The future of electricity: A guide to the Smart Grid

October 02 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2015   Rating: 3

“Our lights may be on, but systemically, the risks associated with relying on an often overtaxed grid grow in size, scale and complexity every day.”

What if our greatest energy dependency challenge was not related to the global flow of oil, but the one way flow of electricity coming from distant power plants to our wall sockets?

The world runs on electricity. Demand for electron power in emerging economies is often 3-4 times greater than demand for oil. Because the old model of the electricity grid does not seem adequate in meeting the new demands of the 21st century, many energy pundits argue that access to electricity is the world’s biggest strategic energy issue.

Realizing the ‘Smart Grid’ Vision
The conversation about electricity infrastructure is likely to change very soon as governments and the private sector build out the vision of a smarter, electricity web that is infinitely more reliable, robust and profitable.

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is hoping to push the ‘smart grid’ meme out into the public sphere. The office has released a 50 page publication The Smart Grid: An Introduction in an effort to advance the public’s ability to talk about smart grid infrastructure.

‘The electric industry is poised to make the transformation from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive. The move to a smarter grid promises to change the industry’s entire business model and its relationship with all stakeholders, involving and affecting utilities, regulators, energy service providers, technology and automation vendors and all consumers of electric power.

A Smart Grid means many things. At The Energy we believe that the most disruptive elements are software,sensors & storage. The good news is that these three systems might finally be reaching a tipping point in cost and performance that allows us to turn the ‘smart grid’ vision into a reality. While this US DOE Guide might not be the definitive guide to the future of smart grid systems, it is certainly a step forward in helping to spread the meme and outline the fundamentals!

Report facts:

- “Today’s electricity system is 99.97 percent reliable, yet still allows for power outages and interruptions that cost Americans at least $150 billion each year — about $500 for every man, woman and child” (pg 5)

- 10% of all generation assets and 25% of distribution infrastructure are required less than 400 hours per year, roughly 5% of the time. (p 19)

- From 1988-98, U.S. electricity demand rose by nearly 30 percent, while the transmission network’s capacity grew by only 15%. Summer peak demand is expected to increase by almost 20% during the next 10 years. (p 20)

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