The Dernogalizer

October 10, 2009

Smart Grid

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:11 pm
Tags: , ,

A lot of people aren’t sure what “smart grid” is when it’s discussed in the media and by our politicians.  The Economist does a great job in their recent issue of explaining why the Smart Grid is so overdue, revolutionary to how we deliver and receive energy, and essential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Excerpts below.

“But whereas cars, computers and so forth have become ever more sophisticated, power grids have remained, in essence, sets of dumb wires. Thomas Edison, a pioneer of electrification in the 1880s, would be able to run them. Power is fed into the grid from power stations in the hope that it will arrive in factories, offices and homes. To this day most utilities rely on consumers to tell them that the power is out—and may then have to put in a lot of detective work to discover the cause.

This may be changing at last. A global movement is afoot to make grids “smart”. This means adding all kinds of information technology, such as sensors, digital meters and a communications network akin to the internet, to the dumb wires. Among other things, a smart grid would be able to avoid outages, save energy and help other green undertakings, such as electric cars and distributed generation.”

“Smart grids are neither a surprising nor a new idea. It is well known that systems transmitting and distributing electricity are exceedingly wasteful and vulnerable. Huge amounts of power are lost to technical problems or theft: up to 10% in America and Europe; more than 50% in some big cities in developing countries. Outages cost the American economy $150 billion a year.”

“Just as the original grid facilitated the industrial innovations of the 20th century, the smart grid should support the green advances of the 21st. “Without it, most of the other green technology won’t work,”

“Given the infantry of start-ups and the artillery of corporate giants, you might think it cannot be long before smart grids are widely deployed, at least in the rich world. Alas, things are more complicated, for three main reasons. The first of these is that the technology is not ready yet. Granted, most of it exists in some form (with the notable exception of ways to store energy efficiently when demand is low). But many products are not widely available or still need honing. Smart grids are also said to be vulnerable to cyber criminals. At a recent conference, a security consultant showed how a large number of meters could be hacked and shut down.”

“That does not mean that smart grids will never be widespread. But just like other new technologies, they will first go through what Gartner, a market-research firm, calls the “hype cycle”. After a peak of inflated expectations, there comes a “trough of disillusionment” before the technology reaches the “slope of enlightenment”. And perhaps more than with other technologies, how steep this slope turns out to be will largely depend on what people, from politicians to business leaders to consumers, make of it.”


1 Comment »

  1. […] via Smart Grid « The Dernogalizer. […]

    Pingback by Smart Grid Blog » Blog Archive » Smart Grid « The Dernogalizer — October 12, 2009 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

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