Trends in Wind Generation, Driving Habits and Network-enabled Devices

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Apparently, the Queen of England sent her first email in 1976, some 14 years before the World Wide Web was born. I learned this while reading about the growth of ‘smart’ devices, and their impact on energy demand. This week I’ve also been exploring trends in US wind generation, as well as changing gasoline habits. Hence I’ve brought this haphazard collection of trends together in this post, for no other reason than they are rather intriguing. Well, I thought they were… I hope you do too.

First up is a trend that I’ve highlighted here on the burrito before, but wanted to revisit given some fascinating tidbits I gleaned from a research piece from the IEA entitled ‘More Data, Less Energy’. It it takes a deep dive into how we are seeing increasing network connectivity in our lives, and what that means for global energy consumption going forward.

What grabbed my attention (aside from the Queen sending emails before punk was born) was the statistic that by 2025, the energy demand of network‑enabled devices could reach 1,140 TWh. That is basically 6% of current global electricity consumption. In the US, the average home has 16 networked devices. By 2022, that is expected to rise to 50. This source of rising electricity consumption is really rather alarming.

The global online population has risen from 3 million in 1990 to close to 3 billion in 2012, and is set to rise to 5 billion in 2020. Installed smart meters totaled 90 million in 2011;  this number is projected to be 490 million this year. All the while, 100 billion kWh/yr is consumed in the US due to electronic devices….being on standby power and not being used.

The ‘Internet of Things’ is a term thrown around to describe connecting everyday objects to a network. This myriad of inter-connectivity is become evermore intricately woven as technology develops. While smart grids and smart homes bring greater functionality and benefits, the rapid and rampant growth in network-enabled devices and network activity mean while greater efficiencies are being seen, reduced energy consumption is not.

Another trend I read about this week is that of rising wind generation in the US, and specifically in Texas. According to ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), 10.6% of power generation was met by wind in 2014. This rose from 6% in 2009, primarily as transmission constraints have been gradually removed due to a state-directed transmission expansion program. Concurrently, total electricity generation for the region increased by 11.3% over the same period.

Texas leads the nation as the state with the most installed wind capacity, miles ahead of second-placed California, and sees ~40% of its annual wind generation in springtime (March to June).

The third and final random trend that I want to highlight is rather depressing, actually. For the precipitous drop we have seen in US gasoline prices is now manifesting itself in a pivotal change:  there is a growing trend of these savings being spent elsewhere…as people buy gas guzzlers. 53% of US vehicle purchases in the last six months were of light trucks or sport-utility vehicles – the highest share in a decade.

As OPEC pointed out in early February, we are in a different environment to 2008, as this time around ‘the sharp fall in prices has been mainly driven by excess supply’. It accordingly projects that ‘lower prices are likely to help accelerate the pace of oil demand growth this time’. Hence, the trend of lesser miles driven in the US in recent years is also being tested:

As always, thanks for playing. Have you seen any trends this week which have captured your attention?