Planet Gore

Don’t Expect a ‘Smart Grid’ in the Near Future

Today’s Baltimore Sun has a good piece on the daunting challenge of moving the United States to the “Smart Gird.” An excerpt:

The Electric Power Research Institute has estimated the cost of building a smart grid at a staggering $165 billion — about $8 billion a year for two decades.
And one of the biggest challenges in rolling out a smart grid, energy experts say, is getting hundreds of industries, from power generators to appliance and auto manufacturers, to agree on a set of standards — some already developed, many not ready yet.
Talk of complex standards may not sound as appealing as an in-home “smart meter,” displaying the energy that a refrigerator uses or how much of it is powered by a nearby solar farm. Yet without standards, that smart meter is just another “dumb” appliance.
“If you look at how vast the grid is, all the way from generator to consumer, to bring together a communication fabric so that information can be exchanged, will take four to five years, easy,” said Arshad Mansoor, vice president of power delivery and utilization at the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility industry think tank.
Hired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a road map of standards and find a consensus on a plan, Mansoor’s group will help the institute, Secretary Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke jump-start the process in early May.
The potential problems are daunting: “It will be a mess,” Mansoor says, if auto manufacturers each come up with a unique standard for how plug-in hybrid technology will communicate with the smart grid – reminiscent of the “VHS vs. Beta-max war” of the early 1980s. To avoid that, the electric utility industry is working with automotive engineers to develop plug-in standards.

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