The Smart Grid’s Grassroots Appeal

The phrase “smart grid” might intimidate some audiences. Do we want an intelligent power grid? For some people, the idea might be reminiscent of The Matrix or even 1984. Utility customers may say that futuristic plus costly does not equal appealing.

Defined simply, a smart grid is a modernized, efficient system of power equipment that is responsive to customer energy needs. It’s flexible and decentralized and supports local installations of renewable energy.

A smart grid could reduce power losses due to electrical resistance, but consumer resistance could still pose a problem. Fortunately, one of the main advantages of a smart grid is that it can support local self-sufficiency and sustainable energy choices. It also offers the opportunity to streamline our use of electric power. The cost isn’t trivial, but neither are the benefits. If you’re interested in charging an electric vehicle in your back yard, selling wind power back to your electric company, or saving energy to reduce global warming, the smart grid can be your ally.

Power outlet
The face of the smart grid doesn't have to be forbidding. Credit: somadjinn. Source: Stock.xchng.

It’s important to present smart grid programs as attractive to local stakeholders rather than giving the impression they are a top-down imposition. Smart metering programs have already suffered from a lack of customer-friendly communication. Because some customers believe smart meters benefit utilities more than consumers, programs have met with resistance.

Given the potential savings and autonomy that smart grid technology can provide, it would be disappointing if this technology was portrayed as a burden to utility customers rather than a new and versatile asset.

3 thoughts on “The Smart Grid’s Grassroots Appeal

  1. I completely agree with this! The ideal future for electricity is a decentralized system. As you noted, it overcomes existing distribution problems and makes renewable energy more feasible. Imagine a system where each locale creates its power in the way best suited for that area: a grid fed by solar panels in the suburbs, wind turbines in the desert, and tide turbines near the coast. I’d add that localized power generation would provide consumers with increased awareness of their role in energy consumption, and much greater influence over how that energy is created.

    Sign me up!

    1. Making energy use visible is a big plus. I didn’t mention it in this post; thanks for bringing it up. When people see the sources and uses of their energy, it becomes easier for them to conserve it. There are many advantages to localizing energy use and renewable energy generation.

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