Monday, June 8, 2009

The Smart Grid -- Part II: Implementing a National Clean-energy Smart Grid

There are four keys in the construction of a twenty-first century smart grid:
  • Good strategic planning -- Currently, the process of planning the grid is too fragmented and decentralized. There needs to be a coordinated and large-scale effort to establish new policies and mechanisms for upgrading technology and dramatically improving reliability, security and efficiency.
  • Positioning new power transmission lines -- A national smart grid will, by its very nature, cross state lines. So the national plan will require the coordinated efforts of individual states. That by itself is a major undertaking which will require the establishment of a "siting authority" that's comprised of states but independent of the federal government.
  • Funding the national smart grid -- Depending on who’s talking, a smart grid will cost as much a $2 trillion and as "little" as $100 billion. Most would come from power companies and private investors, but consumers will eventually foot the bill by paying more for electricity. But it's likely that the smart grid will lower the cost of energy. Over time and after a bit of pain, consumers will recover their investment.
  • Making the smart grid secure and reliable -- Today's electric grids make good targets for malicious individuals and groups. Smart grids, which will be highly complex and interconnected from coast to coast, will be particularly attractive to troublemakers, large and small. So, improving the security of control systems must be one of the prime considerations in creating a new energy infrastructure.
Read more about the challenges facing the development of a smart grid:

Industry working to address smart grid security threats

The National Clean Energy Smart Grid: An Economic, Environmental, and National Security Imperative

FERC proposes policy and action plan to accelerate smart grid development in U.S.

Wired for Progress 2.0: Building a National Clean-Energy Smart Grid

This is Part II of III related posts:

Part I: The Smart Grid -- Electricity with a Brain
Part III: The Smart Grid -- Electric Cars Need Intelligent Power


autostry said...

I just hope this would open new grounds for clean energy.

David said...

I am not sure that I agree that we need a centralized system as proposed.

Regions currently have sitting energy authorities which oversee regulation of utilities. These authorities are central to the region being served.

Funding per region would allow expenses, unique to each region, to be independently addressed. An area requiring special funding should not be a direct drain on another region with adequate resources.

A segmented system, independent of others, would increase security by restricting negative effects from one region's impact on another. A terrorist strike or natural disaster in one area would be better contained.

Bill Clayton -- an Entrepreneurial Mind said...

Without a centralized system, regional plans will differ in quality, structure, levels of funding and perhaps even the ability to connect to neighboring grids -- which they must do. I'm all for big-government solutions; there's nothing wrong with big government as long as it's good government. A number of individual regions have shown that they're incapable of governing themselves as well as others do. Computer-controlled routing and switching systems will reduce the possibility of blackouts in one area affecting another. These system can isolate regions, containing them if there were a natural disaster or terrorist strike. As for funding differences, with a national, interconnected grid, one region could be as important as another -- if, for example, a natural disaster DID occur in one region, a central control facility could reroute electricity wherever it's needed. Everything is interdependent. I have no problem helping to support regions with fewer resources -- for one thing, it's simply the right thing to do; for another, the viability of grids in these regions might save the day in regions that have more resources, because those are the areas that are most likely to be hit by terrorists or suffer a blackout due to the greater complexity of their grid. There's a balanced discussion here: