Smart grids allow for new thinking due to climate change, energy scarcity and green energy


At the recent Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Convention hosted in Denver, CO, green energy and climate change was an ongoing theme.

During the event’s keynote session, Uriel Sharef, global head of power at Siemens, told attendees that the industry is in a “wake-up-call” situation, in which major efforts are needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emission levels, and that the future energy landscape will need to become both more technologically complex and environmentally friendly.

Senator Salazar highlighted the need to reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil, and thereby “…maintaining our freedom of action in international arenas should be one of the key principles guiding implementation of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson also addressed global warming, saying: “The Bush Administration has taken the issue seriously enough to outspend any other nation on earth on new technology and R&D.”

The smart grid
In the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) critical issues panel, Steve Specker (EPRI), Joe Belechak (Transformation Services), Kevin Burke (Consolidated Edison), Joe Welch (ITC Holdings), Michael Lamb (Xcel Energy) and Michael Valocchi (IBM) agreed that AMI will promote and justify the Smart Grid case. However, the challenge ahead will be to ensure that there is not only a common framework across the U.S. but also greater input from customers. The technology should be designed around customers’ needs and the more customers get to experience the positive impact of AMI and smart grid efforts, the greater will be their acceptance.

Utilities have implemented energy efficiency and demand side programs for many years and these can result in greater emission reductions, if technological advances are also adopted. Some of the benefits that AMI and the smart grid will have on both customers and utilities include:

  • The smart grid will be vital in the big push toward hybrid vehicles in the U.S., (whose usage is being encouraged as a means to reduce oil usage and emissions), as it will allow vehicle owners to plug-in and recharge. However, it does beg the question of how customers will be billed for the consumption during the recharge.
  • Accessing information and data – the AMI delivers vital grid information allowing for efficient energy management decisions and usage both for utilities and users.
  • Maximizing renewable energy resources.
  • Easier integration with distributed generation resources.

In the discussion Valocchi pointed out that the issue of AMI and the smart grid has become one of those that have moved to high-level decision makers’ agendas, highlighting their importance for the industry. Commenting that he felt the industry has reached a tipping point, he said that smart grids are one way to positively influence load shedding and improve getting to grips with environmental challenges as well as maximizing energy efficiency.
Burke highlighted the challenge of interoperability in creating smart grids and Belechak agreed that there is a need for new standards, but at the same time he felt the new technological environments need to be communicated sufficiently to customers and that their needs must be kept in mind.

Hybrid vehicle

Clearly from the debate the widespread adoption of smart grid technologies remains years away, but the industry appears to be increasingly convinced that such networks are feasible.

Smart grids will be vital for recharging hybrid vehicles. Denver, CO public bus transportation system runs off a hybrid electric system

EEI AMI panel

EEI AMI Panel 

Panelists for EMIFrom left to right: Steve Specker (EPRI)>
Joe Belechak (Transformation
Services); Kevin Burke
(Consolidated Edison;
Joe Welch
(ITC Holdings); Michael Lamb
(Xcel Energy);
Michael Valocchi (IBM)