The advancement of our outdated electric grid to being a “smart grid” is much like the advancement of our early cell phones to “smart phones”. This proposed grid would allow consumers to have increased access to energy data and would allow for automation to handle our more complex electric needs. The modernized system would enable customers to waste less energy and gain more control over their electricity use and costs, moving beyond their previous control options which primarily consisted of only being able to turn lights and appliances on and off. The technology would also work with the updated grid in order to “respond digitally to our quickly changing electric demand” (smartgrid.gov). The two great advancements of this system would be the allowance of automation and greater consumer control.
Greater Consumer Control
One of the great transformations of the proposed grid is the larger control given to the consumer. Smartgrid.gov says the new grid will make the “electricity consumer much more engaged as they will understand, much like checking their online banking statement, each aspect of their electric bill. It will allow consumers to choose the best time to purchase their energy and even how to save money by generating their own power”. Customers will be able to see peak times when their energy is at its most expensive and make more informed choices in regards to their consumption.
Steve Collier (@smartgridman), known as the Smart Grid man, says “think about moving from metering a customer once a month to metering 730 times a month to sampling points on the grid thousands of times per cycle. That’s two trillion data points per device per year! Now we’re really talking big data analytics”.
The Smart Grid would allow for automatic rerouting when equipment fails or outages occur such as during severe storms and will also contain and isolate them. It would allow our electric system to remain operational and even reconfigure during an outage. Furthermore, it would strategically prioritize the return of electricity, for instance preferencing emergency services first, a community’s phone system and a neighborhood grocery store or hospital.
Steve Collier (@smartgridman) explains, “Advanced computer algorithms can detect incipient problems with the grid from voltage and current variations. Or they can help monitor and control the grid more rapidly, accurately, and flexibly in the face of increasing complexity and uncertainty”.
While this update may be essential to move our current grid into the 21st Century, like any new technology, it has come with its set of challenges. Why hasn’t this revolutionary and more efficient technology been implemented? According to Energy Innovation, it is because “Electric utilities lack the motivation to improve grid efficiency because it results in the consumption of less electricity while requiring large upfront investments. Grid regulators are too understaffed and overworked to adequately deal with the onslaught of new technologies and the possible threats they pose to reliability and affordability. At the same time, the installation of smart meters and other infrastructure, which were supported by federal stimulus money are going unused (for the time being, although this trend is changing)”. Despite these obstacles, the U.S Department of Energy is anticipating a fully-functioning grid by 2035.
This revolutionary system will slowly evolve over the next decade to meet that goal. The Smart Grid will take time to be perfected before it comes fully online; there will be millions of pieces and parts that need to be tested. However, once implemented, it has the potential to bring radical change to the energy industry and to a world of energy consumers. What do you think are some of the challenges facing the implementation of the Smart Grid? Comment below or tweet us @ParagonSearch.
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