One of the effects of energy deregulation is rising prices, and greater volatility in prices, due to the change in policies that had previously dictated that energy utilities could only earn a set rate of profit on top of their operating costs. The idea with this policy change was that greater competition would incentivize utilities to reduce their costs. However, because traditional utility companies already had an effective monopoly on the infrastructure and generation capacity, it actually resulted in costs for consumers increasing because utility companies were no longer restricted in the amount of profit they earn (1). More widespread deregulation will likely result in similar increases in costs to consumers.
Energy resellers have become a booming new business in the deregulated marketplace. I see them frequently at the entrance to grocery stores and sometimes also going door to door in my neighbourhood in Philadelphia. They promise to offer customers lower, fixed rates on electricity than if they were to buy directly from the dominant electricity provider in their area. Grid management software companies and services also stand to profit from energy deregulation, due to additional independent energy producers contributing energy to the grid.
As an entrepreneur, I would work toward launching a home energy management technology company that would develop a home energy control system to help consumers manage the energy use of their home and take advantage of lowest-available energy prices. Deregulation means that in many areas, electricity costs more or less depending on the time of day. I would create a plug-and-play energy management application that would turn any home into a “smart home”. There would be a device connected to the circuit breaker box that would need to be programmed to know which appliances were on which circuits. This device would obtain real-time information on the cost of electricity via wifi and be able to communicate with a control panel in the living area of the home. The homeowner could program a day on which they wish to wash dishes, do laundry, etc and this device would activate those appliances at a time when the energy being supplied is the cheapest. It could also heat and cool the home based on energy prices rather than being programmed strictly on time.
Times have changed, and if we do not diversify our energy sources today, we are all heading down the road of infinite environmental troubles and consequences. The importance of energy security and energy stability is the nation’s top priority in order to promote economic growth and remain in accordance with current and future environmental policies. Decentralization of power generation will lead to considerable effects on the environment, economy, efficiency, security, and reliability of the current network. First, a decentralized energy system will expand energy sources with new renewable energy companies, expanding the field of renewable energy and thereby reducing the environmental impacts such as CO2 emissions. Second, a DE system will increase competition as it will be more so based on a free market system with limited regulation. The greater number of players in the field of embedded generation will encourage firms to operate in the most cost-effective, efficient manner as possible. In essence, the companies want to offer energy at lower costs than competitors to become successful. Therefore, companies will create or adapt new technologies that increase the efficiency and profitability of the firm. Such techniques that may be considered could be more improved storage infrastructures for renewable energy plants to sell electricity during peak hours. Currently, a significant hurdle in the distribution system is that the supply must be generated as needed. Thus, when supply exceeds demand (as with the case of most renewable energy sources) the excess energy is sold at very low prices on the flooded market. Therefore, I believe that we can expect to see large advances within storage technologies such as improved batteries for PV (Photovoltaic) units, and hydro storage infrastructures that would store energy more efficiently to sell during peak hours. In addition to storage technologies, there will be a higher demand for smart infrastructures such as smart meters and smart grids to manage grid stability. These types of technologies would become invaluable in a decentralized energy system for it would allow real-time monitoring and communication between the producers and the consumers.
Implementation of a DE system would spawn job growth and create numerous market possibilities within the energy and technical sector. I can imagine myself creating a business that would either focus on improving a plants efficiency by improved technology that is original to the market or becoming a consulting business to educate future investors and companies. The renewable energy market is growing at a remarkable pace and with the help from renewable energy payments and rebates, it is only expected to increase. Thus, two years from now, equipment used today may be outdated and not as efficient. Therefore, I believe that there is a niche in the market to keep firms updated and educated in the technological advancements. Perhaps, I could create a sale representing company that conducts business audits as well to ensure that they are operating at an optimum level. If and only if renewable energy technology continues to improve, I could present companies with new more efficient technologies. I also could offer discount rates if they would sell me the old equipment. Then, I could sell this used equipment to start-up businesses or residential units that are searching for less expensive systems. Another niche would be to start a consulting company to help new businesses learn the “ropes” of the decentralized control system to diminish the chance for failure and increase the potential for success. Overall, there are significant opportunities in starting a business catered to the decentralization of power generation; but I feel that these activities would lead to great success for the fact that they both focus outside the industrial market and power plants. The companies can be integrated on a full scale both commercially and residentially increasing the likelihood of expansion.
Low carbon Green Road map for Asia and Pacific. “Decentralized Energy Systems” UNESCAP. Nd. Mozilla Firefox. November 05 2014. Found here: http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/14.%20FS-Decentralized-energy-system.pdf
Klitgaard, Thomas. Reddy, Rekha. “Lowering Electric Prices through Deregulation”. Federal Reserve Bank of New York. December 2000. Mozilla Firefox. November 5 2014. Found here: http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/current_issues/ci6-14.pdf
The goal of deregulating energy markets is to create competition in a market that was previously controlled by monopolies. According to standard economic reasoning, this increase in competition should lead to lower prices. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. In reality, deregulated power plants can sell power at higher prices because they are not held in check by governments. Although there is slightly more competition, most regions are still dominated by one large utility, eliminating any real retail choice. The average price of power in deregulated states is 48% higher than in regulated states. The lack of continuity also means that power grids are less reliable because several different companies need to work together to keep the electrical balance.
The business opportunity that can take advantage of deregulated energy markets is in microgrids. A report by Robert Liam Dohn defines mircogrid as,”a discrete energy system consisting of distributed energy sources (e.g. renewables, conventional, storage) and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main grid. The primary purpose is to ensure reliable, affordable energy security for commercial, industrial and federal government consumers.” Microgrids can provide backup to unreliable grids. They were used in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy Hook to immediately provide electricity to damaged areas. They also have potential in underdeveloped regions of the world, with no grid access. A microgrid tied to a renewable energy source has the potential to supply critical electricity to areas of the world which are lacking. As energy markets deregulate, a market for microgrid technology should develop rapidly.
“The Business Case for Microgrids” – Siemens
“How Solar-Based Microgrids Could Bring Power to Millions” – MIT Technology Review
“Microgrids Keep Power Flowing Through Sandy Outages” – MIT Technology Review