smart grid
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The U.S. electric power grid provides electricity to over three hundred million people every day. This electricity powers some of the most advanced technologies in the world but is surprisingly delivered through a mostly aging, outmoded and over-stressed network. A need exists for greater consumer participation, greater reliability and power quality, and affordability—all critical components for the stable, secure electric power grid of the future. Currently, NETL is working to realize this vision, managing 32 demonstration projects that are evaluating the business case for investment of smart grid technologies and their applications. This new Smart Grid is redefining U.S. energy infrastructure by introducing sensors and other hardware along with sophisticated software to continuously inform the system.

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), one aspect of the Smart Grid, has demonstrated small-scale success that may one day revolutionize the American home. In Ohio, a service area comprising approximately 150 square miles of urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods took part in a project that provided residents and businesses with smart meters, which communicated information between customers’ homes and the utility companies. Customers chose between several different pricing programs, including options that offered a lower rate during off-peak hours. Overall, customers saw an average savings of 15 percent, and the utility company saw a decrease in peak-time usage. Furthermore, AMI removed the need for the utility company to travel to each home to read their meters, resulting in less CO2 emissions from vehicles.

With the successes of technologies like AMI, Americans of the future stand ready to reap the benefits of a responsive and integrated electric grid—the Smart Grid.