What’s Next: Energy

During the last century, our electrical grid was a symbol of progress, bringing cheap and abundant power to cities and towns across the country. The system was fed by a small number of large plants that distributed energy in one direction. “Today, we’re moving toward a much more highly distributed, dynamic, and interactive grid that will manage a global network of energy supply and demand,” says Jane Snowdon, senior manager of IBM’s Energy & Environment: Intelligent Buildings and Smarter City Research. “If the U.S. grid alone were just five per-cent more efficient, it would be like permanently eliminating the fuel and greenhouse-gas emissions from 53 million cars.” Here Snowdon discusses the impact of transforming the energy grid.

ONE year:

SMART GRIDS
“We’re working with the U.S. Department of Energy and other partners on the Pacific Northwest GridWise Demonstration Project. We’re investigating how customers respond to real-time information, trying to determine how they might adjust their energy consumption based on changes in price. Automated control technology will allow industrial, municipal, and residential customers to reduce their consumption during times of peak demand. We installed smart appliances in 112 homes. The pilot project resulted in a 10 percent reduction in energy use and up to 50 percent reduced load on the grid, without affecting customer comfort. This is a model for where smart-grid partnerships are headed.” —J.S.

FIVE years:

EXPANDING SMART GRIDS
“In November, the DOE announced a $178 million Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, which builds on and expands the scale of the GridWise pilot by testing new smart-grid technology on up to 60,000 customers in five states. During this five-year project, data will be gathered from fifteen test sites that represent the states’ diverse terrain, weather, and demographics. The project will involve more than 112 megawatts of power, enough to serve 86,000 households. It will allow us to test multiple technologies, hardware devices, communication media, and protocols, and scale it across a sizable region of the United States.” —J.S.

TEN years:

PERFECTING EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES
“We will leverage and utilize all the best talent available to mitigate climate change and address global energy supply and demand with innovative technologies: things like more efficient photovoltaics; powerful wind turbines; batteries with longer life spans, so widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles becomes a reality; and advanced energy storage for buildings.” —J.S.

 
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