What the hell is a ‘smart grid’, anyway?

electricity pylonOne of President Obama’s first actions has been to announce his intentions to build a ‘smart grid’ for the US energy infrastructure. WorldChanging explains the concepts behind the buzzphrase, and I’ll paraphrase their five broad categories here:

  • End-user smart metering to use energy more efficiently
  • Systems to integrate electricity generation with electricity storage
  • A communications network that shares data on performance, demand and availability of power
  • An ‘application platform’ that allows third-party utilities to connect the above systems together in useful ways
  • Monitoring and controlling systems that allow the grid to respond to service interruptions in a self-healing manner

In other words, it’s a lot like an internet for power, if you will – not to mention a far cry from the crude lacework of cables and substations we have at the present time. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the benefits of investing the time and money promise to be immense. I wonder what our lot in Whitehall are doing about the UK grid at the moment? [image by C P Storm]

If you’re interested in seeing the sixty odd discreet technologies that break down into the five groups above, the US Department of Energy has made a big old PDF report on smart grids.