Xcel Energy announced that it wants to make Boulder, Colorado, the first fully integrated Smart Grid City in the US. Not a moment too soon when you consider how much energy is wasted with the current system.
What this would mean, concretely, is mostly four things: 1) dynamic metering providing real-time, high-speed, two-way communication throughout the distribution grid, 2) converting substations to "smart" substations capable of remote monitoring, near real-time data and optimized performance, 3) at the customer's invitation, installation of programmable in- home control devices and the necessary systems to fully automate home energy use, and 4) integration of infrastructure to support easily dispatched distributed generation technologies (such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with vehicle-to-grid technology; battery systems; wind turbines; and solar panels).This would result in:
operational savings, customer-choice energy management, better grid reliability, greater energy efficiency and conservation options, increased use of renewable energy sources, and support for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and intelligent-home appliances.
Kind of like going from a fax network to the Internet.
A smart grid would be better at managing what we already have, reducing waste, and creating more incentives (via price mechanisms) to spread the load more evenly throughout the day. Those that make an effort to save would save more than they do now, and those that waste would pay more for their excesses. Stronger energy karma, in other words.