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Smart Grid: An Abstract
Over the past decade, many stakeholders including utilities, system operators, and regulators have been working to modernize the electric utility delivery system, also known as “the grid”, starting with infrastructural changes. The 21st century grid is referred to as the “Smart Grid” because devices throughout the system have been computerized allowing utilities and operators to monitor and adjust activities from remote locations. Changes to infrastructure vary across geographical areas depending on population size, economics and population needs. Massive amounts of data are being generated from both the grid and consumer side leading to the next phase in the smart grid evolution. Utility companies need to establish systems for analyzing the data to deliver the seemingly infinite value in the grid to both management and consumer operations. Possible areas data analyses will impact are in timely detection of required maintenance along the grid, real time usage statistics, early notification of stresses on the grid (i.e. demand response), finding uses for other smart energy technologies, and rate reduction due to lowering usage during peak hours.
Stakeholders in the Smart Grid have many hurdles to overcome. These include standards compliance, program testing and funding, transparency between all parties involved (e.g. to learn from mistakes and build upon successes) and developing systems for interpreting data to recognize the overall potential of the Smart Grid and the value it can bring to energy suppliers and consumers. Continued consumer education is a vital part of the updated grid. Consumers need to know they have an active role in their energy consumption and in the overall stability of the grid. Just as utilities and system operators can monitor the grid locally and nationally, consumers can watch their energy consumption from their home or business. Consumers can automate appliances to run during off peak hours lowering costs, shut down to prevent blackouts or switch to other renewable energy sources lowering emissions in the process. The Smart Grid has the potential to change our lives much like the internet has, but its full potential has yet to be realized and will be unfolding over the coming decades.
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