Smart grids have the potential to reduce our energy needs and reduce emissions and, indeed, could be the only way forward.
For years, we’ve talked about improving energy efficiency. Reducing energy consumption reduces utility costs and strain on the power grid, as well as reduces emissions. Energy efficiency is only part of the story, though, as Green Charge Networks founder Vic Shao explains. Energy efficiency may only reduce our average consumption, but it does nothing for peak consumption.
Basically, what Shao explains, the problem is that peak consumption is straining the power grid. Utility companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars, annually, upgrading hardware, such as cables, transformers, and switching gear, but this has done little to improve reliability. Additionally, peak power demands have only continued to rise, increasing costs and emissions. What is needed is smart grid technology, cheap software monitoring systems, and backup power supplies.
Software systems can already use power consumption data, weather forecasts, and sophisticated algorithms to predict peak power demands. A properly-functioning smart grid system, even on a single-end-user basis, such as a manufacturing plant or office block, can store off-peak energy for use during peak hours. The end result, of course, is even lower average power use than that achieved by addressing energy efficiency alone. Power efficiency, as described by Mr. Shao, if implemented nationwide, could offset the emissions equivalent of some 4,000 coal-fired power plants.
Smart grid technology is already being implemented by power grid operators in some areas. Now, it’s time to get businesses and industry involved. Implementation is, by far, cheaper than wholesale upgrades to the power grid, which should make it attractive to businesses chasing the bottom line. At the same time, proper management of peak power production, offset by off-peak power storage, helps to reduces emissions.
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