Our country is currently in the middle of upgrading our aging power grid into what is known as the smart grid. This move promises to decrease expenses, reduce pollution and save energy. While it won’t happen overnight, it’s absolutely crucial for our future.
What is the electricity grid?
The term electric grid refers to the network needed to deliver power to consumers, including electricity generation, transmission, distribution and control. From the coal plant that generates the power you use to the meter on the side of your house, each part of the electricity supply chain comes together to form our electrical grid. Unfortunately, the electric grid we have in the U.S. isn’t exactly cutting-edge anymore, meaning we have some upgrading to do.
What is the smart grid?
Essentially, the smart grid is the existing electrical grid of today but with updated computer and digital communication technologies. These upgrades will make the electric grid function more efficiently and more reliably, along with making it easier to add renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
A key component of the new grid is the smart meter, which is an advanced electricity meter able to communicate your energy usage statistics to both you and your electricity provider. Smart meters are starting to show up around the country, so check with your electricity company if you already have one, or when they are planning on installing them in your area.
What will the smart grid do for me?
Here are some of the key benefits you’ll see with the smart electric grid:
- Less downtime – As the electricity company will be notified when substations and transformers go offline, power outages will be taken care of faster.
- Lower bills – With a smart meter, you can monitor your usage in real-time, be able to predict your monthly bill and find ways to increase your efficiency to lower your electricity bill.
- More renewable energy – As the smart grid will make it easier to bring alternative energy sources online, we will see more and more of these sources on the market.
- More security – Being wired makes the electric grid both more secure from terrorist attacks and more resilient from accidents such as the blackout of 2003.
- Discount opportunities – To spread power usage out during the day and avoid peaks that require bringing auxiliary plants online, companies will start to offer discounts and other incentives to move your usage away from peak times.
When will the smart grid get here?
This is one of the largest infrastructure upgrades ever undertaken, so we’re going to need to be a little patient. Not only are billions of dollars and millions of man-hours required, but countless organizations have to get on the same page and work together. While the smart grid has been a goal for over a decade and operations have been scaled up recently, we are still decades away from a complete upgrade. However, we are getting closer every day and certain components, such as the smart meter, are already becoming commonplace. In 2017, the U.S. smart grid market was valued at more than $3 billion, according to Market Watch, and is expected to reach more than $70 billion by 2024.
While it may take some time to fully realize the smart electric grid, there are things you can do today to save money on your utilities. Additionally, if you live in a deregulated electricity state, call Allconnect® to see how switching electricity providers could save you money.
Originally published 4/16/16. Last updated 12/21/18.