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23/04/2009 / doctorjonx

How smart a grid can be?

My colleague Stefano F. pointed me to an interesting article on Wired about the 7 US way to fix the grid, where, among the other things, the author Brendan Koerner says that:

[…]consider what we will ask the grid to handle in the near future: Demand for electricity is expected to increase by as much as 40 percent in the next two decades—more than twice the population growth rate. To meet that need, we will have to generate an additional 214 gigawatts, a feat that would require the construction of more than 357 large coal plants. We also want to plug in dozens, if not hundreds, of gigawatts of wind and solar power harvested from the most remote corners of the country. And we will want to recharge millions of electric vehicles every night, without fail.

That is why we must fix the grid—reinvent it to be reliable, efficient, responsive, and smart.

Just a few hours after, I was fed with an article by Alan Boyle on msnbc.con about how smart the grid can be, that, even not being right the flipside of the coin, nonetheless highlights some issues one might not have already considered:

[…] upgrading the grid doesn’t come cheap: The total price tag, spread out over years or even decades, has been set at figures ranging from $200 billion to more than $800 billion.

In light of those numbers, the nearly $4 billion in stimulus money offered last week by the Energy Department for smart-grid projects might look like a pittance. But it’s enough to get the attention of power-industry heavyweights.

In the same Boyle’s post we can find a link to another article on msnbc.com about smart power meters tracking electricity use , where some “caveats” are reminded:

Some rates, called “real time,” change throughout the day as the wholesale price floats up and down. People who sign up for such plans may receive signals, such as e-mails or cell phone messages, to tell them prices are climbing dangerously.

So far, pilot programs have found that the average customer usually saves money. Critics note, however, that’s not always the case

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