European Utility Week 2017: How to be a Prosumer

 

ARAD Group is proud to have exhibited at European Utility Week 2017 in Amsterdam. This year’s event featured a special program, CIED, Commercial and Industrial Energy User Days, which we found particularly interesting. In today’s world of limited resources and high costs of resources and labor, we should all strive to be PROsumers and not just CONsumers.

CONsumer vs PROsumer

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a consumer as “one that utilizes economic goods.” Straightforward and clear. But the word prosumer does not even appear in Merriam-Webster.

The term prosumer was first coined in the 1980 book, The Third Wave, by futurologist Alvin Toffler. Expounding on the idea that he first described in Future Shock in 1970, he predicted that the roles of producers and consumers would begin to blur and merge.

In the 1980’s, with the lowering of the cost of electronic goods, retailers started using the word prosumer to describe devices, such as digital cameras, that were of a professional quality but affordable to amateurs.

With the advent of social media and Internet user groups, the term prosumer has come to mean the symbiotic relationship between manufacturer or service giver and the consumer. The consumer promotes the product, provides technical support to other users, and is in direct contact with the manufacturer concerning needed features and improvements. The other side of this prosumer coin, however, is that these groups have the power to influence wide audiences and cause insurmountable damage to a company. [1]

The definitive example of prosumerism would be open source programming, which saves companies millions of dollars and allows users to be part of the application at the development stage. [2]

Prosumption in the Energy Sector

In the field of renewable energy, prosumers are households or organizations that produce their own energy or fuel and, at times, feed surpluses into a national (or local) distribution network; at other times (when their fuel or energy requirements are greater than their own production capacity) they consume fuel or energy from that grid. A well-known prosumage example is households or organizations that generate photo-voltaic (PV) electricity by means of solar panels on their roofs – in some cases also making use of battery storage to increase their share of self-consumed electricity. Another example is businesses that produce biogas and feed surpluses into a gas network, while using gas from the same network at other times or in other places. The European Union’s Nobel Grid project, which is part of their Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, is building such a gas prosumage network. [3]

As pragmatic and sensible as this may seem, there are still countries where such endeavors are either illegal or so heavily burdened with taxes and red tape that it is no longer practical.

For example, in Florida, the Sunshine State, due to pressure from lobbyists for Florida Power and Light, it is illegal to have private solar panels. The absurdity of this law was never clearer than during Hurricane Irma last month. With 40% of Florida’s homes without electricity, having private solar panels would have generated much needed power. In addition, it is predicted that if the utility laws permitted private PV hookup in Florida, by 2050 there would be a saving of $3.5 trillion and 24.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. [4]

Water Prosumerism—Harvesting Water

One would think that the idea of collecting rainwater or water that runs off of the mountains is a viable and logical solution to the ever increasing need for water. Yet harvesting rainwater is seriously frowned upon and even illegal in nine states in the USA. The reason stated by most government agencies is that they are worried about stream flow. Many conservationists argue that such water prosumerism would enhance stream flow and the real reason is simply that water and the control of water is big business, bringing in billions of dollars in government revenues. The absurdity of the situation was brought to public attention in 2012 when a 64 year old man was jailed for 30 days for harvesting rainwater. This occurred in Oregon, one of the wettest states in the union. [5]

In the state of Colorado a bill was passed last year that allows families with a private dwelling to collect two barrels of rainwater, a total of 110 gallons to be used for private irrigation usage. Considering that the average four-person family in the US uses 12,000 gallons of water a month, we are talking about the proverbial “drop in the ocean.” [6]

Final Note

At Arad we know that it’s the synergy between our R&D department and you, the customer, that keeps our products at the forefront of water meter innovation. We always look forward to your input and know that if our customers will partner with us as prosumers, then all of us — as well the world’s limited water resources — will benefit.

References

[1] Susan Gunelius, The Shift from Consumers to Prosumers, Forbes, July 3, 2010
[2] Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, 2006
[3] Nobel Grid Project Website
[4] Thanks To Lobbying, It’s Illegal To Power Your Home With Solar Panels In Florida
[5] Is collecting rainwater legal in your state?, Fox News, November 15, 2016
[6] National Conference of State Legislatures, Environment and Natural Resources, State Rainwater Harvesting Laws and Legislation

 

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