By SUS CEO, Deepak Garg
Last month, Smart Utility Systems*, a leading provider of cloud-based platforms for the utility sector and its customers, held its inaugural Cleantech Connect water and energy innovation forum. The idea behind the event was to bring water and energy thought leaders from across various sectors together to exchange ideas about water conservation and energy sustainability. By including brilliant minds from across academia, technology, utilities, and government, we sought to expose attendees and speakers to new and different angles of today’s water and energy challenges and solutions, and underline the importance of cross-sector collaboration in this space.
- Irvine Mayor, Steven Choi, discussing the city’s desire and strategy for fostering technology innovation
- Serial entrepreneur, conservationist, and co-founder of 5-hour Energy, Ravi Sajwan, talking about his passion for promoting water, energy, and cleantech innovation
- Doug Walker of Irvine Public Schools Foundation, discussing the importance of educating youth about energy and water resources and conservation
- Carolina Bravo from non-profit Planet Water Foundation talking about the importance of thinking globally and acting locally to address the global water crisis
- University of California Ph.D. candidates, Ankita Raturi and Emily Brooks, presenting their environmental sustainability research
- Jason Foster of the San Diego Water Authority discussing the agency’s industry-leading conservation programs
- SUS executives, many of whom spent several decades as electric utility executives, to share their perspectives on the evolution of the industry
The discussion focused on the current lay of the land and where we go from here when thinking about the overall water and energy landscape, especially in light of the ongoing drought in California and the drastic transformation of today’s energy landscape.
The diverse lineup of speakers made for a rich and robust conversation, which yielded several 2016 action items that can be used as a handy and practical tip guide to share with the public.
Here’s a list of key areas to be aware of going forward:
- Carry Drought Safeguards Forward
→ The conservation measures put in place by Governor Brown in the state’s time of water crisis have been essential to curb excess water usage. The drop in consumption levels doesn’t need to creep back up to unsavory levels if the drought begins to turn later on this year.
→ During a devastating California drought in 1990, the goal was to drop consumption 20% in Los Angeles. We hit that goal and the consumption level actually stayed the same for 10–15 years after the restrictions were lifted.
- Ramp up Education
→ People-driven behavior helped aid conservation in the past and it can now.
→ Citizens are doing a great job of policing themselves, especially in desert communities like Indio in Southern California.
→ Utilities worked hard to go door-to-door in some cases, educating the public as well as setting up educational sessions at schools. The youth education at the elementary and junior high levels is critical to promote best practices. The youth can educate their parents and put their boundless energy to good use.
→ Customer online training is another area that needs to be addressed. Customers want more online options from their utilities. Handy guides for them to access via a website or app is a useful tool to give consumers “a cheat sheet” to bring new best practices into their daily lives.
→ Customers almost always undershoot how much water they’re using. The increased education efforts can help bridge the education gap.
- The Local/Global Connection – Who’s doing things right?
→ The drought is a California issue currently but one that has been felt on a global level numerous times before. In Singapore, they were getting truckloads of rain but weren’t collecting it. Using examples from other regions in the world, they were able to educate themselves and turn their lack of water into an excess of water stored now. The proper investment paid off for the region.
- IoT – friend or foe?
→ The IoT movement is one that definitely can be a friend to the water/energy world.
→ When you conserve water, hot water means energy usage as well. When you cut down on things like shower time, you’re actually conserving energy as well.
→ New smart showerheads are in the works that have the potential to be moderated by utilities. This could create the concept of instant gratification for consumers if utilities reward water savings with social media prizes, shoutouts – the trick is finding new motivating factors for people to get involved
→ New forms of weather tracking is also effecting change in communities/large cities right now. Cities, Toronto for example, are turning off their sprinkler systems based off weather patterns.
→ IoT also fosters consumer engagement, something that is lacking between consumers and their utilities. This technology can help educate and help bridge the gap between technologists, consumers, and utilities.
We live in a time where we can’t take water for granted anymore. Last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a question was posed asking if water is the new oil in 2016. We might not be at that level of comparison yet, but the level of importance isn’t too far behind. On the energy side, overall energy usage is under the microscope more than ever. How large companies, educational institutions, and government bodies react will be something to watch very closely.
About the Author: Deepak Garg, Chairman/CEO responsible for the innovation, vision, strategy, and leadership of SUS, has developed high-powered business and technology teams that have successfully developed leading Energy & Utilities Customer Engagement & Mobile Workforce with Smart iQ™ platforms addressing Energy & Utilities industry key challenges in areas of Customer Outreach, Energy Efficiency, Demand Response, Smart Grid Reliability, Work Efficiency, Field Mobility and Big data. Before SUS, he held several senior executive positions with Fortune 500 companies focused in Energy & Utilities. During these positions, he developed new direct and in-direct market business solutions with rapid growth, adding $500+ millions of dollars in company growth. Deepak has a MS in Computer Science with Bachelor degree in engineering along with executive management from Stanford Graduate Business School & MIT.
*This article has been kindly sponsored by Smart Utility Systems.