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The Smart Grid Debate

By Tracy Crawford ecomii.com
March 4, 2009
File under: Alternative Sources, Electric Sources, Energy Sources, Research and Development, Waste Reduction

smart-grid.jpg

There is a heated debate at the moment concerning the smart grid. Should there be a smart grid? Will it be effective?

And just what is a smart grid?

The smart grid will connect consumers to the power companies and give users more control over energy usage. This allows the power companies to better predict the amount of power needed by generators throughout any given day. Not only does this save in power usage, but saves the consumer, and the overall economy, lots of money.

The smart grid will also be able to distribute power from locations in other parts of the country to places with higher need. For example, folks in Madison, WI can get solar power from Las Vegas, NV.

But why the debate?

There are a few reasons why some people think the smart grid will not actually be very smart. Most notably – It won’t save as much energy as predicted.

Reasons include:

  • It’s impractical – giving the consumer knowledge of their energy use does not mean people will automatically conserve. And distributing energy use throughout the day to off-peak hours is also not practical because people don’t like being inconvenienced (maybe some people don’t need lower energy bills…).
  • Wind and sun can’t provide enough energy and wind farms blight the landscape.
  • Unpredictable energy sources – it’s hard to predict wind currents. For example, it’s hard to know if there will enough wind on any given day to provide for that day’s usage, or whether too much wind and not enough demand will cause a shut-down of turbines.
  • We should put our focus on nuclear energy instead (worth another blog entirely).
  • The federal government may have to mandate to individual states where to put power sources like wind farms.

Yet, there are those on the other site of the argument who think the smart grid is very smart indeed. These are people from companies that include industry giants like GE and Google, as well as from our own government.

What are the arguments for a smart grid?

  • It will help reduce power outages that currently cost billions of dollars.
  • The smart grid will connect to solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.
  • It will help create jobs and new companies creating innovative technology – VC funding pours into smart grid technologies
  • It will give consumers more control by sharing important information about when and where energy can be saved in the home or business – this helps lower our utility bills as well as conserve energy.
  • No more need for meter readers – saves money and fuel.

Looking at points from both sides of the debate, it’s hard to tell why some people are so opposed to the smart grid. Opposition seems to mostly come from those who either want our energy from nuclear power, or from those who feel power use will be controlled by the utilities, or worse, the government.

Looking at both arguments, it’s apparent that we really need a smart grid. President Obama wants renewable energy sources like the sun and wind to provide 10% of our power by 2012 (we’re currently at about 1%). We need an updated grid system to achieve this. Our current grid doesn’t have capacity to utilize renewable energy sources.

Without rebuilding our grid, we won’t be able to move forward with any new power initiatives and that would not be smart at all.

 
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8  Comments
  1. Carol McClelland of Green Career Central
    March 4, 2009 10pm UTC

    Thanks for spelling out both sides of this debate.

    I’m inclined to agree with you on this point: “it’s hard to tell why some people are so opposed to the smart grid.”

    From the presentations I’ve been giving on the green economy, I get the impression that some are not comfortable with the changes that are on the horizon for the US and the global economy. It’s like they are digging in their heels to keep things as they are.

    The biggest problem with that status quo point of view is that we can’t continue to live as we are. It is not a sustainable plan!

    Have you seen the site http://www.gridwise.org? It’s a coalition of companies that are coming together to figure out how to move toward a smart grid. They have a report that shows the number of jobs that will come out of the transition to the smart grid from the traditional grid. Very interesting resource.

    Thanks again.

  2. A.C.
    March 6, 2009 11am UTC

    Great post! I’ve heard the term “smart grid” thrown about a bunch recently and, honestly, I had no idea what people were talking about. I agree with the first commenter that, given the reality of our situation, I don’t really understand why the arguments against a smart grid hold much weight. Thanks again for clearing this issue up for me!

  3. SSC
    January 3, 2010 5am UTC

    This article makes some incorrect assumptions and does not address the opposition, especially the comment that people don’t want lower electric bills. The current grid works well and delivers low cost energy to the population. First, Do no harm. Peek energy periods are due primarily to heating/air conditioning needs, and lighting. There is no need for people to freeze or roast or go blind. Suggesting a 500% increase of rates during this time would unnecessarily burden a population during a recession. Real time monitoring of use is an invasion of privacy, and among other things could leave households vulnerable to burglary. Remotely shutting off appliances is an insane tyrannical and unnecessary invasion of liberty. This Stalinist idea could cause a backlash against any good ideas. Requiring certain appliances is unnecessary since there is already a motivation to save money, and the few that can’t afford new appliances immediately should not be burdened. This idea promotes abuses from appliance companies able to lobby and mandate there appliances and receive special favors, burdening a hurting the population with unnecessary costs. Affluent countries naturally stabilize their population to less than 2 children per couple. Recent US increases are due to illegal immigration. Enforcing the law could curb future demand, however at the current rate either immigration will cease or the entire remaining population of Mexico will be here. There now is a consensus that CO2 is not causing climate change. Adjusting for the manipulations discovered in climategate, the Earth is now cooling, the 1930′s and Medieval Warm Period were warmer, CO2 which FOLLOWS heat was at 440 ppm in 1940, higher than today, and besides humans are 3% of the Earths CO2 output and CO2 is less than 0.1% of the G house effect. Alternate energy is good for pollution and energy independence, and adding these options to the grid is not a bad idea. We just don’t need another excuse to invade and control what remains of our privacy, liberty and freedom of choice.

  4. Smart Grids are a Dumb Idea : TreeHugger
    October 28, 2010 9am UTC

    [...] Source: Ecomii [...]

  5. bPSE Structural Engineering » Blog Archive » Smart Grids are a Dumb Idea
    October 28, 2010 10am UTC

    [...] Grids are a Dumb Idea Source: Ecomii Infrastructure is getting lots of attention. One area specifically is smart grids. They are to [...]

  6. Smart Grids are a Dumb Idea | WiredVilla
    October 28, 2010 10am UTC

    [...] Ecomii Infrastructure is getting lots of attention. One area specifically is smart grids. They are to [...]

  7. JAF
    May 20, 2011 2pm UTC

    I agree with SSC. When are people going to wake up and see they are giving their freedoms away. Every time you have to let some one else control something for you you lose a little bit of freedom. Who is to say the government won’t take over the smart grid and decide for themselves who should get power and not. Wake up people, have a little self control and stop trying to control others. It is none of yours or anyone elses business how much electricity I use.

  8. banzai
    October 29, 2011 11pm UTC

    I have had Firefox, IE, and Google chrome downloaded onto my computer for a while now with no problem. Recently I downloaded YIM and now Firefox doesn’t start up. If I restart my computer a few times, and try to open it a few dozen times each time I…

    I open it then something pops up saying:. . Firefox has stopped working.. Windows can check online for a solution to the problem.. . So can anyone help to fix it?….

 
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