What is the Smart Grid? Why do we need it?
It is not that we “need” the Smart Grid any more than we “needed” iPhones when we were all using cell phones prior to the iPhone. It is that the Smart Grid offers consumers more control over their power use, more value from their power use, the ability to save energy and carbon, and other benefits they cannot get from the traditional grid. What we do need is to make leaps and bounds in energy efficiency in order to meet our climate goals. The benefits of the Smart Grid I listed can make this make possible.
Do all of our homes have access to the Smart Grid today?
Not yet, but the technologies, such as smart meters, that make up the Smart Grid are being rolled out singularly in pilots across the country with some success. These pilots are helping utilities and other companies measure the benefits of the Smart Grid and prepare. In a recent pilot, customers who adjusted their use saved 26 to 37% of their on-peak power and saved over $100 a year. One manufacturer, Whirlpool, has said that all its appliances will be Smart Grid–compatible by 2015.
What is the pricing for a Smart Grid home consumer? Can you compare it to old electricity?
Today, a utility only sells you one product (kilowatt hours) at one simple price. Tomorrow, the Smart Grid will allow utilities to sell many different services and its prices for kilowatt hours will vary by the time of day and season.
Is the Smart Grid stable for the future? Can we maintain the Smart Grid for the foreseeable future?
The only thing that is not stable about the Smart Grid is that it might be more subject to computer hackers and cyber attacks than the current grid. This is a wild card. Other than this, the Smart Grid will be more stable than the current grid. The Smart Grid will increase overall grid reliability as new computing technologies allow grid operators to better monitor that status of lines, forecast reliability issues, and diagnose outages quicker and more efficiently.