A Good NYT Smart Grid Article

Lynne Kiesling

Here’s a very thoughtful and well-done smart grid article from the New York Times. It focuses on two different cases: the residential real-time pricing product available to ComEd customers in northern Illinois, and the Xcel Energy smart grid project in Boulder. I heartily encourage you to read the whole thing; it’s one of the few articles that has done a good job of articulating the benefits of the transactive capabilities of a smart grid network:

The first “dumb” thing to go may be flat pricing. Today, a kilowatt-hour of electricity, enough to burn a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours, costs the same to most customers at all times, whether it is a sweltering summer afternoon or a balmy spring night. But the cost to the utility swings wildly, and the company may have to spend much more money to supply extra energy at peak times than during slack periods. None of this can be inferred from the bill, even though it eventually turns up there. …

But a full-scale smart grid would multiply the possibilities. The messages might go to a person by e-mail, or more likely to a household thermostat or appliance or industrial equipment. The message might be the equivalent of, “Are you sure you want to run the dishwasher now? You can save money by waiting till tonight.”

The meter could become a participant in the utility’s auction, agreeing to turn off certain equipment at the right price. The customer, either by watching that price or programming the appliances, could decide how much to buy, sometimes forgoing a purchase and sometimes delaying it to an hour when energy would probably be cheaper.

The article then goes on to discuss how some Boulder residents have changed their behavior, once their actual electricity consumption was made more transparent to them because of the timely information that the digital technology affords them.

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