Smart Grid May be Shortest Route to Obama’s Green Energy Goals
By Ken Silverstein
President Obama’s inaugural address listed climate change and renewable energy as among his top priorities in his second term. But one of the most critical means by which to achieve those goals was never mentioned: the smart grid.
A smart grid could have profound implications on electric power markets, affecting the whole utility supply chain — from the way power is generated to the way it is delivered to customers, and ultimately how much energy is consumed. At the moment, though, consumers lack an understanding of the technology’s potential, which has deterred its development. That’s why some experts are saying that state regulators must lead the way by providing financial incentives to power companies, which will then try to entice their customers to participate.
The smart grid’s relevance is becoming increasingly clear as Congress grapples with the role that renewable energy will play. It will also be an integral part of any climate mitigation strategies and energy efficiency goals to emerge from Congress. Indeed, the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., says that deployment of a highly automated system could severely cut carbon dioxide releases and at the same time limit electricity consumption by reducing sales by 1.2 to 4.3 percent by 2030.
For their part, state utility commissioners, generally, feel that they must exercise restraint: Rushing headlong into something that is unproven and expensive is imprudent. Their concern is that smart meters that can facilitate energy conservation have yet to bear fruit. And if those meters are unable to do so, then it would be consumers who pay the price for any failures.
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