Technologies are available that can monitor and optimize our electric grid’s ability to deliver power where and when it’s most needed — and save consumers money.
Investments from the U.S. Department of Energy have led to the deployment of state-of-the-art grid technology, including 15 million smart meters, 8,500 automated feeder switches and over 1,000 phasor measurement units. But even with these initial modest successes, full integration of these technologies into our massive grid remains mostly an idea.
The Energy Department estimates that with an additional $100 billion investment by the industry as a whole — building off of the $10 billion DOE has already invested — we could fully modernize the grid, saving consumers $2 trillion over the next 20 years.
The electric power industry is as interested in grid reform as anyone. Industry leaders recognize we’re moving toward a world with more electricity generation sources — especially renewable sources — distributed more widely across the grid. Adapting to the new reality will require new technologies and functionalities that will make our grid more secure and efficient, but also save consumers money.
One of the most crucial first steps is visibility — enabling those managing the distribution of power along the grid to actually see, in real time, which sources are connected and what power is being drawn or produced from each source. Visibility is critical to managing a more distributed renewable generation-based grid from solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries, electric cars and smart technologies.
This new, highly distributed, nimble grid will also be more reliable. More visibility not only allows generation to be deployed more efficiently, but also allows operators to see potential trouble spots and address them quickly and more effectively.