Today in Cleantech

Do green energy marketers really pose a threat to utilities’ monopoly on power? An interesting report this morning says yes, if you’re talking about  deregulated markets such as Great Britain. That’s where companies like Co-Operative Energy and Good Energy are trying to eke out customers for green power from the 99.5 percent of power supplied by the country’s six big utilities. In the United States, companies like Green Mountain Energy (now owned by NRG Energy) have constructed similar business plans around selling renewable power (mainly wind) to retail customers — different than the big, block power purchases we’ve seen from buyers like Google. As for how utilities will manage the growth of distributed, customer-owned power generation such as rooftop solar panels or campus backup power generators, that’s where microgrid operators like Balance Energy, Lockheed Martin, Viridity Energy and others want to play. It’s an interesting set of concepts to watch — and still a long way from major market penetration. Most of the United States remains non-competitive, with traditional utility-customer relationships that would make it difficult for new entrants to gain market share for their differentiated power supplies.

Today in Cleantech

Cloud computing and smart grid are going to have to get to know one another much more closely in the future, if utilities are to squeeze the most costs — and realize the greatest potential revenues and capabilities — from their smart meters, distribution management systems, back-end billing and customer service systems and other IT. Oh, and they’ll have to keep it all secure. On Friday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its “draft guide to cloud computing,” a document that lays out how the federal agency in charge of standards wants cloud computing to match its priorities. Security is going to be critical, something utility-aimed cloud offerings will need to pay attention to. Utilities have been slow to adopt cloud computing offerings, but it’s slowly happening — Verizon and eMeter teamed up to provide eMeter’s smart meter data management over Verizon’s cloud service, and other utilities are turning to the cloud for back-office data management needs that are set to explode as meters start transmitting data in minutes, rather than in months. They’d better stay abreast of NIST’s concerns about cybersecurity and data privacy while they’re at it.

Consumers Will Lead the Way for Smart Grid Adoption

How do we get consumers to use less energy and to use it smarter? State and local governments might be able to incentivize smart grid rollouts, but to ensure adoption, utilities will need to educate consumers and giving them the right tools, such as peak pricing.

Today in Cleantech

As far as smart grid prognostications go, I’d have to say I’m on the same page as in Pike Research’s new white paper, “Smart Grid: Ten Things to Watch in 2011 and Beyond.” Among Pike’s predictions for next year: Europe and China will overtake the U.S. as the key smart meter markets; smart meters will fade in importance compared to distribution automation; demand response providers will keep expanding their business models; stimulus funds will start to have a real impact; and smart meter enabled customers will continue to complain (the “Bakersfield effect”), though others may actually like their new smart meters. Pike’s biggest worries?  Cybersecurity for the smart grid, and data management for the petabytes of information flowing from new smart meters and other grid devices.

0Views Seeks Out YouTube’s Most Unwatched

For most YouTubers, the almighty viewcount reigns supreme — if your video doesn’t break five figures, it doesn’t matter how good it is. It’s an interesting yet at times exhausting attitude — which is possibly why the 0Views blog is so refreshing an experience.

Divvy Up Your Screen

One annoyance that I’ve found in dealing with multiple windows in OS X is how each application seems to view the green plus button a little differently. Divvy is an app that provides a user-defined solution to that oversight, and does it in style.

5 Useful Mac Utilities

Finding a useful application or utility for your Mac is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s a lot of work to find them (at least good ones) but when you do find one, it’s a great thing.