Know Thyself, With Data (Will Analytics Save us All?)

While it's tempting to focus on technology and economics, privacy and cybersecurity are probably the major blocking issues in the way of mass smart grid adoption today. These are serious issues and must be addressed, but let's remember that the flip side of privacy is data. From properly-anonymized data, we can progress through analysis, insight, and action. EnergyHub just released a fascinating report of state-by-state winter heating thermostat setpoints. It's easy to explain freezing New Englanders with "flinty reserve" or "Yankee frugality", but the greater savings realizable with a lower setpoint are probably a stronger explanation. (I'm most interested in why neighbors Iowa and Nebraska have a 4 degree differential.)

Fun as this trivial example is, it points to a heretofore nonexistent link in energy management. Any campaign for energy efficiency is going to find it hard to establish metrics and efficacy if the only feedback mechanism is monthly bills. As we move toward a (privacy-respecting, aggregate) view of energy use patterns, we will have the ability to know what works and what doesn't. That's ultimately much more interesting than just knowing that Vermonters own a lot of flannel.

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