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In case you were wondering: New report quantifies smart grid benefits

Posting in Energy

With all the money flowing into the smart grid, a new report provides a sense of the potential impact of these investments.

WIth all the stimulus money going into the smart grid, you'd better hope that it would have an impact not only on energy efficiency but on reducing carbon emissions. And fast. Well, there's a new report out from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory exploring just what those benefits might be: overall, a 12 percent reduction in carbon emissions in 2030.

The report with the scintillating title, "The Smart Grid: An Estimation of the Energy and CO2 Benefits, was prepared by the laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. It's pretty ambitious, a whopping 172 pages, and it focuses on "nine mechanisms by which the smart grid can reduce energy and carbon impacts associated with electricity generation and delivery." The focus is on these areas:

  • Conservation effect of consumer information and feedback systems
  • Joint marketing of energy efficiency and demand response programs
  • The impact of diagnostics in residential and small/midsize commercial buildings
  • Measurement and verification of energy efficiency programs
  • Shifting electricity generation loads to more efficient technologies
  • The impact of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids
  • Conservation associated with voltage reduction
  • Penetration of renewable energy technologies (wind and solar generation)

Realistically speaking, the two biggest areas in which the smart grid will have a positive impact (assuming that carbon emission reductions and reductions in energy usage are a positive thing) are in how it will affect consumer usage, how it will impact the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles, and how it will affect our ability to monitor usage in commercial buildings.

It's important to note that the overall reduction of 12 percent that the report predicts COULD happen by 2030 is dependent on 100 percent penetration of smart grid technologies. How likely that is to happen is anyone's guess. But I'm personally not all that optimistic, unless more utilities can push their smart grid pilots OUT of pilot and into production.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure