Shifting Energy Access For Your Business

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Energy is changing. Natural gas prices are low, electric cars are becoming more popular and LED light bulbs consume drastically less energy for the same amount of light. There are many new energy management tools and technologies available today that were not available five years ago, making it difficult to choose the right solution. To make matters worse, every business is different, every need is unique and every building provides its own challenges. How should you be shifting energy access for your business? With some forethought and planning any business can overcome those challenges and create the right energy resource plan. This plan begins with two very simple questions: what am I buying, and which energy product do I care about?

When we plug a laptop, cell phone, refrigerator or any electronic device into the wall, what are we buying?

This seemingly simple question has a very complex answer. Certainly we are buying electrons as electricity powers our world, from light bulbs to elevators. But is electricity and electrons the only product we buy when we plug ourselves into the wall? We are also demanding access to those electrons 24/7/365. The light bulb needs to turn on when I need light and the elevator needs to take me to the floor that I want to go to. Clearly access to energy is also important. Furthermore, I don’t just demand universal access to energy – I also demand that those electrons be delivered to me at 60 Hz and 110 V. If I did not receive my electricity with those constraints neither my toaster nor laptop would work. Obviously, we are purchasing more than just the electrons. We are also purchasing a reliable and stable infrastructure that is capable of providing on-demand access.

When we plug ourselves into the wall, are we buying electrons or are we buying access to electrons? To put it in another way, is access more important than electricity or is electricity more important than access?

This answer is simple. Yes – sometimes I value electrons more than I value access and other times I value access more than electrons. Let’s think about that. If I want to take a hot shower, I care about hot water. I don’t really care whether the water was heated an hour ago or 5 minutes ago. If the water could sit in a well-insulated tank for an hour, I can still take my shower. On the other hand, if I want to eat toast right now, I need access to electricity right now. Thus the value of electricity and the value of access to electricity are dependent on the situation. If I need a service right now, I care about access. If I don’t care when energy was consumed, I care about energy. The two are related based on when I need access.

What we need to remember is that our access to electricity is changing. I can now access electrons generated by solar panels on my roof. I only need 9W of access with an LED light bulb to instead of 60W to enjoy the same amount of brightness for a room. This changing access is realigning the way we purchase energy today.

Think about your business. There are some operations of your business that are critical – the stove and oven for a restaurant, the surgery room for a hospital, air conditioning for a gym. There are other operations that are non-critical. After understanding the business needs of your energy resource, a business can become more informed in how to best shift their changing access.

— Jimmy Jia