For better or worse 2008 will be a year not easily forgotten, not least for the turmoil in the financial markets. While this has yet to play itself out, there can be little doubt that we are in a recessionary cycle and as is to be expected in such circumstances electricity consumption has started to drop in some markets. As a result questions are starting to be asked about the realism of the projected growths in demand and whether the generally significant investments that are required to meet these are still necessary.
While there may be a case for revisiting future generation expansion, the other leg of the solution – energy saving through efficiency and conservation – is a different matter. For one thing saving is always good, but more importantly the global need for such savings is not diminished and their impact will be the more significant. Also any measures put in place now will form the basis for ongoing savings in the future.
This need is perhaps reflected in what have emerged as two key trends during the year – a shift of focus on to the smart grid, of which AMI forms an important element, and related to that the increased interest in the development of electric vehicles and the infrastructure required to run them. Similarly for the water suppliers, water saving is becoming increasingly important through the management of losses – principally leaks – and demand.
And these trends are not confined to North America but are also being seen in Central and South America, where traditionally – and to a large extent still – the main concerns revolve around resource theft and revenue protection. Indeed according to a recent Inter-American Development Bank report, the region has the potential to reduce consumption through energy efficiency measures by 10%, saving an estimated US$36 billion over the next decade.
Making long term projections is fraught with difficulty at the best of times, let alone in times of uncertainty, but one point of certainty is that the environment and climate change will continue to be central to policy and decision making. As the sector most able to contribute to checking such change, no opportunity should be lost to pursue this goal.
Jonathan Spencer Jones Editor, North and South America