With the news that utility bills are on the rise, experts say the technology will revolutionize consumer use and power generation.
The home of the future appears to be an increasingly attractive place to live this week, after millions of households received the unpleasant news that their energy bills were on the rise again.
Changing providers is a quick solution to rising bills. But in the long run, industry players say the answers may lie in the next revolution in how we use energy in our homes, turning it into mini power stations and reducing our dependence on energy companies like British Gas and EDF.
For consumers, cost and convenience will be important factors. For energy companies, there is the potential to rebuild trust and transform from mere suppliers into more profitable service companies. As a report said last week, there must also be a debate about how houses can be heated in new ways that reduce their contribution to climate change.
Most industry experts think future homes will consume less energy, putting the impact of electric cars aside, as appliances from fridges to furnaces become increasingly efficient. New buildings are also becoming more airtight, which the Building Research Establishment says has been largely driven by regulations.
British Gas owner Centrica, the UK's largest energy provider, and Ovo, one of the biggest “defiant” firms, told the Observer that they expected domestic energy use to continue to decline.
Customers will not only consume energy, they will also generate it, becoming "prosumers," "a horrible word but a useful term," says Tom Pakenham, head of electric vehicles at Ovo, which means "to generate their own energy, store it and use it wisely. "
For most people, this will mean that solar panels generate electricity, which is not a new trend: more than 900,000 homes have already had solar energy, for a decade.
What's new is that consumers are beginning to combine solar power with batteries, to store and use or export electricity when it makes financial sense.
Such installations are not officially monitored, but the Solar Trade Association estimates that 5,000-10,000 homes in the UK now have energy storage, installed by companies like Tesla, E.ON and Nissan.
Imperial College has said that cheaper household batteries will be a game changer for utilities.
"The storage aspect is becoming increasingly important," said Jonathan Tudor, Centrica's director of technology and innovation strategy.
But the energy stored in the home may not be automatically consumed by that home. "I can decide that I have excess energy and my personal preference may be to donate that to a vulnerable home in the future," Tudor said.
Centrica has installed around 1.6 million of its Hive smart home devices, turning to tech titans like Nest, owned by Alphabet, a pioneer in smart thermostats.
But the company is already looking beyond smart thermostats, lights and outlets, which its data says are reducing the average home's energy use by as much as 12%.
“We are looking at how we can take this further: we hope that the adoption of the‘ Internet of things ’will make more devices smart. You can load your dishwasher and press "start" and it does a calculation: you want it ready before 7 am, let the machine decide when to start the cycle, depending not only on prices but on the efficiency of the [energy] network Tudor said.
Smart meters, which the government aims to offer to all households by the end of 2020, are also seen as key to enabling much of the technology and new prices.
"You can't have a smart energy system without smart meters," Pakenham said.
The meters will allow for more dynamic pricing, in which billers pay less for energy at certain times of the day, to reduce costs and pressure on the electricity grid.
Other digital technologies are making peer-to-peer energy trading a reality. Last week, a startup called Verv used blockchain for the first time to run a physical energy trade on a property in East London, from a rooftop solar array on one block to a resident on another block.
Dermot Nolan, CEO of energy regulator Ofgem, believes that peer-to-peer trading is one of the most exciting new business models in energy.
Suppliers like British Gas, rather than simply selling gas and electricity, will seek to manage how energy is used in the home and to manage its relationship with the outside world: managing commerce or managing an electric car battery to help the grid. in exchange for payments. "We say that we can make this more convenient for you," Tudor said.
We may no longer buy more energy, but comfort. In a trial of nearly 100 homes conducted by the government-funded Energy Systems Catapult, people pay not for use but for temperature and the number of rooms they heat.
"What we see is that companies add value to customers, rather than being someone they just have to have," said John Batterbee, chief engineer for Energy Systems Catapult.
By Thomasine, Sweden
Original article (in English)