The current electrical grid is out of date and overburdened, leading to costly blackouts. Utility providers struggle to monitor the grid’s performance, and depend on customers to report power outages. Because the grid was not designed to incorporate goals - energy efficiency reduced environmental impacts, incorporating alternative energy sources, allowing for more consumer choice, and robust cyber security. Modernization efforts are underway to make the current grid “smarter” and that is where the smart grid comes into picture.
“Smart Grid” refers to the modernization of the current electrical grid so that there is bi-directional flow of information and electricity to achieve the following goals: provide consumers with more choices on how, when, and how much electricity they use; self-heal in case of disturbances, physical and cyber attacks, and natural disasters; link with a wide array of energy sources, in addition to energy produced by power plants, such as renewable energy producers; provide better power quality, and more efficient delivery of electricity.
Communications technology and infrastructure will collate data provided by smart meters, sensors, computer systems into understandable and actionable information for consumers and utilities. will possess the following qualities: Intelligent – capable of sensing system overloads and rerouting power to prevent or minimize a potential outage & of working autonomously when conditions require ; Efficient – capable of meeting increased consumer demand without adding infrastructure;
Accommodating – accepting energy from virtually any fuel source including solar and wind as easily and transparently as coal and natural gas; Motivating – enabling real-time communication between the consumer and utility so consumers can tailor their energy consumption based on individual preferences; Opportunistic – creating new opportunities and markets; Quality-focused – capable of delivering the power quality necessary –spikes, disturbances and interruptions;
Resilient – increasingly resistant to attack and natural disasters; “Green” – slowing the advance of global climate change and offering a genuine path toward significant environmental improvement. Various groups will benefit from the smart grid in different ways-Residential and Small Commercial Customers: Improved system reliability & individual control over energy use and monthly bills; Low Income Customers and the Elderly: Elderly people are most at risk to extreme heat and cold when power is lost. A more reliable grid will limit the risk of outages for low or fixed income families & elderly;
Large Customers: Large commercial and industrial customers require access to information, including price signals, to make efficient energy decisions. A smart grid will provide additional benefits from more detailed information and better reliability.
A smart grid will allow large customers to integrate their production, storage and efficiency investments easily into wholesale market operations; Grid Operators: Grid operators will benefit from direct cost reductions, enhanced system reliability, and higher customer satisfaction; State and Local Economies: Benefits can arise from increasing the reliability of the power system, creating a modern infrastructure for 21st century commerce and attracting or retaining new and innovative businesses providing new jobs and income.
Most importantly, a modern electricity infrastructure can protect the economic and environmental viability of communities that are essential to creating a truly sustainable economy. Fundamental barriers - The process for creating a smart grid that produces consumer benefits will require addressing several hurdles inherent in the utility-regulatory system. First, there can be a significant gap in knowledge and understanding among stakeholders. Second, the traditional regulatory system tends to discourage investment in innovative technologies. And third, what would be the role of the modern electric distribution company in supporting customer choice in electric commodity and other energy services. Major Advantages from the “Smart Grid”:
EFFICIENCY: It is estimated that tens of billions of dollars will be saved thanks to demand-response programs that provide measurable, persistent savings and require no human intervention or behavior change. The dramatically reduced need to build more power plants and transmission. RELIABILITY:
A Smart Grid that anticipates, detects and responds to problems rapidly reduces wide-area blackouts to near zero (and will have a similarly diminishing effect on the lost productivity). AFFORDABILITY: Energy prices will rise; however, the trajectory of future cost increases will be far more gradual post-Smart Grid. Smart Grid technologies, tools, and techniques will also provide customers with new options for managing their own electricity consumption and controlling their own utility bills. SECURITY: The Smart Grid will be more resistant to attack and natural disasters.
So fortified, it will also move us toward energy independence from foreign energy sources, which themselves may be targets for attack, outside of our protection and control. ENVIRONMENT/CLIMATE CHANGE: Clean, renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and geothermal can easily be integrated into the nation’s grid. We reduce the carbon footprint and stake a claim to global environmental leadership.
NATIONAL ECONOMY: Opening the grid to innovation will enable markets to grow unfettered and innovation to flourish. GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS: Regaining our early lead in solar and wind will create an enduring green-collar economy. The Smart Grid creates value up and down the value chain. Affordable, rapid and universal communication can enable sophisticated transactions, create entirely new business models and sweep across society with surprising speed. Prior to this the markets didn’t have the ability to operate as cost-effectively and productively as they do today.
The Smart Grid represents the relatively simple movement to power consumption. Thomas Edison, The Wizard of Menlo Park, would approve of the enterprise and innovation that drive the Smart Grid. He might even ask what took us so long. New technologies and public policies, economic incentives and regulations are aligning to bring the Smart Grid to full implementation. Its success is imperative to the economic growth and vitality of world far into the future.