Technology: Can IT Help Utilities Lower Commercial Energy Costs?

By Debra D'Agostino  |  Posted 2006-07-17 Print this article Print

XCel Energy plans to help customers move to renewable energy sources.

You know there's an energy crisis when even the energy companies are turning to alternative energy.

Xcel Energy Inc., a Minneapolis-based energy firm, runs a healthy business, with more than 3.3 million electricity and 1.8 natural gas customers in 10 states, and revenues of $10 billion annually. But about a year ago, company executives found themselves facing a troika of problems: increasing energy demands, decreasing resources, and a little issue called global warming. "We realized we had an obligation to behave in a manner that balances shareholder, regulatory and community priorities," says Michael Carlson, Xcel's vice president and CIO.

So Xcel came up with a plan: Use technology to identify which customers would be candidates for alternative energy. In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, "we started applying some modeling technologies that combine NREL's weather and environmental data with our grid generation and consumption data," Carlson says. The modeling tool, called the Renewable Planning Model, is being used to determine exactly which kinds of alternative energy are best suited for specific customers.

By using NREL's satellite terrain imagery to determine solar irradiation on rooftops, for example, Xcel can determine where, and how strongly, the sun shines on Xcel customers. With that data, the company can calculate where solar panels should be placed, how large they need to be to generate the most power, and how that power generation might affect Xcel's own energy grid.

Read the full story on CIOInsight.com: Technology: Can IT Help Utilities Lower Commercial Energy Costs?

Debra D'Agostino was part of the original team that launched CIO Insight in May 2001, and has held several positions during her tenure, serving first as copy chief, then senior reporter, and currently as online editor, overseeing content and strategy for CIOInsight.com. Prior to joining Ziff Davis Media, her work focused largely on travel and leisure, and her articles have appeared in Consumer Reports' Travel Letter, The Elite Traveler, Agenda New York, Travel Agent, Westchester, Wine Enthusiast and USA Today, among others. At CIO Insight, she has twice been a finalist for American Business Media's Jesse H. Neal Award, and has received three national gold awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. She holds a bachelor of science in journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

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