Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An electricity sharing economy

Matthew Crosby of the Rocky Mountain Institute says rooftop solar and other emerging technologies will enable peer-to-peer electricity markets:
For more than a century, the electric grid has relied almost exclusively on centralized infrastructure, such as large power plants and long-distance transmission lines. But distributed energy resources (DERs) -- and the customers buying, installing, and using them -- are changing the economic landscape for the power sector. Energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation such as rooftop solar, distributed storage such as batteries, smart thermostats, and more are poised to become the front lines of a sharing economy revolution for the grid. Shared economy solutions will help to increase asset utilization rates and improve consumer and overall system economics, just as they have for other sectors.
The Knowledge Problem has further commentary on the idea, and Brad Plumer at Vox has been following the solar beat, most recently with a good article on trends in financing mechanisms for rooftop solar. The environmental and economic resilience aspects of transitioning to a more distributed electricity market are clear. With current interest rates so low, now is the time for governments to encourage investments in enabling infrastructure like smart grids--instead of speculating big on high-speed rail megaprojects with uncertain return on investment potential.

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