Nov 7, 2009

Smart Grid - Improvements in our Future

On October 29th, the Obama Administration announced $3.4 billion in grant awards that are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth over $8 billion.   While my company did not get any of the initial grants, there are more in the pipeline, and overall, improving our electrical infrastructure is a good thing.

These investments will create the infrastructure and expand access to smart meters and customer systems so that consumers will be able to access dynamic pricing information and have the ability to save money by programming smart appliances and equipment to run when rates are lowest. This will help reduce energy bills for everyone by helping drive down “peak demand” and limiting the need for “stand-by” power plants – the most expensive power generation there is.

The combined effect of the investments announced today, when the projects are fully implemented, will:

Create tens of thousands of jobs across the country. These jobs include high paying career opportunities for smart meter manufacturing workers; engineering technicians, electricians and equipment installers; IT system designers and cyber security specialists; data entry clerks and database administrators; business and power system analysts; and others.

Leverage more than $4.7 billion in private investment to match the federal investment.

Make the grid more reliable, reducing power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion a year -- about $500 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

Install more than 850 sensors - called ‘Phasor Measurement Units’ - that will cover 100 percent of the U.S. electric grid and make it possible for grid operators to better monitor grid conditions and prevent minor disturbances in the electrical system from cascading into local or regional power outages or blackouts. This monitoring ability will also help the grid to incorporate large blocks of intermittent renewable energy, like wind and solar power, to take advantage of clean energy resources when they are available and make adjustments when they’re not.

Install more than 200,000 smart transformers that will make it possible for power companies to replace units before they fail thus saving money and reducing power outages.

Install almost 700 automated substations, representing about 5 percent of the nation’s total that will make it possible for power companies to respond faster and more effectively to restore service when bad weather knocks down power lines or causes electricity disruptions.

Power companies today typically do not know there has been a power outage until a customer calls to report it. With these smart grid devices, power companies will have the tools they need for better outage prevention and faster response to make repairs when outages do occur.

Empower consumers to cut their electricity bills. The Recovery Act combined with private investment will put us on pace to deploy more than 40 million smart meters in American homes and businesses over the next few years that will help consumers cut their utility bills.

Install more than 1 million in-home displays, 170,000 smart thermostats, and 175,000 other load control devices to enable consumers to reduce their energy use. Funding will also help expand the market for smart washers, dryers, and dishwashers, so that American consumers can further control their energy use and lower their electricity bills.

Put us on a path to get 20 percent or more of our energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Reduce peak electricity demand by more than 1400 MW, which is the equivalent of several larger power plants and can save ratepayers more than $1.5 billion in capital costs and help lower utility bills. Since peak electricity is the most expensive energy – and requires the use of standby power generation plants – the economic and environmental savings for even a small reduction are significant. In fact, some of the power plants for meeting peak demand operate for only a few hundred hours a year, which means the power they generate can be 5-10 times more expensive than the average price per kilowatt hour paid by most consumers.

1 comment:

  1. I'd be very happy if we could reach that 20% goal by 2020, but I've got a feeling we are going to be falling short of that mark, because of our late start. I'm still hopeful and optimistic about what all of these energy improvements will do for us as individual consumers and as a nation.


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