Of all the articles I read in 2017, none encapsulated the year like the Louisville Courrier Journal article LG&E and KU Credits LED Lights as It Announces Plans to Shut Down Two Coal-Burning Units. Due in part to the success of the utility’s efficiency programs and the diffusion of LED lighting into mainstream applications, LG&E and KU determined that its load was flattening and decided to close two of its older coal-burning units. The utility plans to make up for any needed power capacity lost with natural gas and renewable generation. LG&E and KU wasn’t the only company to close coal plants, increase renewables, experience flattening load, and better promote efficient technologies; in fact, utilities across the US and Canada faced similar experiences.

A Kentucky utility made headlines in 2017 for deciding to shut down two of its coal-burning units (a win for environmentalists!) and make up for any needed power capacity lost with natural gas and renewable generation. Tweet this!

In our newly released annual report Top 20 Technologies and Trends of 2017 (available to certain E Source members), we examine the trends recorded above as well as the convergence of solar, batteries, smart home technology, and artificial intelligence. We also wrote about how in 2017 it became far more likely that the US government would ratify an international agreement to reduce the use of refrigerants that contribute to climate change. Another section covers the new Energy Star specification for Internet-connected thermostats that brings programmable thermostats back into Energy Star’s fold after years of absence. Other topics include the water-energy nexus, measurement and evaluation 2.0, tunable lighting, and ultrasonic clothes dryers.

Homes are poised to get smarter and more energy-savvy

Despite the high up-front costs involved in investing in smart homes, a number of major industry players are racing to develop comprehensive residential energy management systems that can combine solar photovoltaics with batteries, smart inverters, electric-vehicle charging equipment, and smart home technology to give customers unprecedented control over their energy use. For utilities, these kinds of systems simultaneously offer unique opportunities to create flexible distributed energy resources and present threats if third parties take over the customer’s energy experience.
Smart home graphic

Plan on spending another year dealing with rapid technological change, uncertain government and regulatory regimes, and demands from customers for cleaner energy.

It’s easy in our slow-moving industry to assume that 2018 will be much like 2017, and given that the forces behind last year’s trends will still be with us, we anticipate many of those trends to continue. Plan on spending another year dealing with rapid technological change, uncertain government and regulatory regimes, and demands from customers for cleaner energy. In 2018, utilities will seek to find new loads for their less-carbon-intensive products, including electric transportation and space heating. LEDs will continue to gain in popularity, making it inevitable that they’ll eventually provide little value to utility demand-side management (DSM) programs. In turn, utility DSM program planners will continue to search for new efficiency technologies and opportunities. They’ll also seek additional demand-response resources in an effort to shape load so it better matches with the availability of renewable electricity. In other words, expect utilities’ energy systems to evolve so they emit less carbon dioxide and are more customer responsive.

Members of the E Source Technology Assessment Service can read the full report Top 20 Technologies and Trends of 2017 to learn more.

Contributing Authors

Board Member, Senior Fellow

Jay Stein is focused on expertise development, research skills development, quality control, new product development, and technology assessment. Jay is a specialist in HVAC, high-tech industrial process technologies, and the IT industry; he works closely with the E Source Technology Assessment Service.