Smart grid could reduce U.S. energy use and carbon emissions by 12-18 percent


Rob Pratt,
PNNL research
Richland, WA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 29, 2009 – The smart grid could reduce the United States’ energy use and CO2 emissions by up to 18 percent by 2030, according to a new report from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Of this, 12 percent would be direct reductions, while up to almost 6 percent could result indirectly.

The report, “The Smart Grid: An Estimation of the Energy and CO2 Benefits,” shows a direct link between the smart grid and carbon emissions, and it identifies nine mechanisms by which the smart grid can reduce energy use and carbon impacts associated with electricity generation and delivery.

These mechanisms, with their associated electricity and CO2 emission reductions, assuming 100 percent smart grid penetration, are:

  • Conservation effect of consumer information and feedback systems – 3 percent
  • Joint marketing of energy efficiency and demand response programs – 0
  • Deployment of diagnostics in residential and small/medium commercial buildings – 3 percent
  • Measurement and verification (M&V) for energy efficiency programs – 1 percent direct, 0.5 percent indirect
  • Shifting load to more efficient generation – <0.1 percent
  • Support additional electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – 3 percent
  • Conservation voltage reduction and advanced voltage control – 2 percent
  • Support penetration of renewable solar and wind generation (25 percent RPS) – <0.1 percent direct, 5 percent indirect.

The report says the importance of these reduction estimates is in their combined effect. While several of the mechanisms are estimated to have small or negligible impacts, five of the mechanisms could potentially provide reductions of over 1 percent. Moreover, the combined effect of the direct and indirect mechanisms correspond respectively to 5 percent and 2 percent of the U.S. total energy consumption and energy-related CO2 emissions for all sectors (including electricity). The magnitude of these reductions suggests that, while a smart grid is not the primary mechanism for achieving aggressive national goals for energy and carbon savings, it is capable of providing a very substantial contribution to the goals for the electricity sector.

Further, a smart grid may help overcome barriers to deployment of distributed solar renewables at penetrations higher than 20 percent.

“By making the grid smart, we make it more efficient and more accommodating of renewables, and we’re able to cut down on the amount of carbon we emit to generate the electricity we need,” said the report’s lead author, PNNL research scientist Rob Pratt. “This report suggests that we could substantially reduce emissions by deploying a smart grid.”

The report goes on to make a number of recommendations, of which first and foremost, all technical mechanisms need to be considered in greater analytical depth to more rigorously address the quantification of and uncertainties for the estimated reductions in electricity and CO2 emissions to help set priorities for development of smart grid technologies.

Customer feedback is necessary for the effective implementation and communication of energy efficiency and demand response management programs to maintain sustained levels of reduction. Coupled with feedback, the effectiveness of customer-side programs can be increased by leveraging smart grid assets to provide long-term M&V and diagnostics at little additional cost for the required analysis capabilities.

Also evidenced is that key research needs are in the areas of how smart grid technologies can support the integration of renewable resources above the 20 percent RPS, the addition of increased levels of electric vehicles to best utilize generating assets, and management of voltage control and losses within the transmission and distribution system to reduce losses and increase reliability.

See the below attachments for the summary of, and the full report.