In the future some residential energy consumers may become “prosumers,” who are both providers and consumers of electric grid services. The home of the future will be full of flexible energy-consuming and energy-producing devices that can be controlled in response to price signals from electric markets and/or control signals from grid operators who have paid for the right to utilize consumer devices to manage the grid. The result will be significantly lower utility bills or maybe even use of the home as a producer of energy-related profits.
Here’s an example what such a “home of the future” may look like:
The home includes advanced energy-efficient technologies that reduce overall energy usage:
- Highly efficient appliances and lighting
- A super-insulated shell and energy-efficient windows
- Geothermal heating and cooling that use thermal energy from the earth to efficiently heat and cool a home
- A smart thermostat that keeps the home at an optimum temperature
- A home combined heat and power (CHP) system that generates electricity and provides heat for hot water and/or space heating
While a single home may not include all these elements, a mix of just some of them will significantly minimize the amount of energy required to meet desired lifestyle demands.
Once one’s needs to buy energy services from the grid are reduced, the next investment may be in technologies that lower energy costs (or even make them go negative so that homeowners are making money!). This may be achieved by shifting electric demand to times when power is the cheapest and/or by selling electricity or other services back to the grid. This is what turns a consumer into a prosumer. Technologies that facilitate this include:
- Smart appliances, adaptive lighting, a smart thermostat, a controllable water heater, and an electric vehicle with a battery — all of these allow consumers to time shift their electric usage
- The previously mentioned CHP system, which provides capacity and electricity
- A solar array that can also provide capacity and electricity
- An advanced inverter for the solar array that can provide regulation services and voltage support to the grid
- A home battery that can provide capacity, electricity, regulation services, and voltage support to the grid and may also allow the homeowner to time-shift use of power bought from the grid or generated by a CHP system or solar array
Those who take advantage of these technologies’ benefits will want to remain connected to the distribution utility to get the economic benefit of selling these services. This requires a smart meter to determine accurately the time of energy production or consumption and provision of grid services. All these components won’t run and optimize themselves alone, so a home energy management system (HEMS) is required to manage it all. HEMS users will simply use the convenient home energy app provided by their energy services provider to set preferences and the system will then run itself.