Today’s Grid Versus Tomorrow’s Smart Grid
The engineering marvel that is today’s electricity grid was built in the 1890’s. The grid, essentially, is a complex system consisting of over 9,200 electric generating units, greater than 300,000 miles of transmission lines, substations, and transformers, delivering more than 1,000,000 megawatts of electricity from power plants to homes and businesses.
The current grid, though improved upon as technology allows, is being stretched to capacity. The smart grid of the future is being built from digital technology, with the ability to communicate between the utility and its customers through smart meters, sensing along transmission lines, giving it the ability to respond efficiently to quickly changing electric demand.
This two-way communication will allow for more efficient transmission of electricity and provide for quicker restoration after power disturbances and outages. It will also reduce operations costs for utilities, which will ultimately result in reduced power costs for consumers, and reduce overall peak demand, increase integration of renewable energy sources, and improve security.
Evolution of the Smart Grid
As today’s grid continues to be upgraded, the evolution of the smart grid is happening one piece at a time. The controls, computers, power lines, new technologies and equipment will take some time to come together and will most likely take the next decade or so to complete. Once it has had the opportunity to mature, the impact the smart grid will have on our lives and the way we work, play, and learn, is expected to be much like the introduction of the internet. The possibilities are endless.
Smart Meters and Smart Homes
Digital technology is already available and being used, allowing an interactive relationship between consumers, utilities and grid operators. Smart meters, which many utilities are installing in consumer homes and businesses, are the digital interface between consumers and the utility. They allow for a transfer of information on how to be more energy efficient and cut energy costs. They also gather information from a community or area about the amount of energy used and usage patterns of the community for planning purposes. This data helps the utility understand and better equip the grid for those specific demand patterns.
Along with insights from the utility based upon smart meter data, consumers can take control of their energy spend by equipping and connecting their home with smart and energy efficient appliances, programmable thermostats, lighting and ventilation. These smart products can be connected to a mobile device or devices and are able to be controlled or adjusted to maximize energy efficiency and savings. For example, not only can the temperature be programmed to be a bit less warm or cool than normal preference during times when consumers are away or are asleep, but a smart refrigerator might defer its defrost cycle to off-peak hours or a smart dishwasher may defer running until off-peak hours. Smart vents can detect the temperature of different rooms and open or close to shift the airflow to or from rooms to maximize the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. These changes are not only discreet and fairly unnoticeable to the consumer, but create endless possibilities for saving money, energy, and increasing the reliability of the grid by shifting demand.
Transitioning to a Smart Home
Smart appliances, products and systems are readily available and in use now. AEP Energy offers a broad variety of connected-home and energy efficient smart home products in AEP Energy Reward StoreSM. It’s our convenient, one-stop, online marketplace available exclusively for our valued customers. You can earn Reward Dollars to use in Reward Store by enrolling in our Smart Energy Subscription.
AEP Energy offers not only traditional electricity and natural gas price plans, but also environmentally responsible renewable energy options to help you go green. AEP Energy is proud to offer residential customers the opportunity to choose ECO-Advantage®, a renewable option that matches 100% of your electricity usage with national, Green-e® Energy Certified, Wind Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Green-e Energy, the nation’s leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy, certifies that ECO-Advantage meets the highest environmental and consumer protection standards.
For information on Green-e Energy, write to Green-e Energy, 1012 Torney Ave., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94129, or visit www.green-e.org.
ECO-Advantage is Green-e Energy certified and meets the environmental and consumer-protection standards set forth by the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions. Learn more at www.green-e.org.