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The Case for Energy Dis-Ecolibrium

- November 2, 2010 - 1 Comment

This is my first post on Cisco’s Ecolibrium blog.  Rob Aldrich—Thank you for inviting me; I look forward to opening our discussions with the Cisco community.  We have a lot of work to do!  And it’ll probably require hundreds of posts.

Over the next several years, I intend to make the case for energy dis-equilibrium.  That is to say, our current approach for consuming and generating electricity and thermal energy must change in a dramatic way.  We must all become aware of energy consumption, it’s costs and learn how to manage it more effectively.  Simply put, this will require dis-equilibrium.  Though it may appear uncomfortable, it will yield great benefits down the road.

Before I start to write about the great energy dis-equilibrium, and explore energy innovation topics in detail, let me first share the goal of my writing.  I intend to use this space and the follow on discussions to illuminate the challenges that must be overcome in order to create solutions that enable community and business leaders to know when they are operating in a sustainable way.    This blog will explore everything necessary to measure, monitor and control energy–electrical energy, thermal energy, and embodied energy.  By embodied energy, I mean we will explore anything that produces, transforms or stores energy.  Food, water and steel ingots all represent embodied energy.  So we have a lot of work ahead.

When community and business leaders have the communication and application tools necessary to automatically collect, collate, correlate and report on their use of resources in a sustainable way—that’s when I’ll stop posting.

I think it’s important to have goals; I think it’s important to dream big—it’s what sets humans apart from other animals.  Though the topics I could explore are endless, I have an approach in mind.  As an old proverb states, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.  So before advancing to mile marker 500 on a journey that will transform our lives and business processes, we will look at the first 10 steps.  Along the way, we will take a detour or two or ten.  I know where I want to end—but there is no map to get me there—but I guarantee there will be some interesting people, ideas and lots of innovation along the way.

Since many of the topics that should be explored are complicated I plan to cover some basic information about electrical and thermal energy.  Some of this I may punt to Wikipedia—but I’ll figure that out as I move forward.   I also want explore these topics in a way that makes them accessible to planners, architects and home owners.  You don’t need an engineering degree to understand how to measure and conserve energy.  The solutions must be simple and accessible.  Not only that but most professionals in IT and facility management don’t have extra time to waste exploring uncharted ground.

Topics that I’m considering in the near term include:

1.      Saving Energy is Good For Business

2.      You Can’t Control What You Can’t See—So What Can You See?

3.      Buildings—It’s all about thermal management

4.      Smart Homes, Smart Buildings and the Smart Grid

5.      Weather Drives Energy Use

6.      The Importance of Sub-metering

7.      Interval Data and Demand Charges

8.      Trends in Solar, Wind and Other Renewables

9.      From the Dog House to the Data Center—The Future of Energy Management

10.  Energy Communication Standards

I have dozens of others topics and articles, but I wanted to at least provide some insight to what I have in mind.  As I get started, I hope to offer some free but valuable practical advice while also adding a view of the future.

Before you depart, I want to leave you with one assignment.  This is easy–how many of these questions can you answer (use your own home as the example).

Assess your own energy use.

Do you know how much electric energy you use each minute?





Do you know how much free energy you consume from the sun?

What about liquid fuels?  Do you know how much gas your car consumes each year?

What about fuel embodied by your food?

And how much was used to deliver your annual water supply?

If you don’t have many (or any) answers, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Many of us may know how much we spent last month on our electric bill—but that’s probably about all we know.

Consider this, a few years ago I presented at a Smart Grid Conference in South Africa.  There were about 150 people in the room from various utilities.  Only 3 people could tell me how much electricity they used (money spent—not the amount of energy consumed).  I asked them what departments they represented.  All were metering professionals.

I’ll end here with the energy trend illuminated today–in the future, more people will know more about how much energy they consume.

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  1. Wow Matt! One of the best first time posts I've read... Thank you for taking the step to share you knowledge publicly like this. You're one of the best thinkers in this space and I believe our readers will gain a lot from your insights. For those who don't know, Matt is also the co-creator of Cisco EnergyWise ( and was a tech editor for our book IP Enabled Energy Management at Thanks Matt!