In recent years there has been much discussion in the media about the development of a “Smart Grid” to provide energy to consumers more efficiently and to help with the reduction of greenhouse gases and global warming. The Smart Grid is being adopted in several countries with the US and Europe (Italy and Germany are major markets) leading the way on several new initiatives. The term “Smart Grid” has various meanings for a large scale system to provide intelligent monitoring for all electricity flows within a given geographic area (for example, a city or even a factory or production facility). Smart Grids typically use things like smart metering to more efficiently track the use of electricity, the use of superconductive transmission lines for the efficient transmission of electricity, and the use of alternative sources of energy for the generating of electricity from wind power, solar power, turbines in the ocean, bio-mass and other “green” sources of electric power generation. A key component of the Smart Grid is to develop metering and monitoring systems for the home and also for businesses or commercial enterprises to shut down electric power to appliances (such as lighting) during peak times in order to preserve electric power and also to reduce the cost of the user to pay large electricity costs during peak usage times. Much of the current development and construction of the Smart Grid in the US focuses on converting homes and businesses to real time reporting of electricity usage through smart metering and reducing the amount of electricity used during peak demand periods in order to reduce cost.
The Smart Grid is at the center of the US economic recovery program and is being heavily funded by the federal as well as regional governments at the state and city levels in the United States. It was reported on December 29 that governments and utilities are expected to spend a cumulative $200 billion on smart-grid technologies from 2008 through 2015 according to a research firm in Boulder, Colorado called Pike Research. It was predicted that 84 percent of the $200 billion will go toward investing in automating the nation's grid, while just 14 percent will go to smart-meter technologies and 2 percent for electric vehicles.
The Obama administration has instructed the US Department of Energy to focus on the development of the smart grid and smart metering and has put stimulus funding into the program in order to create jobs. Our staff (RAI) went online to several jobsites and found many interesting job announcements for analysts, construction staff, and engineers to help build the smart grid throughout the United States.
We contacted Dominion to conduct an interview and learn more about their Smart Grid Program. Dominion directed us to press releases on their website with information on the Smart Grid Program. The major trends of the Dominion Smart Grid program include the following items. Some items are still pending regulatory approval.
Source: Dominion website: http://www.dom.com/about/conservation/pdf/ami_brochure.pdf and Dominion press release: http://www.dom.com/about/conservation/smartgrid-charlottesville.jsp
The recent environmental summit in Copenhagen highlighted the potential for the Smart Grid in reducing greenhouse gases and reducing global warming. It was clear at the summit that countries such as China with their strong ability to implement policy could become one of the world leaders in developing Smart Grid technologies for installation around the world.
In the US, much of the Obama Administration stimulus package is focused on developing new jobs and technologies to support the development of the Smart Grid. Already, there are major projects in motion and stimulus monies are being matched by large companies such as GE and Google in the private sector to fulfill the objectives of the Smart Grid development.
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