Shanghai 10th June 2010
Is a smart power grid the way of the future? Many countries are gradually building a smart power grid structure that allows a 2-way channeling of power and information. Traditionally power is delivered to a building through the state owned power grid (though many countries have privatized the power generation companies to allow competitive pricing), with a meter at the off take point measuring the actual usage at location. Once a month or so a meter reader (most of the time by foot!) drops by to collect the buildings usage data, which is then translated at the head office into your monthly electricity bill. There is no real distinction between any appliances or systems that used the electricity. Your monthly bill generally just states the overall energy consumed within that period. There is in principle no way for you to know which of your appliances or systems consumed most energy.
No more so…the smart grid system is a two way system that feeds back information to the consumer about their usage and can alert you about power failures, leakages and actual user statistics. Reversely the power supply company gets useful statistics about user demands over time and seasons and can adjust supply accordingly. Failures can be signaled at base and maintenance staff can then be dispatched to repair any faults without user intervention.
But most of all with renewable energy systems becoming more and more popular and commercially interesting, consumers have the opportunity to sell back their “home-made” energy, such as solar energy, wind energy, etc. In a break through recently the West Australian government, in a move to encourage renewable home energy systems, announced that energy sold back to the grid would be paid nearly double the price of what consumers pay for power bought from the grid (so far it was mostly the other way around, which was not really stimulating the process). Calculations further showed that payback of the renewable systems would as a result be reduced to less than 10 years, which is far more interesting situtation!
So with smart grid systems coming of age the meter reader walking from door to door will gradually become a job from years gone by that our future generation will only read about in the history books!