The internet of energy (IoE) is an idea created as part of Jeremy Rifkin’s shared economy theory. The IoE is the theory that the digital internet of bytes will gradually be transformed into a physical internet of atoms, an internet system for all things. Just as there is an abundance of content available to consume and produce for others on the internet, the IoE is made up of consumers and producers of energy that creates a global network of smaller energy producers.
The IoE can be connected to buildings all over the world; starting in one country, this will spread like a web across a continent and eventually, cross-continentally. Energy is everywhere around us, in the daylight, the wind, the ground, even in the rubbish we’re putting into bins. All of this energy can be harvested everywhere, not just by the power companies in remote areas, but in every city, town and village.
Architecture, by its very nature, is an ever-changing industry. The people in architecture who set the pace change the story of our urban environment; they create architecture with the help of engineers which can outperform traditional energy production and does so without the large carbon footprint. While construction itself has an enormous carbon footprint, the energy production and recycling we can incorporate into our architecture does not have to.
In Europe, the electricity grid across the continent is undergoing a major change. They are building the world’s first IoE. Today, the transmission of electricity is servomechanical. What does that mean? Simply, it is using 60-year-old technology that is not digital, its intended purpose was to collect power and distribute it to the consumer. Replacing this system with a two way IoE that allows small producers to buy and sell green energy is the entire purpose of the IoE.
In New Zealand, we do not have the luxury of a new national grid being put in place, however, architects have the opportunity to entice clients to create buildings that produce green energy that can be sold to local energy retailers.
While engaging with clients, architects can discuss and include green energy technologies into the scope of works. Green energy production is not limited to new buildings, it is possible to retrofit existing buildings with green energy-generating solutions including wind, solar, bi-converters in the kitchens converting garbage into green electricity, and geothermal pumps in the ground. Geothermal energy in New Zealand provides a great opportunity for small towns; there are large stretches of the country where geothermal pumps could be used to create and distribute green energy to the surrounding towns as more buildings are equipped to generate and consume this power.
Germany is an example; As of 2014, 1 million buildings have been retrofitted with renewable energy-generating technologies that feed into the developing IoE while the buildings are over and underproducing green energy.
Although the IoE decentralises the production of energy, there is still a need for energy companies. The infrastructure required to run this system is vast; energy companies can get behind this and be the future companies that provide infrastructure and tools to manage the green energy being distributed.
This energy, being produced on a grand scale will need to be stored somewhere. The sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing, energy companies have the opportunity to store the excess green energy. There are alternative storage options outside of a centralised system, like using batteries for domestic and commercial storage, or hydrogen for large scale storage (chemical energy storage converting electrical energy into hydrogen).
Imagine houses, shopping malls, midrise, and highrise buildings in New Zealand and across the planet, generating and collecting green energy. Sharing this national and global production with the Internet of Energy across continents.
The possibility of green energy with the infrastructure in place to decentralise energy production and distribute it via the Internet of Energy is an incredibly exciting idea. There would be no need for energy production that negatively impacts on the enviorment. This is the role of an architect supporting the future of green energy generation and the Internet of Energy.