smart grid

Can the Power Grid Handle the Increased Demand from Electric Cars?

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — There’s an old saying, “be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” True enough, it cautions us to look beyond near-term results. There are those like Adam Vaughn, writing in the Guardian, now saying exactly that about electric cars. Certainly, Vaughn and others are not wrong. Big increases in EV utilization will tax our current electric supply. In his case, he’s quoting National Grid saying that EV growth in the UK could exceed the capacity of the Hinckley Point C nuclear power station by 2030.  The idea that the 3.2GW plant, which is still under construction, could fall short of meeting demand that soon, is certainly a disturbing one.

When the plans for the plant were being drawn up, no one anticipated that the number of electric vehicles could possibly grow from 90,000 today, to nine million in 2030, a one-hundredfold increase. According to National Grid, these vehicles could add as much as 8 GW of additional demand, if they are not charged smartly.

What they mean by charging smartly is the idea that demand and supply can be tightly coordinated. You could get some inkling of this by imaging a conductor leading an orchestra, signaling  each instrument when it’s time to come in. The art, if one were to call it that, is known as demand management. Demand management, according to EIA is, “designed to encourage consumers to modify their level and pattern of electricity usage.”

Generally, this is achieved either by technology or with pricing incentives.

The incentives are by far the simplest. Most industrial and commercial ratepayers, have sophisticated power meters that measure both consumption and demand.  This allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of high demand.  This encourages these large customers to minimizes their demand during high peak periods. They can use renewables, onsite storage, or other methods like thermal storage to shift things like their cooling loads from noontime till evening. However, demand pricing is generally not used for residential customers.

Denmark Announces 100% Renewable Goal

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Denmark has just one-upped its status as the most cutting edge sustainable country in the world. They have committed to a goal of 100% renewable energy by the year 2050. That goal is not just limited to electric generation as other countries have done. They are including transportation as well. No burning of fossil fuels by 2050.

If that seems like an unrealistically lofty goal, keep in mind that these are the Danes we are talking about, who already get over 40% of their electricity from over 5,000 wind turbines, with every intention of making that 50% by 2020. Fossil fuel consumption is expected to fall by 20% over that same period.

While wind has carried most of the weight going forward, the latest initiative is more comprehensive. For starters, energy efficiency will play a major role. An intermediate target is looking for a 7% overall decrease in consumption from 2010 levels by 2020. Energy companies will be given specific targets.

Industrial heating and cooling is also a major part of the plan. Biomass will be substituted for coal on a large scale, for both heating and electricity. Subsidies will be provided for geothermal energy.

Also included are subsidies for energy efficient production processes, combined heat and power (CHP) applications, biogas, and smart grid. You could say the Danes are leaving no stone unturned in their search for a totally clean energy future.

What makes Denmark so successful while so many other nations are falling short?

Blackouts, More Than Efficiency, Drive Smart Grid Growth

(3BL Media/Justmeans) We’ve been hearing about the potential wonders of the Smart Grid for several years now. It will save energy, make utility operations more streamlined, support renewables and save money for consumers. All these things are true, and they will be even more important in the years ahead as the impacts of climate change are felt more strongly. But blackouts are happening right now, and they are costing utilities money. That seems to be the primary driver for many power companies to begin investing in technology today.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), power outages cost US businesses $150 billion per year. The number of blackouts has increased 285% since 1984 and their duration, here in the US, is the longest among industrialized countries.

Why is that? There are two reasons. First, there is more power going through our electric grid than ever before. Second, and most important, the grid is getting old.

The U.S. electrical grid, once considered a marvel, is becoming a dinosaur. Going back over 60 years, some of the designs date back to Edison himself. It consists of some 7,000 power plants pushing electrons out over 450,000 miles of transmission lines, to businesses and homes that are interconnected by some 2.5 million miles of feeder lines. According to the Edison Electric Institute, it is worth $876 billion, though the value of what it produces is incalculable.

It was built for a time and a scale when things could be done manually. Meter readers would go from house to house reading mechanical meters, and linemen could inspect the lines to see where repairs were needed. Today, it has become too big and too indispensable for that.

Siemens Presents New Energy Efficient Technologies

"...we face the question of how we can put our energy system on a sustainable foundation ..."

Smart Meters Signal More Flexible Power Grid

Smart meters are essential to energy conservation in a system incorporating alternative generating sources

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