Smart Grid Award

Power Magazine has announced it will give an annual award to the best smart grid project.

This is welcome news, primarily because the criterion for the award removes the hype that is prevalent in the media.

Here are the criteria Power Magazine will use.

  • Upstream of smart meters and home energy management or automation devices.
  • Clearly “smart” – that integrate information and communications technology – assisted components that represent more than maintenance-level improvement.
  • Able to demonstrate achievement in technology and service that is worthy of being considered a best practice.
  • Able to demonstrate material results from at least six months of operation prior to the nomination deadline.

Note that these criteria do not include smart meters or energy management devices.

Smart meters get a great deal of press, but there is evidence that they cannot have a significant effect on demand management – unless utilities and the government can control the thermostat, in the home or in the office. If the government, directly or indirectly, has control of the thermostat, temperatures can be set excessively high in the summer, and too low in the winter – and you won’t have any control over them.

Smart meters have also been suggested as a way to reduce peak demand so as to defer the building of new generation capacity, but this hasn’t been proven and may not be wise or cost effective.

Energy management tools can save homeowners and businesses some money when first used. They can identify one-time items that use too much energy, such as loose connections, damaged ballasts or inadequate insulation. Once these conditions have been corrected and the savings achieved, the remaining opportunities for saving energy by using smart meters is very small.

Note also that none of the criteria used by Power Magazine includes building new transmission lines.

Many articles about the smart grid include the building of new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from remote areas to where the electricity can be used. Clearly, new transmission lines shouldn’t be part of any discussion about the smart grid. They should, however, be included in any discussion about wind energy.

Perhaps the criteria used by Power Magazine will refocus the media, when writing about the smart grid, on technologies that achieve increased efficiencies in generating and distributing electricity – and avoid the meaningless hoopla about smart meters and new transmission lines.

If so, Power Magazine will have made an important contribution to advancing the concept of a smart grid.

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