Energy Efficiency through Smart Solutions
The age old saying “Whatever can be measured, can be monitored” holds true for a majority of things and that includes one of the most important resources for today’s modern day living – Energy.
As per the latest estimates released by the government, India is getting to an energy surplus situation as far as the production of energy is concerned. However, the paradox is that still we face long power cuts and other power quality related problems in our day to day living. Despite readily available power at competitive prices, state utilities shy away from purchasing the right amount of power that can serve the 24x7 needs of the consumers. The reason being that the utilities suffer huge amount of AT&C loses and the more the number of hours of supply, the bigger are these loses. On the consumer end too, there is hardly much available that gives near real time insights into their energy consumption. If some such solution is available that nudges them to conserve energy by reducing the waste while maintaining the same comfort levels as required through efficient and intelligent use of energy. The above and similar problems can be solved to a great extent if there could be some ways to easily measure and hence monitor the energy flow closely. This near real time measuring and monitoring is one of the important characteristics of what we call as Smart Solutions.
Coupled with several new jargons, there is a lot of hype around such smart solutions. However, at a very simple and basic level a smart system uses a feedback loop of data, which provides evidence for informed decision-making. The system can monitor, measure, analyse, communicate and act, based on information captured from various sensors. Any such systems deployed for energy related problems have the potential to harness energy efficiencies to a significant extent at all levels, be it utilities distribution system or different types of consumers like housing complex, commercial buildings, industries or a household. Achieving efficiencies needs much more attention as compared to the past is due to the fact that the per capita consumption of energy has increased significantly and is expected to grow even more in near future. If efficiencies are not brought in, then this increased consumptions will lead to lot more loses thereby hitting all stake-holders in the energy production, distribution and consumption chain with several ripple effects. So, there is a definite need to achieve energy efficiencies by using appropriate technology, adequate processes, a passionate mind-set and participation from users.
Machine to Machine (M2M) technology based on Internet of Things (IOT) concepts has been playing a significant role to realize such smart solutions, example being smart grid, smart infrastructure, smart cities, smart homes and smart building management and so on. Such solutions comprise majorly of the hardware ecosystem and the backend platforms, the two being coupled through a communication network. Hardware components get installed in the field to do real time measurement and control of end devices. Backend platform processes all the captured data into human understandable form that helps viewing and controlling end devices in an automated or manual mode. Smart phones and mobile apps have further helped in penetration and popularizing such solutions and help measure, monitor and control almost everything from anywhere. Taking the example of a smart grid, as shown in Figure 1, a utility can monitor its distribution transformers for various critical parameters as well as ascertain near real time losses being incurred. Figure 2, shows the high granular data for the load and current on the transformer. Any exceptions are immediately notified as alerts to concerned officials. Similarly taking the examples of end consumer, Figure 3 shows date wise records for daily consumption of energy. The same can be monitored in real time too and helps get useful insights leading to any measures required for optimized usage. Data analysis over a period of time can give useful insights into consumer behaviour as well as predictive analytics for important activities like demand side planning. Figure 4 gives example of real-time water resource and energy measurement of a residential complex for each tower. The system has the intelligence to switch on the pumping system as soon as the water level goes below the configurable threshold. Some such solutions that are not catching up market momentum are:
• Smart Grid and Advanced Metering Infrastructure
• Intelligent Building Management
• Smart Home and Energy Management
• Intelligent Remote Infrastructure Management
Needless to say, such smart solutions can go a big way in increasing the efficiencies as well as leading to a more comfortable life. Not just that, such solutions are a big boost to saving the environment and leading to green living, that is our duty as well as obligation for our future generations.