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Smart gadgets will save energy

Los Angeles Times-Washington Post
Published: August 19, 2007, 00:22

New York: In the future, consumers who turn on their air-conditioning could receive a message on a specialised thermostat warning them of the increased energy cost.

This "smart" thermostat is one example of emerging energy technologies represented at a conference that drew more than 600 industry participants last Wednesday.

Officials from 50 companies and organisations met to develop partnerships, discuss the industry's future and share their innovations, which included long-lasting LED light panels, air-conditioning units that run on natural gas, and the smart thermostat developed by Silver Spring Networks.

Bill Davila, the company's sales director, said the device is a two-way communication system between consumers and utilities. In the event of a blackout, the meters automatically identify which homes are without power and notify the utility.

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The inaugural 'Energy for the Future' conference was sponsored by KeySpan, the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid, the London-based company poised to take over KeySpan.

Central management

One of the hot topics in the future of energy distribution is a "smart grid" - a central management system that would allow utilities to quickly gather information about multiple types of alternative energy sources.

The system would gather meter information, in real time, from wind turbines, fuel cells and power plants. It may eventually have the capability to predict problems in the system and prevent blackouts.

"These controllable devices will manage the energy load, allowing us to take advantage of these alternative energy systems," said Tom Garrity, vice-president of sales for Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution Inc, headquartered in New York City, one company developing the systems.

The conference also gave companies an opportunity to network with other businesses.

"The partnering is really essential. So many of the technologies require integration," said Eric Bauman, Northeast regional manager for the Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit with offices in California, North Carolina.




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