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), a 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

Like Kermit the Frog Said: It’s Not Easy Being Green

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For the past decade, environmental issues have crept into corporate-speak. Eco-friendliness has gone from being a differentiator to a must-have for consumer companies. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Are corporations engaging in sustainable behavior because it’s the right thing to do or because they are forced to by public opinion? It’s important to care about motives because the tides change. If a company has made a “green” decision mostly or solely based on import prices and fuel surcharges then what happens when those prices come down?

In the Six Laws of Green Marketing, Colleen Kramer highlights why sustainability needs to be an integral part of the company and not just a temporary add-on. Her observation regarding the Patagonia company rings true: if you are genuinely trying to do the right thing, it’s OK to stumble in front of your audience. After all, the road to green is truly paved with good intentions. Patagonia’s transparency regarding greening the company’s logistics may be a compelling example to other companies leery of faltering; however, if companies continue to assess green initiatives with the same return-on-investment analysis they would use with any other capital project, many projects will fail before they are even started.

One of our clients, VYCON, has the good fortune of working with EasyStreet Online Services, a cloud, managed services and colocation provider in Oregon. Utilizing wind power and flywheel energy storage, EasyStreet has a long-standing green commitment and seized the opportunity to be a beacon of how to build energy efficient data centers. Reliability, sustainability and having a low carbon footprint are part of the ethos of the company – and they end up serving the company well, financially, when the energy bills come in.

If your company or your clients are looking to tout their eco-friendliness as a marketing ploy, remind them that this is the age of transparency. We counsel clients that small but genuine change is much more meaningful and has a longer-lasting impact on the company’s image, as well as the bottom line.

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

 

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