Question #2

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Q&A

What makes a smart grid different than today’s grid?

Our electric system is more than 100 years old and although it has served us well, it needs upgrading. The energy industry is poised for a dramatic change. In the face of expanding customer expectations, increasing environmental regulation, and new technology, the traditional approach of building new power plants to meet energy demand can no longer be the only option. We must find ways to improve our service and meet our customers’ energy needs in a smart, lower-carbon way. Renewable generation and energy efficiency must, and will, play a larger role.

And consumers want more information and control, too; they want reliable and affordable energy that’s clean, and this requires a unique balancing act. By deploying digital energy technologies and modernizing our power grid, we can bring the grid into the 21st century, empower consumers to make wiser energy decisions, and help create a cleaner, lower-carbon and more energy-efficient world.

How can the smart grid save me money?

The idea of the smart grid and the ability to communicate real time electrical market data to consumers will allow people to choose when to use electricity based on the smart grid rates. There is a lot involved in the electrical market and power pricing. Basically electricity is more expensive during higher demand times, usually mid week, mid day to evening. During the times if high demand electricity rates go up exponentially. This is due in part to the lack of generation capability and availability.

With the smart grid the communication of real time electricity rates to the consumer will be possible. This will allow people to choose not to use as much power during peak times to avoid high costs; this will overall reduce the demand. Smart grid compatible appliances or grid friendly appliances will be able to turn off and on automatically based on the cost of electricity at any given moment in time.

Do smart meters help the environment?

Yes, a smart grid is a greener grid. Smart meters and intelligent grid can significantly benefit the environment by reducing consumption of fossil fuel resources, thereby reducing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air pollutants. Environmental benefits can be achieved in three ways:

  1. Reducing electricity consumption and increasing transmission and distribution efficiency
    Studies suggest that given the ability to monitor their energy use more frequently in greater detail, many consumers may begin turning off unneeded appliances, change to more efficient lighting, adjust thermostats and make other energy-saving changes.  If consumers conserve energy, less power may need to be produced. Reduced emissions from potentially decreased power generation could translate into better air quality.
  2. Reducing utility’s vehicular needs
    Smart meters will also reduce the consumption of resources and associated emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants associated with performing basic utility services such as connections, disconnections, and meter readings, which can be conducted remotely for consumers with smart meters without sending out a truck. As of October 2010 for example, CenterPoint Energy has avoided over 300,000 "truck rolls" by completing service orders electronically.
  3. Promoting distributed and renewable energy production and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
    Finally, smart grid will create a platform that will promote the development and deployment of technologies for increasing distributed generation (DG) and energy storage capacity, such as wind and solar generation, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Smart meters measure surplus electricity generated as well as electricity delivered, eliminating the need for installation of expensive specialized DG metering. Distributed generation can help reduce the need for new fossil-fuel-generated capacity and therefore benefit the environment. The smart grid will also include technologies that facilitate the use of PHEVs, thereby reducing the consumer’s reliance on gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles.

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