The Smart Grid and Sustainable It

Lynne Kiesling

Ted Samson at InfoWorld’s Sustainable IT blog had a pretty thorough post last week about smart grid technology and its economic and operational value.

Essentially, a smart grid is an intelligent electricity-delivery system, through which energy suppliers and consumers are all interconnected through a network. Smart meters are installed at homes and business to monitor energy consumption and transmit that information back to energy providers. Energy providers not only have the ability to track energy consumption — but also to automatically throttle down energy consumption on a granular level when demand gets too high. …

Preventing unplanned downtime for systems and employees is but one of the benefits of a smart grid. Smart meters are capable of measuring energy consumption all hours of the day, and utilities could set prices according to demand during a given time. Thus, those who wait until after peak hours to perform certain tasks — be it a consumer turning on the dishwasher or a network admin setting systems to be woken up for patching — could save some green.

His comments focus on the operational benefits of being able to control use through direct load control, but the same type of networked, embedded, two-way communication technology also makes it possible for consumers themselves to control their own use in response to price signals, as I mentioned in my previous post about residential real-time pricing.

Furthermore, smart grid technology makes it possible to make it even easier for the consumer by automating the behavior: send the prices to the devices! Don’t tell me the price has gone up, tell my water heater, because I’ve programmed it to respond to price changes in ways that I value.

How wonderfully empowering is that? And it’s good for the system on top of that, too.