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Once in a lifetime is one of those sayings that, well, you should only say once in a lifetime! You should be cynical when it’s used lightly in a context that you think is not appropriate.
I’ve heard this quite a few times recently, which has led me to reflect on what is going on.
The context in this case is energy, specifically the Smart Grid. I suspect that many readers yawn at the mention of Smart Grid; its relevance to building automation is not well understood. You may think it’s one of those hypes like the energy crisis of the 70’s and 80’s, or open systems and IP that have been discussed here over the years.
I’m tempted to say that this is just another hype, that “in a lifetime” would not be appropriate to use. Or is it?
I (and others) have written numerous articles and interviews in recent months about the perfect storm that is gathering around energy. I’ve come across many from the building automation space that file these thoughts as unimportant stories; unimportant to their business, just a passing “fad”.
Like the comment I received a year or two back, from a significant system integrator in the Southwest who said that he was not interested in sustainability because his customers were not asking for it. Well, GSA now demands it, and billions are being funneled into making government buildings green. We’re not far away from the state when an un-green building is what they may call a “tear-down”. Short sighted, yes surely he was.
Like the frequent comments we have received that Smart Grid is a utilities problem, and that utilities have no relevance to building automation. Well, it is clear now that buildings consume a SIGNIFICANT amount of energy, and the new currency is Carbon (watch Congress this year), and buildings contribute a SIGNIFICANT amount of it, and guess what, building automation is squarely in the middle of solving this problem. And oh, the value, of building automation reducing a megawatt of energy is worth as much as a utility building a megawatt of power generation (they now call this negawatt or you may know it as Demand Response).
Like the comments that there is no funding for all this “good for the earth” stuff! Well guess what, around $43b of stimulus money is being put on the table by Obama for clean energy, and buildings (and thus building automation) is slap bang in the middle. Last I checked, building automation is an $11b industry WORLDWIDE; if there was any definition of “a significant financial driver” for an industry, I think we can safely say we have it now.
But my test of “once in a lifetime” is still not met, because it’s a real hard test. These things happen all the time, you may say!
The buzz around DC (ok, stop yawning) is the huge impact that the Smart Grid and related renewable energy programs that the Obama administration is driving is a “once in a lifetime” affair. Let’s think about this a while…
The last time there was a major change in the energy paradigm (yes that overused word) was, let’s see… that would be the invention of electricity that happened at roughly the same time as the birth of the internal combustion engine, or the turn of the 20th century, a century ago. That’s before my life started, so far so good.
So I ask how long will this change take? The changes that we’re talking about, the creation of a new energy system, the electrification of transportation, the creation of a significant (let’s say >50%) of renewable or at least non-carbon emitting energy sources, how long? At best guess it will take “a few decades” to happen.
Ok, so if I live well, eat well, watch my cholesterol, drive carefully, I may live another “few decades” so, the test of “once in a lifetime” is working for me so far, how about you?. So what is this change?
We really have to seriously go back to the invention of electricity and the internal combustion engine, and combine that with the changes that we have seen in the birth of the Internet that has changed our lives. The change in energy in coming years will be as significant as those two combined. Sorry but I can’t be more specific than that, anymore than a peasant farmer in the mid 19th century could explain a light bulb or a car or how any of us could explain eBay or Google a mere 15 or 20 years ago.
The changes can be distilled into a few phrases: “non-carbon emitting energy”; “automation of ALL energy consuming devices” (yes ALL); a new “real-time transactive market for energy”; and lastly for you “building automation enabled!”
And of course, you could pull your trump card, ah yes that word "procrastination", works well to delay doing anything, and you have a "few decades", but in this case, procrastination is a guaranteed way to miss the boat, of missing the opportunity to be in the lead, of missing securing a competitive advantage.
I invite you to join this journey to discover not only the future of energy, but also the future business opportunities that will, with a bit of luck, take us out of this recession. Join me at ConnectivityWeek in June to redefine building automation and create once in a lifetime business opportunities.
See you in Santa Clara!
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