Zigbee and Smart Appliances

I hadn’t written about Zigbee is so long I had to go back to my old blog to search for it. I remain pretty bullish on this category of technology but am pragmatic about medium term results for several reasons.

Commercial power users have a lot of incentives to retrofit facilities with energy saving technology and smart monitoring solutions, while residential users have less directly connected incentives and tend not to behave according to market conditions because electricity markets are price regulated and respond less dramatically than, for example, gasoline. It takes 4-6 months for electricity rates to rise in response to global commodity markets, and for whatever reason that seems to condition homeowners to price increases.

More on point, home retrofitting for technology like this is expensive and that why the vast majority of the market won’t do it. Even with tax subsidies, which btw remain a terrible strategy that does nothing but encourage higher prices to consumers, the payback period for technology like this exceeds the threshold most homeowners will absorb. Exhibit A is solar retrofitting, which despite significant improvements in the technology and large tax subsidies is but a niche market.

Until these technology make it into new construction we won’t see significant movement in the market. With new home construction all but at a standstill for at least the next 18 months, this is obviously not a winning strategy for these companies.

In the final analysis though, it is these incremental savings that will likely “fuel” our next generation power marketplace along with renewables, clean coal technology, transmission technology improvements, and better battery technology.

ZigBee is on the verge of becoming the Wi-Fi of home power management, thanks to its inclusion in smart electric meters. But multiple wireless control technologies may coexist, as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth do. For both consumers and utilities, it’s like “going from an odometer to a speedometer,” says Paul De Martini, vice president of Edison SmartConnect, Southern California Edison’s next-generation metering project. It intends to introduce smart meters to its 5.3 million customers by 2012. This project is expected to help reduce peak power demand by 5 percent – about the output of an 1,100-megawatt power plant – and overall demand by 1 percent. That would cut carbon dioxide emissions as much as taking 79,000 cars off the road, De Martini says.

[From New meters find power hogs and limit how much they use / Technology on verge of a boom, some analysts say]