There is a good reason Warren Buffett's name seems to be turning up everywhere in the energy sector. When he bought Nevada utility NV Energy last year, he said there would be further energy acquisitions. Already heavily involved in solar and wind power, his Northern Grid Power Holdings Co. is wrapping up a home energy management pilot project with Siemens in the UK.
The pilot, referred to as the Customer-Led Network Revolution, is based on automation technology capable of managing when consumer appliances are used.
With 12,000 UK households participating, the pilot project allows residents to choose to turn on their appliances at the best times, or let Buffett's technology make those choices.
The point is that if utilities can more directly control electricity demand, they are less likely to invest in more equipment and generation. Also, that capability can be a buffer to shield the grid from fluctuations in power output from intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
"To integrate renewables in a cost-effective way, you need to integrate both grid-level technologies and end-user facing technologies," said Colin McKerracher, New Energy Finance smart technologies senior analyst in an interview with Renewable Energy World.
As Ian Loyd, Northern Power Grid Holdings head of network research, put it, the program puts customers in a position to modify their energy consumption in a way that supports distribution network operations.
While programs to persuade energy users to modify their behavior is not a new concept, Buffett's pilot is said to be one of a very small number in the world.
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