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Understanding the Smart Grid and What It Can Do for the Texas Consumer

December 15, 2010

Renewable or what is also often called alternative energy may soon drop this moniker and become mainstream. In the United States, bigger focus is given right now on further developing the smart grid infrastructure and strategies in a move to address environmental concerns such as global warming as well as address energy independence.

In its most basic sense, a smart grid is the next generation upgrade of power grids that have been in existence decades ago. Instead of “broadcasting” power to a large number of Texas electricity users, electrical energy is routed and used more optimally and efficiently. While these technologies have spawned much interest from environmentalists as well as from economists, a great number of consumers are still not aware of this technology and what it can do for them.

Understanding What a Smart Grid is

A smart grid is still basically an electricity network, but this time the system uses digital technology to deliver Texas electricity. The “smart” in the system is the ability to have two-way digital communication between the Texas electric company and the consumer. This is accomplished by overlaying the standard electrical grid with a digital information and metering system. The result is increased reliability and transparency, allowing consumers to use electricity more optimally resulting in reduced costs and energy consumption.

To illustrate this, a smart grid in the Houston area includes an intelligent digital monitoring system to keep track of Houston electricity flowing throughout the network, giving both suppliers and consumers high visibility of what goes on within the grid. Should there be problems in the grid, Texas electric companies can respond more dynamically. In a similar manner, users can also monitor when cheap electricity is available, such as during off-peak hours, allowing them to turn on selected appliances.

A smart grid is also called smart electric grid, smart power grid, intelligrid, futuregrid, intergrid and intragrid. In an energy deregulated market, smart grids can also allow for the integration of alternative energy resources such as solar and wind energy.

The Benefits of the Smart Grid for the Texas Consumer

In a smart grid system, multiple electricity network and several power generation companies can be aggregated into an integrated system where there is an increased level of connectivity, automation and coordination between these companies and suppliers. For the Texas consumer, the use of smart grid technologies to deliver Texas electricity can prove very beneficial as described in the following:

* The use of smart meters provide consumers better control of how and how much they use Texas electricity in their homes, including the time each electrical appliances in their homes are used. Smart meters can also help consumers to remotely manage the electrical consumption of their appliances such as washing machines, lighting systems, air conditioning systems, water heaters and others.

* Smart grids can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by greatly reducing carbon emissions by allowing consumers to set appliances connected to the smart grid to run only during off peak hours.

* A deregulated energy market has given Texas consumers the power to choose their electrical options including the use of renewable electrical resources such as solar and wind power into their smart grid. This can create an opportunity for consumers to sell back the surplus Texas electricity generated back to the electric companies.

* The modernization of the current power grid that is over 50 years old to a smart grid system will provide thousands of jobs for Texas workers. The modernization of the power grid can create these jobs right when the populace need them most.

Right now Texas is second to California in the deployment of smart meters and the establishment of smart grids. Investments continue to pour in to hasten implementation backed up by further research and development to improve this technology even further.

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