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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Smart-Grid Carbon Savings

As IEEE Spectrum reports, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory  has issued a report in which carbon savings from introduction of smart grid technologies are estimated.

There are two main ways in which a smarter grid can reduce carbon emissions:
  1. direct carbon savings through smart devices (meters, for examples); the estimate is that a 12% reduction is expected by 2030;
  2. allowing renewable electricity generation in the distribution network (the so called distributed generation or micro generation); these indirect savings are estimated to reach 6%.
The fact is that there are a large number of ways in which smarter grids help reducing the energy demand from fossil fuels, and most of these ways are usually overlooked by other studies.

Let's see some of them.

For example, a self healing network reduces the number of trucks that go around in a city to repair the network itself. So, providing an higher quality of the service, the utility company can also save money, people time, and gas!

Real time consumer feedback and real time pricing allow customers to react to power availability in the network: this way it will be possible to use all the energy that is produced from renewables, and to reduce at the minimum those peaks in energy demand that rely on fossil fuels. Wind and solar power are intermittent power sources, and customers must adapt to their availability if we want them to be an important part of the total energy production.

Distributed generation is another big issue. Right now the distribution network operators allow everybody to place solar panels on their roof or small wind farms in your own yard. However, this is possible only because the amount of energy produced in this way is very very little compared to the total. If we want to produce a larger amount of energy from micro generation, we must change the distribution network to allow bidirectional flows of power between customers, real time meter reading, new safety procedures, etc.

For further details, read more on IEEE Spectrum.