This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 20, 2003

Blackout Spurs Interest in Renewables and Efficiency

While stocks for companies involved in fuel cells, distributed generation, and superconductivity traded high on the NASDAQ on the day after the nation's worst blackout, companies and not-for-profits across the nation capitalized on the power loss to promote everything from conservation and high performance building design to new technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells. "The major power outage that struck cities in the United States and Canada on Thursday serves as a graphic illustration of the need to reduce energy use," says a press release issued on August 15th by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Along with the press release, ASHRAE issued a plan for Emergency Energy Use Reduction for building owners advising them on myriad ways to reduce their energy use, such as modifying building controls systems, moving building functions to the exterior day lit area of buildings, and powering down equipment when not in use.

"Avoid Blackouts with Distributed Generation," says another press release issued by Encorp Inc. in Windsor, Colorado. The company develops services, software, and hardware technology solutions for the communication, control, and networking of distributed energy. "While we must upgrade our old power lines, we should also incorporate localized distributed generation," the press release states.

A national laboratory weighed in on August 15th as well, with its own solutions. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) issued a press release touting the concept of integrating advanced technology into the energy system, from homes to industry. PNNL engineers are currently designing smart chips to be installed in homes on household appliances to monitor fluctuations in the power grid. When the grid is under stress, the device would momentarily shut down the appliances. While consumers would likely not even notice the effect of a water heater or air conditioner shutting down for five minutes, the cumulative effect of the shutdowns could possibly reduce demand enough to stabilize the grid. This kind of monitoring and information control technology could be applied to businesses and industries as well, coupled with new energy sources such as fuel cells to further reduce demands on the grid.

See the press releases from ASHRAE, Encorp, and PNNL.