DOE and Software Developers are Driving Energy Saving Tools

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The U.S. Energy Department’s Apps for Energy competition is offering $100, in prizes to software developers for the best new apps that help utility customers make the most out of their Green Button electricity usage data. Green Button is an open standard for sharing electricity data that will be available to millions of utility customers. Understanding energy usage is at the pinnacle of making better informed energy decisions and reducing costs.

Having easy-to-use and understandable insight into energy usage puts the power back into the consumer’s hands, literally. Saying that I used 50 kilowatts of power last month on my utility bill is not useful. This lack of meaningful information from utilities has launched a new industry known as Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS). These systems offer consumers an energy management tool that is tailored to their particular lifestyle. And, thanks to some very creative folks in the industry, many of these tools are very user-friendly.  One software tool in particular from EcoDog can not only show you where you’re using energy and how to save dollars, they’re app can show you how much money you’d save installing solar or predict how much it will cost you to run your electric vehicle. Very cool!

The Smart Grid is a brave new world for utilities and thanks to open standards, developers will be instrumental in creating useful tools to help us understand energy usage better and positively change our behaviors.

Yep, there’s an app for that…now, if I could just move to the next level in Angry Birds!

PJ Jennings

Securing the Power Grid and Our Way of Life

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There have been many stories of late about securing the grid against cyber threats, terrorism and unplanned outages. However, for most folks, these stories go unnoticed overshadowed by the latest antics of Hollywood actors, politicians or YouTube videos. Granted talking about the electrical grid is not the most glitzy of subjects (I should know, I’ve been talking about power for 20+ years while my friends’ eyes glaze over), but we as a society should be very interested and concerned about our electrical lifeline to the world. A few months back, San Diego had an unexpected blackout in the middle of the day – unexpected as there were no storms or heat waves – just a maintenance worker in a neighboring state pushing the wrong buttons.  Needless to say there was gridlock on local streets as traffic lights went out, gas pumps shut down because there was no power to run them, work stopped and plans for the evening were cancelled. It was an interesting look at human nature – what do we do when the things we take for granted every day are all of sudden unavailable?  Panic. How do I charge my cell phone? Yikes!

Securing the grid against human error and/or more nefarious actions needs to be a priority. Our appetite for energy is not going to go away. In fact, our need for electrical energy is exponentially increasing. It is our lifeline to the world and integral to our daily lives. Both investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and municipal-owned utilities (MOUs) are on the forward path to making the power grid more intelligent. However, the grid cannot be truly smart if it’s not secure. I propose that utilities need to be working on a parallel path in integrating data and communication infrastructure technologies that facilitate a more efficient and faster grid, while embedding security from the customer’s meter to a utility’s data center. Breaching the grid is serious and not only can the operation of the grid be compromised, but customer data as well. See article on “Data breach exposes info on NY utility customers.”  Fortunately, new reliability standards such as the North American Electric Corporation’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC CIP) security guidelines requiring a utility’s cyber assets be protected against threats are a step in the right direction.

Making the grid smart and secure is a must. Our way of life in the 21st century demands it.

What are your thoughts?

PJ Jennings

Green Energy: Simply Ponderous

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In one of the LinkedIn Energy Forums I’m a member of (Linked:Energy http://linkedenergy.net/  – great forum by the way),  question was posed: “Will green energy ever become the primary energy source?” This elicited a lot of commentary (Over 280 posts including one from yours truly) and even more discussions about defining green energy. The commenters all had great points, insights and passion about various technologies and political and business influence. As I reflect on the lively discussion, it makes me think how far we’ve come in just a decade. While some of the renewable technologies (solar, wind, hydro, etc.) have been around for some time, we’re finally getting to the point where adoption has increased and system costs are starting to come down. According to Ken Bossong, from SUN DAY Campaign, “Renewables now provide 12% of domestic energy production, 14% more than 2010; and renewable electrical output increased 25%, which contributes to 13% of U.S. power” (see Renewable Energy  World article: http://bit.ly/xUeyax ). Yes, it will take some time to get the pricing down to where average consumers can take advantage of clean energy, but it seems we’re headed in the right direction. Right now, we need all the energy resources we can get our hands on. Our appetite for electricity will not be abated – think data centers, recharging millions of smart phones, iPads and the like. And, don’t forget about the advent of electric cars. Luckily, the evolution of the Smart Grid brings hope for a more intelligent electrical distribution system that will incorporate not only renewables and smarter instrumentation and monitoring, but faster and more secure communication networks and home area networks.

While the momentum for green energy adoption marches forward, energy efficient technologies are taking hold. From energy efficient computers, IT/networking gear and even the products that protect equipment from power outages are all much more efficient than a decade ago. While not as exciting as solar or wind or the myriad of other renewable technologies, being smarter and more efficient with our energy use is the best way to start on the path to energy independence. Baby steps will lead to giant leaps.

What do you think?

Happy marketing,

PJ Jennings, President

Jennings & Associates Communications

www.JandAcommunications.com

Old Fashioned Marketing – Not So Old Fashioned After All

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In the marketing land of email, QR codes,online ads and the like, it’s refreshing to see some old fashioned, heartwarming advertising.  Advertising that stirs the senses and reminds you – ever so nicely – why you’d want to do business with the advertiser. Case in point is the 2011 holiday gift guide brochure from Crate & Barrel. The picture of the little boy enjoying his cup of hot cocoa just makes you stop what you’re doing and think about the special times of the Holidays not to mention the need to open up the gift guide! The picture says it all. Kudos to Crate & Barrel and its creative team for capturing the Holiday spirit in a human way – no obtrusive QR codes muddling up the pages of enticing products that we just can’t live without. The 15% discount coupon and free shipping certainly helps as well.

Just thought I’d express my appreciation for a marketing piece that is very well done and appeals to all.

Do you have a favorite holiday marketing item you’d like to share?

Happy Marketing and Best for the Holidays!

PJ Jennings

Our Clients are Leading the Way to a More Sustainable Energy Nation

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This is a very exciting time for companies with sustainable green solutions as we have never in our nation’s history had the conversation nor desire to increase energy efficiencies as much as we do today. Regardless of political affiliation,  you have to give credit to the current administration for getting renewable energy and Smart Grid technologies out of R&D and into the field.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 has allocated $40 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs with an additional $11 billion to make the electrical grid “smart.” Private sector companies are also helping to fund pilot projects – everything from smart meters and Smart Grid communications to electrical vehicles, flywheels, intelligent battery systems (Lithium-Ion), biomass, fuel cells, solar and wind farms to name a few. As someone who has been promoting energy efficiency and power quality solutions for the past two decades, it’s very exciting to see the technological advancements and willingness to bring these solutions to the marketplace.  It’s also inspiring to see our national defense incorporating clean energies such as solar and energy storage systems at Forward Operating Bases that vastly reduce the amount of fuel consumption, transport logistics and casualties in fuel convoys. And, green combat vehicles are on the horizon too – think Prius on steroids.

Our clients including Eaton, EcoDog, International Battery, Marway, VYCON and others are leading the charge in developing solutions that increase energy efficiencies, store solar and wind energy, improve power quality from the grid, monitor and manage electricity and help homeowners reduce their electrical bills with smart home energy management technology. We’re very proud of our clients’ skills, dedication and vision to help our society reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to be more smart about our energy consumption. The road ahead will be challenging, but by continual education and clearly demonstrating an attractive return on investment (ROI), our clients and many other companies will succeed in getting our nation on the path to energy security and freedom.

Happy marketing,

PJ Jennings

 

A Visit to the Modern Day Marine Show – Ooh-rah!

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Having just returned from the Modern Day Marine Show in Quantico, cheap VA, online I am excited about all the energy efficiency and smart (the word alternative is not relevant any more) energy solutions that were on display.  From generators, ruggedized uninterruptible power supplies to solar and energy storage systems, the show was replete with energy efficient power systems. The Marines’ objective of reducing dependence on petroleum products through energy generation and energy distribution improvements was very clear during the expo.

One interesting demonstration was held by our client International Battery in conjunction with  HDT Global. On display was HDT’s innovative shelters (large tents) for Forward Operation Bases (FOBs). These shelters are pretty amazing. A large shelter equipped with communications, flat panel screens and environmental systems can be set up in just a few of hours.  As part of the demonstration, International Battery showed how its Lithium-ion batteries can provide power to vital communications and electronic systems equipped inside HDT’s Base-X® Model 303expeditionary shelter. The demo simulated how  just two of International Battery’s NPS 160 8 kilowatt-hour battery modules can capture 1600 watts of solar power within HDT’s Balance of Systems Unit (BOS) expeditionary power system.  This capability is very important as the remote locations of FOBs create significant challenges for logistics support of combat operations. These FOBs are dependent on long-distance deliveries of significant quantities of bulk fuel. Convoy routes through unsecured areas are frequently hazardous and transport is expensive. The delivered cost of fuel can easily total ten to a hundred times its original purchase price. FOBs can now advance their sustainability goals by incorporating energy efficient technologies such as solar, wind and energy storage systems. The NPS 160 enables storage of solar and/or wind energy in a package substantially lighter than a typical lead-acid battery solution. The Lithium-ion battery also has greater than five times the cycle life of lead-acid batteries. Pretty impressive.

I wish I had more time at the expo as there was a lot to see. I look forward to next year’s event and bet there will be even more clean energy systems on display.

PJ Jennings

 

 

Apple – Smart Timing or Smart Communications?

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Both. Apple’s meteoric rise to become one of the most enviable (and richest) businesses in the world is quite an accomplishment. Once, capsule making products relegated to mostly creative geeks serving a targeted niche, advice to now breaking the mold in consumer devices and driving sales to stratospheric levels, Apple has done so many things right; they’re too many to mention here. However, a couple of things really stand out to me. One is its understanding of customers now and well into the future —a  stark contrast to the American car companies that lost to Japan because they didn’t talk to the consumer. Or if they did, they didn’t listen. Apple has and does listen. Not only that, they extrapolate into the future and build a vision for new products that breaks the previous mold and get folks so excited they’re willing to give up sleep and wait in long lines to get their hands on the latest device. Secondly, Apple is really smart in its marketing communications. We’ve known that Steve Jobs has been ill for some time and while some criticized Apple for not being as transparent regarding Steve’s health as they thought it should, Apple stayed the course and unveiled news when the most appropriate for Steve (and the company). The latest news was shocking but not unexpected and we all wish Steve Jobs the best. The pundits went on to say how the stock was going to tank, yadda, yadda. As of this post, Apple stock is up nearly $10 per share.  Apple was prepared and has let us know more about Steve’s replacement, Tim Cook. And now it is pulling the curtain back even further and we’re learning about Apple’s head designer and creative talent, Jonathan Ive. (See AP story: Behind Apple’s products is longtime designer Ive http://yhoo.it/o9JvHi )

Instead of retreating from the bad news and going around in circles not knowing what to do  – as too often companies do when faced with adversity ­­–  Apple has taken it head on with a communications strategy that matches its products – brilliant.

Happy Marketing!

PJ Jennings

Unemployment, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Wild Stock Market Ride, Oh My!

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Recent and current news events are enough to make one hide his or her head in the sand and wait until everything passes over. It seems that many businesses have this same mindset.  However, viagra now is not the time to be frozen. It’s time to be excited and engaged for future opportunities. While budgets may be curtailed because of uncertainty, now is the perfect time to review how things can be improved – whether personally or professionally. When the recession first started and I thought news couldn’t get any worse, a client of ours said, “stop watching the news.” As a PR professional, that’s hard to do, but he had a great point. If everyone thinks the sky is falling-then it is.  A positive fallout from all of the bad economic news is how many new entrepreneurs have emerged. As they say, when one door closes, another opens or oftentimes, many more doors open. I can speak to this with authority as I opened J&A in 1990 in the middle of a recession. People said to me, “Are you nuts?” And yet others said, “I can’t believe you haven’t done this sooner!”

My point is to stay true to what works and explore new ground. For businesses, take a look at your marketing communications and evaluate what’s working and what’s not.  Are your value propositions clear and concise? Is your brand/product/service messaging getting to the right people? Are you convincing the media that you have a great story to tell? Are you maximizing your strategic partner relationships for joint marketing campaigns and/or events?

Challenging times like these are not about being the most creative, but more about getting back to basics and using tried and true methods that prove successful time and time again.

Happy marketing!

PJ Jennings

If You Want To Build Your Brand – Start with PR

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In the world of marketing, cialis marketers are all striving for the same thing – brand recognition and brand loyalty. It’s not enough to have the best product or the industry’s first. You need to get people talking about your brand – pure and simple. While we all can’t be the next Google or Amazon, case applying savvy PR tactics and activities can elevate a company’s brand to top tier status. What about advertising you might ask? Al and Laura Ries have penned a great book entitled, buy viagra “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR.” It’s not about bashing advertising, but rather about how great brands are built with PR. I couldn’t agree more. Advertising should be used to maintain the brand, not build it. PR is your key asset for building your brand as it’s much more credible and can reach larger and more targeted audiences for typically a lot less money. I invite you to check out the book as it’s a great read. You can find it on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/nM2VqG. In a perfect world, an integrated marketing communications program is the best – leading with PR.

Happy marketing!

PJ Jennings

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