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Smart grid doesn’t come easy. The consumer-to-grid challenge.

The US power system is becoming increasingly more complicated to plan, operate and control. A holistic approach is needed to make the business case for the smart grid and demonstrate how it benefits all stakeholders—especially consumers.

Three key trends are transforming the US electric infrastructure: (1) the Obama Administration’s push for economic recovery and sustainable growth, (2) the transition towards renewable and distributed energy sources, and (3) a movement away from carbon sources.

Reducing the demand for electricity and avoiding potential new carbon sources will primarily be achieved by increasing consumer’s access to consumption data, increasing their options for dynamic and real-time pricing plans, and improving their knowledge of energy management practices. However, these changes will not come easily. With an eye on achieving broad-based consumer acceptance, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and home area networking (HAN), combined with simple, intuitive user interfaces, can enable consumers to better understand their electricity consumption patterns, manage their energy costs, and motivate lifestyle and personal changes.

Achieving the smarter grid has typically begun with a focus on deploying AMI technology, coupled with distribution automation applications. With the need to seamlessly and safely integrate renewable energy sources—especially with target levels upward of 25 percent in some areas—system planning, network protection, system control, automation, and end-to-end asset management are becoming increasingly important. These smarter electric systems also need new two-way communication networks and greatly enhanced data management capabilities.

A smart grid allows for dynamic pricing, demand response, and peak reductions, resulting in lower energy costs and more environmentally efficient operations. Consumers need to better understand that there are efficient and inefficient ways of consuming electricity—and that many of the inefficiencies impact both economics and the environment. Ultimately, this translates to a cost to the consumer.

But beyond the technology, the consumer needs to see a value in how their individual behavior impacts the value chain of electric delivery. Executives participating in the 2009 KEMA Utility of the Future leadership series “Focus on the Customer” panel provide additional insight into the key issues to address in engaging the customer and bridging the gap between the customer and generation.

For more insight
This post is an except of KEMA senior executives Hugo van Nispen, Ralph Masiello, Rob Wilhite, Ron Willloughby, Ron Chebra and Larry Dickerman response to POWERGRID International senior editor, Kathleen Davis’ query “Will Smart Grid Take Over the World?”

Read additional KEMA insight on the smart grid-enabled energy future published in the POWERGRID International October 2009 issue at: http://power-grid.com

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