Make A Way For The Smart Grid
The necessity for smarter grids to meet our energy demands extends beyond just the typical politicized platitudes that dominate our airwaves and Internet forums. It goes beyond the polarities of political ideology as well. Smarter grids call for a veritable political exile—no Democrats, no Republicans, just humans who understand the reality of the growing electricity demand, the reality of CO2 emissions, and the reality of the current weaknesses in our electricity networks.
Fortunately, this is in the works, as government regulators are increasingly looking to shape new rules for energy companies and consumers are leading the charge for sustainable energy. In addition to the power of public sentiment, new technology infrastructures such as cloud storage and 'software as a service' (SaaS) are changing the nature of IT.
As a result, smart grid technology is becoming closer and closer to reality. $3.9 billion was allocated to in the stimulus package, which is affecting a variety of issues, including supply side management, prices, and markets. This also affects both investing and regulating.
This is what we can expect to see in the coming years. Homes and office will not only be on the receiving end of electrical distribution; they will also help to transmit electricity. New grids will integrate energy from renewable power plants; real time estimates of energy consumption will be available for consumers, allowing them to tweak their usage on a daily basis. This sort of energy oversight will revolutionize supply side management, simplifying and optimizing everything from trade show shipping and logistics to IT integration and energy aggregation.
The smart grid will also have pronounced effects on the transportation industry. IBM, Honda, and PG&E are already collaborating on a vehicle-to-grid interaction for a Honda Fit EV project. For the time being, there aren't enough EV drivers to have to worry too much, but in the near future this could change dramatically. This project is currently testing to see how populous cities can avoid blackouts when 100,000+ EV drivers try to recharge at the same time.
Another example of the new energy grid that could affect transportation is the “recycled energy and optimization project” being undertaken by The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. This is an attempt to capture kinetic energy, which involves storing energy by employing regenerative braking.
It is still unclear whether President Obama and Congress can cooperate enough to push the smart grid further into action through legislation, or whether this will simply have to be done through the osmosis of private business. Either way, expect to hear a lot more talk about this subject in the coming years. It may very well be the most important international technological sprint since the Space Race.