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The smart grid 2014 and beyond: a new grid model

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By Steven Collier

 

The 2013 Chinese Year of the Snake (i.e., smart people who use others to achieve their goals) saw disappointing results from an industry smart grid strategy of convincing customers to change their behavior to mitigate inadequacies of the existing grid. Clearly, the demand response approach, while having some benefit, will not by itself ensure an acceptably economical, reliable, secure and sustainable electric grid for the long term.

 

In 2014, the Chinese Year of the Horse (i.e., people who make unremitting efforts to improve themselves) more customers will produce, store and manage some or all of their power and energy locally, and for their own benefit, not to help their electric utility survive or prosper. As Cooper and Carvallo argue in their book, “The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability,” a modern, sustainable grid will emerge from what has traditionally been the retail delivery edges of the grid, not from the centralized generation and transmission core. GreenTech Media’s recent report, “Grid Edge: Grid Modernization in the Age of Distributed Generation,” supports this view.

 

Consider three of many technology / business trends that will accelerate this metamorphosis:

 

Distributed Energy Generation and Storage – Many more residential, commercial and industrial customers will deploy distributed generation and storage, even if it does not result in a net reduction of their total energy costs in the short run, in order to obtain other benefits including:

·         Reliability, security, disaster preparedness, privacy,

·         Renewable, sustainable energy sources,

·         Power quality, service options, customer service,

·         Hedge against utility price uncertainty / increases, and/or

·         Some measure of independence from the monopoly grid.

 

Many will deploy companion energy storage and / or sophisticated energy management systems. Disintermediation will grow as more customers turn to non-utility providers of distributed energy generation, storage and management services (e.g., Solar City, Power Secure, Enernoc).

 

The benefits won’t just accrue to customers. Distributed generation, storage and management can relieve demands on the existing bulk power grid and actually improve its reliability, security, sustainability and efficiency. This is demand, and energy response carried to the extreme! More and more utilities will recognize and embrace the benefits of a decentralized approach to energy production, storage and management.

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