Smart Grid: a new dawn
The term "Smart Grid" describes a very important development. It describes something so important that without it we cannot hope to build a greener energy supply future. Without it we cannot build a distributed power generation system where power is generated closer to the end user, thus saving energy. Without it energy will in future be much more expensive. Without a smart grid, Great Britain will decline in terms of power and its status in the world. The lack of a Smart Grid will slowly lead to a decline in our economy, in our commerce and industry, in trade with the rest of the world and in our quality of life when compared with the rest of the developed world.
So what is a Smart Grid?
Let's start with what we have now - a dumb grid. With what we have now the power companies frequently only know when there is a power failure because a member of the public phones and tells them. With what we have now, every time there is a peak in demand, the grid is more at risk of failure and it costs a fortune to produce the extra power needed to fulfill demand. With what we have now we have little control as users over how we spend our money on energy.
But there is a better way. With a smart grid, the electricity distribution grid comprises flows of both power for users and information to enable the whole system to run as efficiently and robustly as possible. A smart grid is continually monitored by computers and data about energy demand, weather conditions, historic patterns of energy usage and much more are brought together in order forecast usage. This forecast is used to set the grid up to deal comfortably with demand. Smart grids also detect failures in the grid and even predict them so that energy can be routed seamlessly around the problem with the result that energy users are unaware that a problem even existed.
And there's more. Smart meters are part of a smart grid. Smart meters make it possible to monitor and plan your energy usage, make decisions about how and when to use appliances and take advantage of lower cost energy when demand on the grid is low. Smart meters can tell you how much energy will cost for the next hour or the next day, in fact using your laptop computer and the internet, you could go to the web page for your house and choose a set of energy usage preferences for your home which would enable you to live your life as you want but do it as energy cost effectively as possible. Smart grid technology means that power generators, power distributors and energy users are in constant digital communication, behind the scenes, working together to make the grid robust, efficient, flexible and cost effective.
And there's more. The further away power generation takes place from where it is used, the more energy is wasted in transmission so placing generators closer to energy users is the greener, more efficient way to go. But our dumb grid precludes this on any large scale. A smart grid makes it possible to have any number of small scale generators producing electricity and selling the energy they produce to the grid. This could include energy from solar panels on the roof of a house or a wind powered generator.
And then there is the motor car. The American government is convinced that there will be a move over from oil based automotive power to electricity in the future. Even now, they argue, it would be cheaper on balance to run domestic vehicles on electricity if the infrastructure was available. And with running cars on electricity drawn from a smart grid comes another advantage. The cars would be charged when the smart grid was in a period of low demand and so would keep costs down. But then, if a sudden energy demand peak was encountered the grid could claw back energy from vehicles, using them as a huge distributed energy storage system. This is just one example of how the intelligent interconnection of generator, grid and users will help make the energy distribution grid more robust and will remove the need for the expensive peak demand only
power stations we use currently.
From this I hope you can begin to see the future that awaits us. In the USA, President Obama is pushing hard for the fullest implementation of the Smart Grid and it is already in place in many parts of America. The rest of the developed world is also embracing this technology.
Why then is National Grid in Great Britain trying to foist dumb grid technology on the people of East Anglia? This has to be a very expensive piece of shortsightedness. As a nation, we should be at the forefront of the development and implementation of Smart Grid technology in order to maintain our position in the world as a major trading nation and as a result, the quality of life of the people of Britain.
We the people of the Stour Valley, like every British person, should be pushing for all of these new power distribution infrastructure developments to be implemented in manner that renders them ready for inclusion in a Smart Grid. Upgradability and futureproofing should be major influences on the decision as to the nature of the new power lines.
So we in Stour Valley Underground believe that what we need is a smart decision, smart cables, intelligently monitored, made of copper, UNDERGROUND when they have to be over land. The legacy we leave future generations should not just be a beautiful and inspiring landscape, it should be a landscape that lays over the technology needed to ensure a cleaner, greener, more secure and more energy cost efficient future.