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Clean Power The Smart Energy Path Means "Open Dialog" Between Utilities and Consumers

Published on October 6th, 2011 | by Tom Schueneman


Tendril Connect Platform Helps Lay the Path to a New Smart Energy Economy

October 6th, 2011 by  

The Smart Energy Path Means "Open Dialog" Between Utilities and Consumers

“Knowledge is power”

In three words, Francis Bacon clarified a philosophy just as true in the 21 century as it was in the 16th, and in ways he could never have imagined as our modern, hyper-connected world comes to grips with growing resource and energy constraints. Today, our urgent task is to imagine what a sustainable “post carbon” energy economy could look like, utilizing the information and networking revolution of the past twenty years to lay the path for the energy revolution of the next twenty years. For innovators and companies like Tendril, building the “energy internet” is the growth niche for a new economy.

Efficient energy management is vital in our transitional times, an essential first step toward a sustainable future. Taking that first step entails an energy-information “superhighway” built on the  smart grid to facilitate end-to-end, realtime communication between power utilities and consumers. From that foundation comes the true power of knowledge that is disseminated from the free flow of and access to information. What Tendril calls the “Consumer Smart Grid.”

The challenge of imagining a new energy economy – or just a lower energy bill – requires embedding the information flow created from the smart grid into our daily lives; raw data transposed into knowledge that can inform effective decisions about how we consume and manage energy throughout our day. Making day-to-day choices about energy use should be as natural as where and when we choose to fill up the car with gas (to use a purposefully ironic analogy).

At the heart of the Consumer Smart Grid is the Tendril Connect platform, an open source integrated suite of API’s and applications for utilities and consumers to enhance and build on the fundamental two-way communication platform between utilities and consumers. Tendril is initiating a growing number of pilot programs with regional power districts that incorporate the Connect Platform to enhance smart energy management for utilities and their customers, including realtime and historical energy analysis tools, load control, and demand response.

The Tendril "Energize" program on the iPhone IOS platform - also available for AndroidBut some of the  most exciting applications of the Connect platform go beyond basic utility-consumer interaction. Making the platform available as an open source dataset enables third-party “ecosystem partners” to build the tools needed to further engage consumers to manage real-time energy decisions, analyze historical data, automate their “energy flow” and set actionable goals for saving money and reducing consumption. The Tendril platform can reach consumers where they live – in their smart phones and computer screens.

  • With the Connect platform, Whirlpool is set to roll-out a line of “smart appliances” that will automatically manage its energy consumption while actively communicating with both utilities and consumers.
  • To accomodate the new “tank of gas,” Tendril  incorporates demand response, charging programs, and transformer load management as the coming wave of electric vehicles “plugs in” to the grid.

Creating the next killer app

Especially exciting is seeing the ways innovators are using the open platform to create solutions. At the recent inaugural Cleanweb Hackathon in San Francisco, individuals teamed in groups of two or three to build IT-based solutions to address energy management and resource sustainability. Using Tendril’s dataset and API’s, two teams, Dr. Wattson and Team TACO (an acronym for “true cost of ownership”), were both winners.

Dr. Wattson, for example, was conceived on the straightforward idea that “sleuthing” a lower energy by comparing local energy plans should be easy. All it takes is access to the right information. The interface is simple, but as the screenshot below demonstrates, the information it provides – in this case how I can save on my own energy bill – is powerful. It shows in one easy step how I can save money, reduce energy consumption, and lighten my carbon footprint.

A winning app built at the first ever Cleanweb Hackathon using the Tendril dataset


Awareness informs change

Energy is the lifeblood of modern society, flowing through our human endeavor with increasing demand. Yet we typically give little thought to how we can best manage energy consumption or optimize efficiency as we move through our daily lives. Largely that is due to lack of the knowledge the allows us the power to easily and effectively incorporate decisions about energy into our day-to-day concerns. But all that is changing. Through the development of the “energy internet” and innovation from companies like Tendril and their partners, a new energy economy is at our fingertips.

Knowledge is power.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipB1n-yCUgc&w=500&h=315]

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About the Author

is an online publisher, editor, and freelance writer. He is the founder of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the History Blog Project, as well as publisher and site director for the HippieMagazine.com. Tom also contributes to numerous environmental blogs, including TriplePundit, Ecopolitology, Sustainablog, and Planetsave.   Tom's work has led him to Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific, and across the United States. His home base is San Francisco, California.

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