We all hear about the smart grid and how it’s making our lives easier, but what exactly IS it? What does it look like? And what can it actually do for us?
Basically, the term “smart grid” refers to the digital technology used to transfer electricity from suppliers to consumers. It uses two-way communication to control appliances and help save energy, reduce cost, and increase reliability. According to the Department of Energy, when this was first developed, the electric industry was prepared to make a transformation from a centralized, producer-controlled network to a more consumer-interactive one.
Traditionally, electricity has been transmitted along high-voltage lines from the power plant to the substation, and then to the end user. The goal of a smart grid is to make this one-way street into two-way communication. Let’s say for example, you leave your house to go to work in the morning. You shut off all the lights and turn down the furnace, but you’re still wasting energy. With the smart grid, you could communicate with your water heater, via smart phone app, and tell it to shut down when you leave and turn back on a half hour before you arrive home. Most of our appliances are still operating even when we are not using them, so this concept is extremely useful in monitoring your electric usage and ultimately saving you money.