Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
For many, the future of energy seems so close yet too far away. That image is coming into view but is still blurry and distant for many. As a clean grid energy expert, the future is now. These technologies exist, and they’re getting better every day. They will define what the energy grid and the homes and businesses of the next 50 to 100 years it supports will look like.
For over 20 years, I’ve been working and leading in the energy-saving and home improvement industry. I’ve been learning and using my years of experience to educate people about green living for years. More recently, I’ve been working on the prototype for the home of the future in Denver, CO. Here are some of the energy trends and innovations I see as promising for energy-efficient homes of today and tomorrow.
1. Grid analytics
Grids can now collect obscene amounts of data on how energy is used. It can track connected asset performance and identify equipment issues. It can identify trends associated with the time of year and weather patterns through predictive analytics to manage energy production, storage and distribution effectively.
Related: 5 Renewable Energy Sources To Look Out For in 2024 and Beyond
2. Grid AI
Artificial intelligence can use machine learning to adapt automatically to trends. Imagine a grid that ramps energy production up and down ideally to reduce wasted resources, driving energy efficiency up and, over time, the cost to manage energy down.
In the shorter term, grid AI switches between renewable and non-renewable energy sources. In the future, it can shift among renewable to reach the most eco-friendly and cost-effective mix based on environmental or other factors.
3. Remote microgrids
Microgrids deliver hyper-local energy to rural locations. Rather than depending on a more extensive energy grid infrastructure with so many ways to fail between the grid and place, a microgrid produces and stores the energy where it’s needed, using whichever renewables are most available.
4. Suburban and urban microgrids
Today, many microgrids are treated as backup systems for essential services like hospitals, critical data centers, or disaster relief command posts. But as the technology advances, we’ll see many more communities using microgrids for everyday applications and even in more urban areas.
This would mean localizing power to “keep the lights on” while staying connected to (but able to disconnect from) a larger grid. With the concern over the potential for strategic attacks on energy grids, decentralizing the grids is a promising solution.
Related: 6 Tips to Invest in Renewable Energy Now
5. EV-supportive grid management
Fossil fuel usage continues to be one of the biggest environmental threats. Electric vehicles can reduce our dependence. But problems exist. Charging thousands of EVs taxes older energy grids and makes owning an EV cost-prohibitive for the average family.
Green energy grids can and are working with EV owners to solve these problems. Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology allows EVs to return power to the grid when needed without inconveniencing the car owner. Furthermore, it starts charging the vehicle when demand drops, helping the grid balance more efficiently and preventing blackouts. Whether energy companies reduce rates during non-peak hours or provide specific discount incentives for EV owners using this technology, this system can significantly reduce EV ownership costs.
6. Grid cybersecurity
As mentioned, centralized grids are increasingly at risk. While physical attacks are possible, cyber-attacks are much more likely. So, it’s no surprise that grids get a makeover with tools like data encryptions, anomaly monitoring, and faster threat detection and response.
Related: Here’s Why Solar Entrepreneurs Don’t Go Off the Grid
7. Longer and more energy storage
We’ve taken leaps and bounds in the energy storage sector. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has said storage capacity will double in 2024 and continue to increase, making the storage of renewable energy a more viable option in the longer term, further reducing dependence on non-renewable backups or supplementation. At the same time, the storage cost is declining as capacity increases and battery degradation decreases.
8. The solar grid side hustle
As Kartik Menon pointed out in their recent article, improvements in grid analytics and connectivity have the potential to open up a new solar side hustle and regional energy collaboration. As sun-soaked homes generate more power than they can use or store during peak production, they need a marketplace to offload the excess and potentially pay for energy when production is low. This system could turn whole blocks into microgrids of neighbors sharing resources.
Grid energy is essential to daily life. But the grids of tomorrow are going to look very different. More efficiency, decentralization, greater security, and AI-powered optimizations will help grids power through and deliver to their customers. We’ve already seen these technologies take shape today, but they still have a way to go. While there is undoubtedly more to be discovered and missing links to be revealed, we’re on our way to the green-energy-powered world we want to see.