Plug into the Smart Grid

January 24, 2013 Written by  Comments Print
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There is a dire need to reduce electric usage as power grids hover near maximum capacity. As our nation strives to incorporate sustainability and become greener, the energy industry will set better policies for the electrical grid with a goal to allow better control of these physical systems and access to more data. This will save consumers and businesses a great deal of money while achieving energy savings and a drastic reduction in the consumption of natural resources. Where does it start? With the smart grid. According to, “Smart grid generally refers to a class of technology people are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation. These systems are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries.”

It is designed to computerize the electricity grid to benefit both consumers and utilities. The idea behind smart grid is simple. Power companies can deliver energy more efficiently and reliably if they know how much energy is actually being used and when.

Looking back, think how the energy industry has evolved. It used to be that a representative from the power company would walk the neighborhood once a month to take a reading of the rolling dial on your analog electricity meter and send it in to the office.  Even before that, due to limited data collection and processing capabilities, fixed tariff arrangements were often put in place. At times—even now—the supply of electricity simply cannot meet the demand (especially at peak times). When this happens, blackouts and a poor quality of power service occur. Do you recall the India blackout in July of 2012 that left 670 million people (half the country) without power? The grid collapsed twice in two days as it didn’t have enough power capacity to meet demand. Or perhaps you recall the largest blackout in American history that left parts of eight states from New York to Michigan without power in 2003.

If Smart Grid technologies were in place then, power outages might have be prevented. How? Because digital monitoring of the grid allows for automated responses that can correct a problem or reroute power before an outage actually occurs. And if a an outage does occur, utility companies can respond more rapidly because they would know when customers are out of power without them having to call. The goal is that by improving the infrastructure of power grids and deeply integrating it with digital technology, utility companies will implement better business processes to eliminate wasted energy from being dumped onto the grid. Other reasons for the smart grid include advanced metering systems, impact of dynamic pricing, consumer behavior studies, marketplace innovation and advancements in cyber security.  

Smart grid is starting to be used on electricity networks; spanning from power plants all the way to residential energy consumers. With technological advancements like smart meters, electricity readings are now easier to gather electronically and the information provided is easier to interpret—allowing homeowners to be more aware of their usage. If consumers had more access to when peak power prices occur, wouldn’t we start to be more conscious of the times of day at which we consume the most energy? Just think how much energy savings could be achieved if all your household appliances such as refrigerators, hot water heaters, dryers and dishwashers were ‘smart’ and could recognize peak energy cost times and be programmed to run when the rates are lowest.

By allowing greater access to data surrounding a home or building’s energy use and real-time energy savings information, energy consumers will work toward reduced energy consumption and in turn, society will see an increase in general energy awareness and more investors will commit to the energy efficiency industry. The smart grid has substantial economic value as it will allow for improved safety and efficiency while enhancing our reliability and power quality.

For more energy saving tips, check out our previous blog post DIY Energy Saving Tips: Know Your Thermostat.