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9 Simple Steps To Help You Understand Your Energy Usage And Prepare For Outages

Swarnav Pujari

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Energy Usage

A round of blackouts just happened in California…and you can rest assured it won’t be the last. Preparing yourself and your home for the next one is important and requires you to understand exactly what your energy usage at home looks like. Having that insight will allow you you to make educated decisions as to what you need to keep yourself operational during these events.

Love it or hate it, PG&E and various other external variables have led California to the state the electric grid is in today; hence, making sure your home and properties are protected to operate without the grid is a necessary upgrade if you are in a potentially impacted region.

Now before you go ahead and assume the solution is purchasing solar, a battery storage system or even a backup home generator, we need to first understand how your home utilizes energy throughout the day and what your goals are when a future blackout occurs. In this case we are going to walk through the analysis you need to do before deciding to prep your home either for “electricity bill savings,” “energy resiliency,” or “energy efficiency”

This high level analysis period should only take you a maximum of 3 hours to complete end-to-end, and will arm you with valuable information going forward to make simple decisions as to what is and isn’t useful for your home going forward when it applies to energy generation and efficiency solutions.

Understanding how your home uses energy

Throughout the year, your energy bill fluctuates due to weather, changing lifestyle, and usage of the home. To dive into and really understand your home 365 days out of the year can be a time-consuming task that, even I wouldn’t subject myself to, which is something software analytic tools are there for. However, for your purpose we need to simply understand a high usage day at some point through the year.

To get to that stage, we need to first get access to your home’s interval data. If you are living in California, that should be easy enough to get access to.

Now, I realize that most people barely even know what they pay for electricity on a monthly basis, so here’s an easy way you can get access to interval data from your utility company – with PG&E being the example shown here.

Step 1: You must be using a digital billing system with your utility company. Most PG&E customers do pay their bill online, so this should be available to you already.

Step 2: Log into your portal and look for previous bills [PGE Resource A || PGE Resource B].

Step 3: Make sure you download your Interval Data & Past 12 Months Electricity Bills.

Step 4: Now that you have your interval data and utility bills, we need to pick one month out of the year that is worth analyzing to find the maximum amount of energy you have consumed in a day. This allows us to design and prepare for a “worst case” situation from which we can then work backwards from as opposed to expecting a lower daily usage and not being able to deliver enough power to run critical systems at your home.

Step 5: Look at the past 12 months of electricity bills and pick the month with the highest electricity bill. (Do not confuse or include gas charges with your total bill.)

Step 6: Plug in your data into this simple Google Sheet to quickly see which month is your highest usage.

Step 7: Now that we have picked a month, we need to open up the interval data you downloaded and find that 30-day time period and copy and paste the 30 day intervals into the Google Sheet to quickly find the day with the highest kWh usage. The sheet will also share with you the highest kW demand in your interval period, which will be useful later when looking for inverters for solar or evaluating backup generators.

Step 8: Now that you have the day you used the most energy, paste that day’s details into the graph section below the interval data in order to visually see how your home uses energy throughout the day.

Step 9: Optionally list in the section below what major appliances and equipment you have so that you can streamline conversations with companies that support you with energy efficiency and generation solutions as they can quickly pick out what you need to meet your short term needs.

Now, this is a very high-level analysis and doesn’t factor for the ever-changing weather conditions, lifestyle changes and equipment degradation that all impact your usage patterns and projected usage. The goal of this exercise is to help you understand your energy usage so that you can make educated buying decisions in a very saturated market full of unique and innovative energy generation & efficiency technologies.

Buying too much or too little of any of these solutions can impact your wallet and result in not achieving the exact results you wanted. Many times, companies will look to sell you a cookie cutter solution, but from experience, when it comes to energy generation & efficiency it tends not to be the exact same system over and over again.

Now on to the fun part: understanding how to use this information

Okay, so now that you have gone through organizing and inputting your data in we can begin the process of understanding exactly what you can do with this information when exploring one of the three major avenues, which may or may not be mutually exclusive.

Energy Efficiency: Focus on reducing energy consumption and load [reduce your max kW load at any given time].

Electricity Bill Savings: Focus on reducing the amount of energy consumed from the grid.

Energy Resiliency: Typically, decisions are driven off of what all you need to build out (storage and/or backup generator) to operate grid free for some duration of time.

Now when you open the “results” tab within the Google Sheet you should see a few simple results (note that the tab “Results Interval Data” is a part of the “results”).

Here are the key pieces of information you now have:

  • How much energy you use in a day.
  • The max amount of power you require at any given moment.
  • A chart outlining how your energy usage throughout the day.

From each of these key pieces of information we can infer and understand a few things about our home when considering optimizing or building out some infrastructure to achieve one of the three goals we mentioned above.

How much energy do you use in a day (the energy usage chart)

This information is extremely useful for evaluating the number of solar panels you would need on your roof to support your full day worth of energy usage. This also can help with scoping the size of a backup battery.

The maximum amount of power you require at any given moment

This is useful for both bill savings and when building in energy resiliency to your home. When you see the peaks in power draw, those are typically driven by heavy load equipment (HVAC, EV Chargers, etc) there are plenty of high level smart devices and solutions that can help you with reducing this peak load and, in turn, save you money. When considering solar, storage, or a backup generator, the amount of power you need delivered to your home at any given moment is a critical detail when picking an inverter or a generator.

The energy usage chart and its value

Simply the chart is a visual way to evaluate how your energy usage is throughout the day. Since you know and understand your lifestyle, you can infer at what times of the day your AC is turning on by looking at peaks in energy usage in those 15 minute intervals or realize that your EV was plugged in at night to charge when electricity was cheaper. These simple lifestyle changes can result in reducing your electricity spend on a monthly basis.

Conclusions about energy usage and future outages

Before going out and looking for solar companies to bid or looking to backup generators, make sure you understand how your home uses energy. The last thing you want to do is over-purchase or under-purchase when looking to achieve your core goal. There are many ways to save on electricity costs, reduce energy consumption and ensure that your home is operational even when the grid goes down. However, those who don’t understand their home energy usage will be completely in the dark, both figuratively and literally.

Business

Tesla Battery Sees An Improvement, The Company’s Latest Patent Shows

Maryanne Derkaloustian

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As Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to make a bet on renewables, Tesla battery patents are also rolling in. The most recent patent, though? An improvement to its existing lithium-ion battery chemistry that may even be transferable to technologies like grid energy storage.

This is possibly a step towards Musk’s goal to produce a million-plus mile battery, after having partnered up with a battery research team at Dalhousie University to test new ideas for longer-lasting, crack-proof rechargeable batteries.

Since then, however, researchers looked beyond the anode and cathode for optimization, hence the proposal of mixing new chemical additives for the ideal Tesla battery.

Tesla Battery Innovates on Number of Additive Elixirs

Optimal batteries have long lifetimes at high cell voltages and temperatures but are not too expensive to produce. Previously, studies have shown promising results with the addition of three to four additives to an electrolyte, but two was a stretch.

Tesla’s patent is unmatched, however. Researchers are in the process of testing pairs of known additives in many different percentages to find the right “elixir.”

For a lot of combinations, no one can predict the outcomes; it’s a trial-and-error process. Because this technology is still at such an early age, it may not even be patentable. However, it still makes a statement and is likely to provide interesting findings.

Tesla Battery Has Positive Outcomes

All the testing going on may be costly and lengthy, but that won’t be a problem in the long run. Eventually, once the team finally discovers the right recipe and starts producing in bulk, the company will have saved a considerable amount of money.

Not to mention, using a two-additive system as opposed to the conventional three or four will definitely make the battery more accessible at scale.

The patent also mentions that some formulas doubled the amount of possible recharges maintaining 95% capacity reduction. Consequently, this would reduce the number of batteries people would need to buy (and hence, waste).

And since this technology is applicable to larger batteries, Musk may actually be able to have his million-plus mile vehicle battery. Additionally, grid energy storage systems can also benefit from this chemical innovation and set the bar high for future improvement.

Tesla’s Continued Focus on its Energy Business Yields

Tesla’s renewed focus on its energy business is an interesting one. Several of Tesla’s patents, including this one and “storable” solar energy harvesting, exhibit solutions for sustainability and accessibility. What’s next for Tesla Energy? We’ll have to see.

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Business

Tesla Energy: The Division Elon Believes Can Grow Faster Than Tesla’s Vehicles Business

Haider Sarwar

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Most people know Tesla for its electric vehicles, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that Tesla Energy, an operating unit focused on energy storage and solar, is poised to potentially grow faster than its EV business.

Musk believes that the demand for sustainable energy will continue to grow, and with a series of moves in recent years, including Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity three years ago, he hopes that Tesla Energy will be a market leader.

Tesla Energy has already made several moves that exemplify the attention to clean energy imperative for any modern energy business. For instance, it, not too long ago, deployed a huge battery unit in Alaska with the goal of replacing a fossil fuel plant.

But what’s next? And why is Tesla’s CEO so bullish on its energy division?

Elon Musk’s Vision For Tesla Energy

While we first learned about Tesla Energy back in 2015, Musk started by explaining that most power in the world is powered by fossil fuels. Consequently, such a phenomenon has caused a J-curve in the growth of carbon dioxide emissions.

But Musk shared that the surface area needed for the United States to transition fully away from fossil fuels over to solar really isn’t much. Tesla depicted this idea in a graphic:

Surface Area Of Solar Panels Required To Power Entire US | Graphic Credit: Tesla

And one better, Musk believes that most of that area can be fulfilled on rooftops. In other words, Tesla won’t necessarily require clearing land for the purpose of installing solar panels to make its plan work.

Tesla Energy Doubles Down On Solar Roof Tiles With SolarCity Acquisition

That’s why Tesla Energy’s $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity made sense three years ago. Both companies aimed to make the most reliable solar roof tiles and had a clear synergy in terms of moving the needle for renewable energy.

By joining forces, SolarCity and Tesla hoped to reap a slew of benefits, including helping to reduce carbon emissions. But the release of their roof tiles hasn’t been smooth-sailing.

For example, in October, Walmart sued Tesla after the solar panels caught on fire atop seven of the retailer’s stores. And many of Tesla’s shareholders filed lawsuits against shareholders for acquiring SolarCity.

Shareholders believed that solar would be a horrific investment.

Could Tesla Energy Grow Faster Than Its Vehicles Business?

As Tesla continues to mature as a vehicles company, many have faith in it long-term. But some Tesla watchers simply believe that there is not enough demand for solar energy.

Musk thinks otherwise.

Tesla installed over 1 GWh of storage capacity around the world in 2018. And in 2019, the company plans to double that. Many people believe that the profits from Tesla Energy will amount to maybe 20% of the total. Conversely, Musk claims that profits from the company will make up 50%.

Elon Musk wants the energy produced by Tesla’s solar panels to surpass the energy consumed by the company’s cars. Therefore, he believes that the demand for solar energy will only increase in the future.

Adoption of Solar-Energy-Driven Infrastructure Will Take Time

Though he is optimistic about the future of solar, Musk admits that the integration of solar panels at scale will be slow. However, he believes that society will eventually adopt solar-energy-driven infrastructure.

From reliability to pricing, there are many obstacles to properly implementing the technology. Musk has managed to present a variety of different ideas that help increase the sustainability in modern-day products.

Whether solar energy is something that people believe is worth the investment, Musk and Tesla Energy are willing to test it out.

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Energy

Here’s How European Homes Are Curbing Energy Emissions

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People and governments around the world are now making a serious effort to curb energy emissions. Ranging from policy reform to the emergence of greentech startups, it looks like people are finally realizing the gravity of the consequences of energy emissions. No doubt, the structural changes that come with this realization will ultimately impact the neighborhoods we live in. So naturally, housing is often the place to begin when considering where to implement environmentally-friendly changes.

Fortunately, homeowners can do quite a bit to cut their own energy wastage. With appliances such as routers and printers consuming energy even when not plugged in, residences are the third-highest source of energy consumption within the United States. But is it any surprise?

How European Homes Compare To The U.S. In Terms Of Energy Emissions?

In contrast, UK homes actually fare quite well when it comes to reducing their energy emissions. Results from the Environmental Performance Index consistently rank European countries as the most environmentally-friendly. The UK placed 6th last year, jumping six places in two short years. On the other hand, the U.S. placed 27th.

The EPI results are in line with the European Union’s mission to become the world’s first carbon-neutral economy by 2050. And undoubtedly, housing will have to play a big role in achieving this goal. After all, our neighborhoods tend to take a significant toll on natural surroundings.

Concrete Changes Within The Housing Landscape

Recently, the EU passed a ‘right to repair’ regulation that makes it easier for people to get their large appliances repaired.

This regulation can yield significant results, as manufacturers are required to make appliances last longer while also supplying parts for machines up to 10 years old. These regulations work to supplement current initiatives by manufacturers.

After all, properly maintaining appliances is one of the key ways to ensure your house emits less energy waste. HomeServe UK states how heating insurance is very important nowadays as it will ensure that homeowners have fully functional heating systems and aren’t wasting energy because their boilers aren’t working efficiently.

Engineers are generally available 24/7 which means they can rectify issues immediately. It is also worth getting professionals to check your water supply, pipes, drainage systems, and roofing so that they are helping to minimize heat loss.

Similarly, home services company Pacifica Group recently launched a partnership with GAP to recycle old fridge units responsibly.

Once the ‘right to repair’ regulations are in effect, homeowners should expect easier access to maintenance professionals.

These initiatives can help reduce the carbon footprint in households, especially as old appliances can end up causing far more energy emissions to do the same amount of work.

A macro-level approach would be to take a look at the neighborhoods themselves. Cooperative and social housing provides for citizens all across the continent, which offers a natural entry point for renewable energy sources and greener buildings.

Cities like Madrid and Leeds are now part of a program to create net-zero buildings, citing energy renovation as a potential key to improving citizens’ overall wellbeing. The program seeks to eliminate carbon emissions from building stocks.

The Importance Of Individual Choices In Reducing Energy Emissions

These developments also run in line with moves made by homeowners to live a more sustainable lifestyle. European citizens are known to make more environmentally-conscious choices, from leaning on public transport to using eco-friendly bags.

Trying to reverse the effects of climate change will require serious structural change, which is why such interventions are necessary. The truth is that much of the nation’s emissions are due to large corporations and factories.

But as a consumer, you can take steps to reduce energy emissions too. Coupled with large changes to the housing landscape, everyone can make a difference.

Europe continues to pave the way in this regard. And its new legislation and projects prove that how we live plays a direct role in shaping our environment.

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