-link

There have been several big announcements on research into Green and renewable energy technologies recently.

MIT announced that they had announced a way to split water into H2 and O2 at room temp and pressure using simple, easy to produce and dispose of catalysts. The thinking on this being that if you have a photovoltaic array on your roof during the day, you can use excess electricity generated to create hydrogen and water. These can be combined subsequently in a fuel cell to create carbon-free electricity (when the sun goes down, for example). This has the potential (no pun) to make the generation of solar energy far more efficient, it is claimed.

Then Technology Review reports on a recent paper in Science from Jacobo Santamaria, of the applied-physics department at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, in Spain, and his colleagues which could help make solid-oxide fuel cells more practical. Previously these fuel-cells required a lot of heat but this new super-lattice material ‘improves ionic conductivity near room temperature by a factor of almost 100 million!

Then the University of Virginia released news of a breakthrough in solar cell design which should lead to increases in photovoltaic array efficiency. From their report:

Solar cells of the future may look totally black to the human eye because they absorb light so efficiently.

While current solar cells reflect about 30 percent of the light energy that reaches their surface, the U.Va. team will use lasers to create tiny nanoscale surface textures that reduce that energy loss to less than 1 percent, over the entire solar spectrum and irrespective of the angle at which sunlight strikes the cell.

While increasing the ultimate efficiency of solar cells, this laser texturing process could also drive down manufacturing costs. Because lasers are already used in the manufacturing of solar cells, the texturing process can be automated, eliminating the need for dangerous chemical treatments currently used to reduce reflectance….

The 30 percent gain in light absorption from the nanospike surface may enable the creation of solar cells that are ultimately 2 percent to 3 percent more efficient than current technology

It is fantastic to see such innovative work taking place in the area of Green and renewable energies. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the current wave of announcements is being helped enormously by the increase in the price of oil.

If the price of oil were to drop below $100 per barrel, the vast majority of these projects and startup companies in the renewables area would bery quickly find their funding drying up. I have said it before, the sooner oil reaches $200 per barrel, the better.