Last week, we presented a webinar based on our recent HAN report. There wasn’t enough time to answer all the questions posed during the event, but a number of excellent questions deserve a response.  Here they are, along with quick-take answers. There will also be more on HAN, and which technologies provide the biggest benefit for the dollar, at our upcoming Networked Grid conference on May 3 and 4.

Q: When will utilities actually turn the HAN on via smart meters?

A: Presumably, this is in reference to the millions of smart meters with ZigBee radio chips intended for connecting home area networks to utility systems through their advanced metering infrastructure networks. I don’t work for a utility myself, but here’s what one utility senior manager said when I asked him the question (paraphrased): “We’ll activate the chips when we have a reason and application to do so. Right now, we don’t have HAN systems in the field. Why activate a network technology when there is no benefit from doing so?” This is a refreshingly pragmatic answer -- one that doesn’t mention the security concerns so oft-cited in industry press.

Q: On market barriers:  What about incentivizing utilities to pursue demand management?  Utilities still make more on plant/ assets.

A: Amen. This is a huge problem that can only be solved by regulation and market reform.  The California ISO Proxy Demand Resources program is a good example of a market reform. To summarize the program briefly, it enables independent registered entities to bid demand resources into capacity markets as though it is generation, and, importantly, it requires distribution entities to purchase the demand resource at a comparable rate to incremental generation.  Here’s a link to the CAISO Proxy Demand Resource FAQ.

Q: What about OPEN HAN and OPEN ADR?

A: This is in reference to the Open HAN Task Force, a group formed by the Smart Grid Systems Working Group under the Open Smart Grid (OpenSG) Technical Committee of the UCA International Users Group. The working group created the Open HAN specification, a good reference document for understanding some of the technical aspects of connecting homes with the grid.

Q: What will happen when electric vehicles being charged in homes become commonplace? Will EVs need to be managed and controlled so as not to break the grid?

A:  We share the same concern. In fact, we researched the topic and issued a comprehensive Electric Vehicle Research Report. It includes detailed analysis and assessment of the impact of EVs on the grid and how utilities need to prepare their distribution infrastructure for electric vehicle adoption. 

Q: Who will pay the $400 for each home and who will reap the benefits? [Note: The $400 figure refers to a starter HAN bundle of an in-home display, smart thermostat, and communications gateway that links up to utility demand management applications via broadband or ZigBee.]

A: This is an open question.  Our HAN report includes a detailed business case for utility direct investment in the home that supports a $400 level of investment, using data from a two-pronged HAN technology and dynamic pricing trial in the Southeast where summertime peak demand is very high.  One of the issues, though, is how utility investments should be structured -- as an outright purchase? Rebates? Incentives? Discounts? Refunds? The outright purchase model increases uptake, but it may not make the most sense, since some of the systems will become shelfware. Requiring some consumer investment and involvement probably makes the most sense.  

Q: After the "green crowd" leads the way in implementing HAN solutions in homes, what does it take to get the vast majority of consumers to move on this solution?

A: Technology sophisticates with a strong interest in conservation and being “green” are the most likely early adopters.  After that, it’s a matter of bundling energy management as a feature for products like smart appliances, consumer electronics and heating and cooling controls.  The way we see it, factors that rank high on the list of criteria for mass adoption include lower price points, embedded energy management, ease of use and consumer marketing. 

Q: Can you explain what the dollar numbers refer to in your market forecast? For example, does the segment for broadband refer to additional broadband service provider revenue through home energy management?

A: The dollar numbers for the broadband segment are for technology products, but do not include services. Services are broken out into separate service categories: conservation services, demand management services and enterprise software and integration. 

Thanks to all the attendees for listening in and for all your excellent questions.  Those that did not make the live webinar can access the archived webinar here.

Also, our upcoming Networked Grid event will include a panel on HAN that will be moderated by our editor-in-chief, Michael Kanellos.