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IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality

Smart Grid: A Smart Idea For America?

Sierra Coughlin is a senior at Arizona State University pursuing a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Business and Urban Planning. She is a member of IEEE's Society on Social Implications of Technology. Sierra Coughlin places an emphasis on interdisciplinary perspective in regards to renewable energy research and innovation. She strives to develop a career in sustainable development, and continues to examine the philosophy behind the Smart Grid in her academic and professional endeavors.

This research paper will analyze the emerging technological energy system known as the Smart Grid from the perspectives of business and the urban environment. Through researching and analyzing scholarly work of both academic and industry professionals, this paper shall explore the relationship between Smart Grid technologies and business, economic, environmental, governmental, community and educational sectors in order to address the question as to whether investing Smart Grid technologies is beneficial for American citizens.

The inquisition and analysis of newer, smarter technologies is one that is complex, yet has global ties, and fuels the concept of investing in a sustainable future. Electricity is a vital part of maintaining a successful society, and has been a concept, which has catalyzed the evolution of society on many levels. Experts argue traditional electric grid technologies are no longer supporting the demands of a growing population and an emphasis on investing in newer, more efficient technologies is a key element in ensuring a sustainable future for mankind. Through the scopes of business, economic, environmental, government and community research, the question as to whether investing in new technologies is beneficial to American citizens on a fiscal and ethical level is fully analyzed. By asking important questions which relate directly to current issues and trends in the United States, one can assess the viability of new technologies, as well as the current state of existing electric grid systems. While the concept of renewable energy is one that is commonly accepted, the resources to produce and use such technologies rely heavily on public and private funding. While one would assume the definitive answer would be to invest in new technologies, the focal point of such a question will be based upon the current economic slump. Through researching what the United States is doing as a whole to employ the standards of the Smart Grid concept, one can determine whether such strategies are beneficial enough to continue investing scarce resources.


The impact of technology on society is one that has exceeded the dreams of those who have lived in decades past, and continues to marvel those who have grown up with such systems as the integral backbone of most every day functions. Within the realm of societal development, the systematic processes of technology and industrial development have coincided and evolved on a steady scale. As time has progressed, it has become apparent that such resources are not guaranteed to last forever, especially when one considers the current environmental catastrophes humanity is certain to encounter. The basis of technology and technological functions can certainly be attributed to electricity and electrical production. Without this basic resource, it would be nearly impossible to create technological innovations, attributing greatly to the advancement of society. The current world and all its functions is a direct outcome of electrical innovations. Now more than ever, the preservation of electrical systems and the production of electricity is of great importance for the basic foundations of societal preservation. The need for economic growth has relied heavily on this resource, and continues to thrive on a system based off of electrical consumption and production.

The idea of the Smart Grid consists of a collective database of systems and technologies, which aid in efficiently producing and delivering energy through a collection of networks. One cannot define the Smart Grid as being just one entity, but rather a collection of technologies, working together to mitigate the problems associated with traditional electric grid systems. Production, delivery and storage are all various points to address when researching and testing new Smart Grid technologies. Understanding how these functions work on a plethora of levels creates an interconnected awareness of electric grid systems and how they influence a wide variety of sectors. The idea of the Smart Grid is not just about systematic processes but also delves into an intense philosophy and reevaluation of society and its intricate processes. As with every large based system, Smart Grid technologies have stipulations, which are primarily associated with fiscal resources. Perhaps the downfall for such a technology rests on the initial financial investment, which has been notorious for being quite large (EPRI 1). According to the Electrical Power Research Institute, the 2011 projections for Smart Grid technology investments stand at 338 to 476 billion dollars, a significant rise from the previous 2004 projection of 165 billion dollars. While the Electrical Power Institute does recognize that these investments will significantly lower energy costs for consumers, the growing need for fiscal resources deters the full support for these energy systems. Much of the blame for lack of investment lies on the concept of unawareness and general unknown stipulations surrounding the new idea of Smart Grid technologies. The discussion of Smart Grid awareness and predictability is often times the center of skepticism, and the risk of such hefty investment plays a significant role in Smart Grid controversy as expressed in the quote "Many in the industry are waiting to see what happens to those who jump in the fire first. This explains why so many utilities are engaged in Smart Grid pilot projects" (EPRI 2). Because the economic market is so fragile, the willingness to take financial risk is not extremely common in the business sector. The benefit of pilot projects results in a calculated risk, shedding further light on Smart Grid technologies but without the initial investments.

The construction of an electrical grid system has been compared to the United States Interstate Highway system, as cited by U.S Department of Energy. Few systems are so interconnected and complex, yet it is so vital for the citizens who rely on this infrastructure for basic daily functions. While society continues to function at a high rate of speed, and operates on the existence of technology and technological advancements, the electric grid on which we operate is incredibly outdated. The general consensus from the scientific and research community agree that traditional electric grid systems will not meet the demands of consumers in the near future, nor will they mitigate the ongoing problems of climate change and resource consumption. The United States Department of Energy quotes "Since 1982, growth in peak demand by population growth, bigger houses, bigger TVs, more air conditioners and more computers has exceeded transmission growth by almost 25% every year. Yet spending on research and development is among the lowest of industries". Given this understanding, it is accurate to argue that despite the economic downturn of the United States, investing in and promoting Smart Grid technologies is a fiscally and ethically responsible decision for the American people. Furthermore, Smart Grid technologies contribute a significant role in the preservation and sustainable health of future generations. Through the realms of business, economics, environment, government, community and education, a complete analysis of this question will be examined. By understanding the individual contributions of each sector in relation to the Smart Grid technology movement, one can determine whether such technologies are worth the resource and effort, or if they are an unnecessary burden to the taxpayer. Because Americans utilize so many energy resources for economic and social functions, the basis of such research surrounds the United States and focuses on technologies that are used on a national level, with regards to notable global innovation.

There is no doubt that to successfully function on an economic and social level in the modern world the use of electrical systems is required. The need for electric energy is evident in almost any aspect of civilization with regards to urban environments and traditional modern lifestyles. The health and security of humanity relies on the consumption of this resource, and the reassurance that such a resource will forever sustain future generations. The production of technology collectively relies on electricity and consumes this resource at a growing rate, which is projected to continue increasing in the future. Electricity fuels the markets of medicine, industry, and retail among many more economic functions. The concepts that fuel the establishment and use of Smart Grid technologies consist of growing trends on a global scale. The concept of globalization is one that ties together the collective need for smarter, more efficient grid technologies and operates on the basis that these resources will not fail, as failure would be detrimental to every day economic functions within this realm. Cited in the 20th World Energy Congress & Exhibition in Italy, a rise in global populations and rapid urbanization are considered two "mega-trends" directly attributing to the increasing need for electricity and electrical based technologies. With a growing population, the need for electricity becomes a necessary national facet, and extracting such a resource requires new and efficient electrical infrastructures to supply such a demand (Breur 2). As society continues to develop and generations face the realities of an uncertain future, it becomes apparent that the majority of resources humans have relied on for centuries are now running out. The establishment of new technologies that produce necessary resources is of great importance for the future of mankind.

Through examining the United States specifically, one can observe the technological advancements, along with associated projects, which contribute to the development of electric based technologies and fuel the research and progression of forecasted Smart Grid technology trends. "A Smart Grid is not simply an efficient operation of the current electricity system; it is a significant transformation of the electricity system as we know it"(Holmberg, Bushby 1). Whether one observes Smart Grid phenomena from a macro scale versus neighborhood projects, the suggested themes within this scope are incredibly similar. The question as to whether investing in proposed technologies is aiding the interest of American citizens is analyzed through these filters, and common misconceptions of Smart Grid technologies are addressed. Exploring the newest innovations and business practices is vital to understanding the systematic processes of Smart Grid technologies, and understanding how electricity is generated and delivered to consumers. Just as important, understanding the ways in which the common citizen works within the Smart Grid realm coincides with community involvement, education and professional research. From this research it is evident there is a collective acknowledgement that traditional grid systems no longer support the needs of the global market, and investing in new technologies to provide additional resources is absolutely vital for the progression of society and the preservation of the natural environment.


There is no secret that business investment and infrastructure is key in the success of Smart Grid technologies. While the government is often the center of funding, the true task of creating and utilizing these technologies rests on the business sector. Not only is the business sector responsible for the creation of these technologies, but is also an employer of Smart Grid services to the community. Because Smart Grid technologies are often privately managed, the business sector controls much of the use and response associated with energy distribution. As a key player in the world of Smart Grid technologies, businesses in both the private and public sector act as a reference to Smart Grid research and set the foundation for expansion and construction for future grid systems. The employment of businesses all around the world gives insight into what the Smart Grid is and controls the changes in what the Smart Grid may or may not become.

How does the "Smart Grid" impact the American business sector?

The American business sector shares a collective goal to maintain and expand upon private and public corporations. The need to sustain such entities relies heavily on the notion of consumption; operating on the production needed to satisfy the demand. Within this concept lies the idea of producing and utilizing Smart Grid technologies. The question of exploring Smart Grid technologies in the American business market can be seen through the application of renewable energy systems. Not only are these systems a benefit to the business itself, but also influence the amount and quality of service delivered to the consumers. Through smart and efficient energy systems, businesses can not only save money for shareholders, but also reduce prices for consumers. Not only is it important to focus on growing trends among corporate entities, but also to look closely at the newest technological innovations and forecasted trends within the business environment. Because the foundations of economic prosperity are found within the companies who are engrained in the American market, it's important to understand the principles such companies choose to follow in regards to Smart Grid systems. Through this research, one has a better understanding of how influential renewable technologies have become, and why they are so important for the future of the private and public markets within the United States.

Companies such as IBM (International Business Machines) specializing in technology and consulting highly utilize Smart Grid systems, and rely on renewable energy markets to sustain their growing product basis. Originally designed as a hardware and software technology manufacturing firm, IBM has embraced the concept of renewable energy, and heavily promotes such technologies on an international level. Through production and design, IBM has also established itself as a leading manufacturer of scientific, environmental and renewable energy system technologies. IBM is an example of company who works directly with power supply management and designs state of the art technologies to deliver efficient energy to the public and private realm. IBM prides itself on "helping utilities add a layer of digital intelligence to their grids." Such technologies include the production of sensors, meters, digital and analytic tools as means to monitor the flow of energy in power plants and during distribution. IBM also cites that "Smart Grids can also incorporate new renewable energies such as solar and wind power, and interact locally with distributed power sources, or plug-in electric vehicles"(IBM 2).

One of the most notable accomplishments IBM advertises is the creation of a Smart Grid coalition. In 2007 IBM formed the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition consisting of 14 corporations who strive for Smart Grid technology production and use, and who want to change the ways in which power is generated on a global scale. Notable American companies in the coalition include CenterPoint Energy, Pepco Holdings, Inc, Progress Energy and Sempra Energy. "The coalition's first collaborative effort was the creation of a Smart Grid Maturity model, which has been used by utilities around world to assess current statuses and plan their own smart grid program"(IMB 3). The Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition cites that over 150 million energy consumers are serviced world wide through the combined companies involved. The foundation and business model of IBM focuses on technological innovations and marketing efficient systems on a global level. Much of the basis surrounding Smart Grid technologies is created within IBM, and is heavily marketed to similar corporate industries. From the analysis of the company structure and professional mission, IMB is no stranger to Smart Grid technology development and utilization and prides itself on being and entity immersed in renewable energy production and distribution. While being an American based company, IBM is a prime example of local business interaction and endorsement of renewable Smart Grid technologies with an emphasis in global networking. Other notable companies heavily endorsing the Smart Grid movement include General Electric, ABB, Siemens, Google, Toshiba, Cisco and Microsoft. Through either energy production or network design, each of these notable corporations utilizes the Smart Grid system in different ways.

What are popular technological innovations the private sector utilizes to fully employ the concept of Smart Grid?

Working in conjunction with the corporate world, comes the idea of technological research and development. Technology development is a key component in the success of the Smart Grid, and continues to evolve. Traditional technological systems are improved upon by strategic development and innovation. The creation of such a system transforms the way in which energy is produced, delivered and stored. Most importantly Smart Grid technology systems are designed with efficiency and sustainability in mind. The innovation behind the Smart Grid concept is the driving force behind all energy markets and an absolute vital component for the future of energy production.

To ensure the success of the Smart Grid system, constant development must be established along with research into such technologies. While there is much being done on an international level, a large component of Smart Grid research and technology is done within the United States. Such studies fuel the national economy and create a system of networks connecting the United States to a global grid system, surrounding the notion of globalization and an international renewable energy effort. Such goals are impossible without sufficient technology and research to support them, and rely heavily on forecasted growth trends within renewable energy industries.

While technology ranges in size and application, Smart Grid innovations can be found on a variety of levels. An example of this would be a component of the Smart Grid known as the Smart meter. Smart meter technologies are employed throughout the United States and designed to function on a variety of levels. Whether such technology is used in smaller community environments or utilized on a larger scale, such technologies have proven their effectiveness in delivering more efficient energy and creating a stronger link between the consumer and producer. The Smart meter is used to measure the consumption of energy by consumers and relays this information back to the provider. "Smart meters can read real-times energy consumption information including the values of voltage, phase angle and the frequency and securely communicates the data"(Depuru 1). Along with transmitting information from consumer to provider, Smart meters are designed to collect information about electricity delivered from the grid system and communicate with surrounding Smart meters. Smart meters are designed to save consumers money by accurately measuring and controlling electricity delivered through connected grid systems. “Smart meters can be programmed such that, only power consumed from the utility grid is billed while the power consumed from the generation sources or storage decides owned by the customers is not billed”(Depuru 1). Perhaps one of the most important functions of Smart meters is detecting unauthorized use of electricity thus improving the efficiency of resource distribution and minimizing losses. The purpose of the Smart meter is essentially to monitor consumption, generation and utilize the notion of "real-time" communication. Through this analysis and reporting, energy is delivered more efficiently to the consumer, thus saving valuable resources and money.

What are forecasted business trends/technologies in relation to the Smart Grid concept?

While there are many examples of Smart Grid technology currently used in American markets, there is much research being done on forecasted and upcoming technologies. A large basis of the Smart Grid system focuses on the realm of technological research and innovation. Just as important as current systems, is the strategies and ideas currently being formed and tested for future use. An example of such processes can be seen through the proposal from researchers on a global scale. Understanding the proposed ideas of Smart Grid technologies gives one a deeper understanding and insight into the evolution of such technologies. Such research is absolutely vital for the American business sector in that the newest innovations in the market creates a new level of demand from consumers as well as strengthens the bond between the private and public realms.

A more complex system newly introduced within the Smart Grid realm is the idea of super conducting coils designed for the Smart Grid. According to researchers Min Cheol Ahn and Tae Kuk Ko, reducing the fault current within Smart Grid systems is an issue addressed by the idea of super conducting coils. These researchers are members of the IEEE Council on Super Conductivity and quote "Smart FCC can not only limit but also control the current when a fault occurs. The smart grid technology can provide enough information that it is possible to estimate which level of limited current should be the best in the real-time situation of the grid"(Ahn 1). According to the research surrounding super conducting coils, traditional methods of managing high fault currents with series reactors create electrical impedance and impact normal operation of such energy systems. To address this problem, super conducting coils are said to regulate such interactions and limits electric impedance (Ahn 2). Min Cheol Ahn and Tae Kuk Ko end this research report citing the need for practical operation of the proposed device and development of a control device for the super conducting coils.

Like many Smart Grid technologies, the idea of designing super conducting coils is used to regulate disruptions in electric flow, thus saving valuable resource. According to research gathered by, Smart Grid power flow controlling can also be managed through systems such as flexible AC transmission systems, phase regulating transformers and series capacitors. The research and understanding of Smart Grid technologies is one that is complex and intricate. The majority of technological development requires extensive research and testing to be able to implement such systems in the traditional grid system. A collective strategy among all new technologies is essentially to enhance the delivery and production of electricity, creating in itself the idea of Smart Grid systems. The Smart Grid is defined by these technologies and is compromised of many different facets and levels of technological innovation.


A large part of the execution and involvement of Smart Grid technologies in the American population is the economic transactions that take place as a result. Much of the development associated with renewable technologies relies on the notions of fiscal responsibility and economic productivity. Employing resources that benefit the American population is absolutely vital within any governmental legislation or business practices. Convincing the populous as a whole that investing in Smart Grid technologies is indeed a way to stimulate the current economy is often a challenge. However, the cooperation from the private realm paired with governmental institutions sets an example for the whole as to how they resources can be adequately deployed in a way that ensures positive economic growth. Wasteful investment is a concern in the realm of Smart Grid development and is often times the center of debate among critics. Understanding the processes associated with Smart Grid development is vital in the success and acceptance of the Smart Grid on an economic level.

What are the pros and cons of the Smart Grid system on the National economy?

The money associated with creating and operating smart grid technologies is one that can at times have an extremely high initial cost. The initial investment into renewable energies is often a large one, resulting in the scrutiny of such technologies and their actual benefit in the current economic climate. The concept of Smart Grid technology investment is one that includes all facets of the economy. Through the processes of developing Smart Grid technology, industries are created and professionals are needed to advance such technologies. The ideals of supply and demand evolve as the demand for electricity rises. New innovations are vital for increasing the supply of this resource given the new variables of demand. This section poses questions of the economic viability of smart technologies, and what the investment in such technologies means for those unemployed in the United States.

While the Smart Grid holds much promise in bringing the United States a more efficient and stable electrical system, the cost of creating such a system is projected to be incredibly high. While skeptics acknowledge that current systems are also associated with high financial stakes, the initial investment and risk of creating newer systems may deter investors and government funding. According to Marc Levinson, the estimated cost of establishing the Smart Grid system will cost several billion dollars. "Although the economic stimulus program approved by Congress last year included $4.5 billion to help create the Smart Grid, the full build-out will cost at least a couple of hundred billion dollars more"(Levinson 1). The money issued by the government does little for the financial advancement of Smart Grid technologies, and is only a start to the immense need for additional sponsors and outside investment sources. Levinson continues to argue that a key problem with investing in the Smart Grid comes from the financial demand that installing and maintaining new infrastructures has on the economy. Because these technologies are all very new and complex, there is little existing infrastructure to support them. The development of such systems is predicted to be high in cost and may not be viable for every sector of the economy given the current recession. Because much of the current system adequately distributes electricity to the majority of the population, understanding the indirect costs of maintaining this system is often overlooked. While there is little skepticism of the long-term impacts of the Smart Grid, the initial investment is certainly an issue, and is one, which continues to arise in the debate over Smart Grid development.

While the financial aspect of Smart Grid technologies is heavily debated, one cannot forget the reason why such systems exist in the first place. Understanding the need for Smart Grid technologies and the positive changes they will bring on an economic level helps to balance out skepticism surrounding the heavy initial fiscal investments. "A planned modernization of the U.S. national power grid will cost up to $476 billion over the next 20 years, but will provide up to $2 trillion in customer benefits over that time, according to industry experts"(Reuters 1). Because the forecasted prediction of energy is expected to rise in cost, the concept of initially investing in these systems should be labeled as miniscule in the scope of the process as a whole. Understanding that these systems are no longer a financial asset to the United States means the need for establishing new more efficient systems is stronger than ever. In order to ensure the health of the economy in the future, investments must be made now. If such investments are not made, it is guaranteed the national economy will suffer on a much greater level in the near future. Smart Grid technologies are a means to provide jobs and new infrastructure to essentially boost the economy and ensure the availability of electricity for the future.

What jobs are created through utilizing the Smart Grid system?

Given the current unemployment rate at 9.1%, the demand for jobs is extremely crucial for American citizens. While many fields have slowed or completely ceased in growing, the field of renewable energies is one of promise. Because there is an elevated need for newer and efficient systems, the trends within renewable production are increasing as time progresses. On September 12, 2011 the International Trade Administration issued a statement saying "The Smart Grid has the potential to be the critical platform for the world's clean energy economy and we're already seeing that developing, designing, building and installing smart grid technology is part of job creation." According to data released by the International Trade Administration, it is predicted that over 43,000 jobs will be created and over 61,000 current jobs will be supported by Smart Grid technologies. Jobs ranging from science and technology to application and education make up the majority of the market. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for the Smart Grid market is the need to professionals who are able to develop practical application infrastructures for much of the newest Smart Grid innovation. Along with this, professionals who are able to work and program such systems are projected to be in high demand once these technologies launch in the current market. The need for such jobs creates a new level of economic development and eventually proves to be fiscally cheaper for consumers. Establishing production and industry in dwindling economies will add a new life to American cities across the country. While many institutions support the need for growing Smart Grid technology systems, it is a common understanding that without Government funding, creating these jobs will be nearly impossible. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation conducted a study and found that if the government were to have invested ten billion dollars in 2009, 239,000 jobs would have been created by the beginning of 2010 (Ehrlich 1). This finding alone is proof of the importance of government support and promotion. The notion of Smart Grid development depends on the productivity of the Government entity supporting the processes, and relies on support from all entities involved in order to thrive as statistically projected. There are many jobs and economic opportunities projected as an outcome of investing in Smart Grid technologies, and furthermore there is need to fill these positions by those unemployed.

How will the design of Smart Grid technology impact the dwindling economy of the United States?

The financial impact of Smart Grid systems can be seen on a variety of levels. Whether one looks through the lens of microeconomics or analyzes the country as a whole, the projections of fiscal involvement within the Smart Grid concept are vast all around. Perhaps the most startling revelation of the traditional grid system is that of future projections of energy cost. Reuters cites "By the year 2050, EPRI estimated the average electric bill will probably go up about 50 percent if the smart grid is deployed. If not, the average electric bill could go up by almost 400 percent." Because electricity is a basic need within any American household, the impact of future energy projections is quite startling. To analyze the degree in which Smart Grid technologies influence the economy, one must look at the expenses accrued without such systems and understand future trends. By understanding the cost of maintaining traditional grid systems, one can have a better understanding as to how economically viable Smart Grid technologies really are. The costs incurred every day are a result of having to maintain and essential "clean up after" faulty and inefficient systems. This cost relays directly back to consumers and further hinders economic development.

Currently, American consumers not only pay for the cost of electrical generation but also must be responsible for costs associated with electrical transmission, grid distribution as well as the indirect costs commonly associated with environmental pollution and health impacts. The instability of oil production, among other nonrenewable energy sources will continue to drive the direct and indirect costs upward as long as consumers are receiving their energy from traditional electric grid systems (Ahmed 1). Along with these costs, the relationship between consumers and producers is directly influenced by the indirect costs. The rising cost to deliver energy to the consumer is indeed a reflection of rising outside costs and factors. While relying on traditional grid systems creates a sense of disconnect between consumers and producers, the relationship significantly changes when Smart Grid technologies are utilized. Real time communication between Smart Grid systems and consumers changes the relationship into a personalized plan, minimizing losses and added cost. Additionally, Reuters cites "Appliance manufacturers, like Whirlpool and Haier Electronics, can sell more energy efficient appliances, and auto manufacturers, like Ford Motor and General Motors, can use the Smart Grid to power up their electric cars." The idea of Smart Grid technologies influencing the business sector in a very interconnected way directly influences what the consumer will spend on products purchased every day. The influence of such a relationship is immense, directing and morphing economic trends on a multitude of levels.

Research shows that relying on fossil fuel powered system is no longer economically viable for the United States. Relying on a dying system will only result in fiscal hardship and uncertainty in the future. The solution to such a problem is certainly not an easy one, but it is also one that is necessary and vital for the health of the United States economy. The cost to sustain unreliable systems is far greater than creating and establishing newer technologies. The realm of Smart Grid technologies is one, which fuels the economy and creates jobs for the unemployed. There is much work to be done within this sector, and there is a definitive need for workers to help bring Smart Grid technologies to every American home and business. While traditional systems are no doubt heading down a road with a dead end, the research of Smart Grid technologies continues to offer endless possibilities for the future.


One important factor to consider in regards to the Smart Grid is the impact on the natural environment. With increasing research and study, it is undeniable the planet is experiencing a surge in climate change. As forecasts continue to project an increasingly dismal future for environmental and resource processes, scientists and innovators are under new pressures to create systems, which mitigate and aid ongoing natural processes. The philosophy of Smart Grid technologies operates on the idea of promoting sustainability and efficiency. Utilizing technology to aid in environmental issues is a key component within the sustainable realm. Such systems are employed to build up a foundation for future generations. The notion is no longer extraction, but renews the focus on generating resources. The physical health of the planet and those who inhabit it is at risk. Smart Grid technologies are used to help reduce the impacts that people feel, and more importantly is a step forward to ensure the planet will sustain itself for the demand projected for future generations. By analyzing and researching environmental processes, one can conclude the immediate impacts Smart Grid technologies has, as well as the future trends associated with renewable energy production. Both of these inquires are necessary for the sustainability of the planet, and each give unique insight to how vital Smart Grid technologies are for the future of the planet.

How does the Smart Grid system influence the natural environment?

The natural environment is by far the most important resource mankind relies on. Society is intricately built about the foundations of bountiful resource and operates on the belief these resources are endless. As climate change continues to take effect and resources are contributing to dwindle, the guarantee of endless possibilities is running out. Without the resource of the natural environment, there would be no way to sustain human life and societal development. Because these resources are facing an increasing demand and record climate change, the human population is required to adapt and respond to the increasing challenges the planet faces. Smart Grid technologies operate closely with this understanding and the need to aid the natural environment. Through the process of designing such technologies, innovators work alongside scientists and environmental experts in order to design technologies that don’t consume more resource than necessary. Although there is initial resource that goes into creating the foundations of these technologies, the overall goal of Smart Grid systems is to lessen the impact on the natural environment, and greatly reduce the reliance on non-renewable natural resources. Environmental challenges not only consist of limited resource and resource generation, but often surround the issues of pollution and carbon emissions. Understanding that pollutant levels now reach poisonous rates, fuels the desire to reduce emissions in every way possible. While there is no way to fix the damage that has been done to the ozone layer of the planet, there are ways in which mitigation can occur. Reducing carbon emissions is a step forward in this process. Understanding the ways that Smart Grid technologies work inside this equation is fundamental.

While there are many ways in which Smart Grid technologies function within the natural environment, certain processes make a greater impact than others. Not only is the impact significant, but often aids society in other ways. Through education and awareness, it is more likely a collective effort will be made in the response to climate change in hope that personal responsibility will be taken into account. Paired along with education, Smart Grid technologies create new levels of understanding and environmental mitigation. These processes ensure a solid relationship between natural processes and the understanding how these processes work by the people who must interact with them. Smart Grid technologies play a fundamental role in building this relationship and often act as a catalyst for future research in regards to climate change. The introduction of communication through using real time technologies is the link between mitigation and understanding. Using Smart Grid technologies to educate is a vital tool to utilize in the fight against climate change. One may even argue the greatest influence Smart Grid technologies can have on the environment is the education of society as a whole as a collective way to reduce poisonous emissions and work to repair what is possible.

According to data gathered by the Electric Power Research Institute, there are two main ways in which Smart Grid technologies work to reduce carbon emissions outside of pure energy savings. While there are many ways in which Smart Grid technologies work to mitigate environmental issues, the focus of most study surround the notion of carbon emissions. Because carbon emissions are such a great threat to human health and environmental sustainability, it is often the center of much research and analysis in regards to renewable energy development. The first of these strategies consists of a process known as integration of intermittent renewables (EPRI 51). "Deployment of a Smart Grid infrastructure combined with electric storage and discharge options will help reduce the variability in renewable power sources by decoupling generation from demand." The basis of this process relies on the need to store energy that is not currently being used. Paired with other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar technologies, the impact on carbon emission levels is significant. Having these resources available to the public encourages the use of renewable energies and allows easier access to Smart Grid based technologies. To promote this understand, Smart Grid technologies increase the rate at which the public can integrate personal generation technologies such as home solar panels (EPRI 55). This connection is meant to integrate Smart Grid technologies on a private level, encouraging the idea of personal responsibility and awareness.

The Electrical Power Research institute claims the facilitation of Plug-In hybrid vehicles is the second way in which the Smart Grid helps to reduce carbon emissions. “A joint study conducted in 2007 by EPRI and the Natural Resource Defense Council concluded that PHEVs will lead to a reduction of 3.4 to 10.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases by 2050” (EPRI 54). The benefits of using electric based technologies are shown through the projected environmental impacts from the EPRI. When one compares the usage of non-renewable sources in a projected forecast, the outcome is quite dismal. Because vehicles produce the highest amounts of carbon emissions, continuing to produce similar systems will only increase the problems associated with high volumes of standard emissions. Restricting the amount of green house gas that is accumulated has significant impacts when one calculates the future forecast in regards to pollutants and ozone depletion. The development of PHEVs relies heavily on the production of electricity by Smart Grid technologies. The basis of the product itself works intricately with electric production and systems commonly associated. It is said the Smart Grid is vital for utilities, entailing the information is sent to consumers determining when is best to charge the batteries in their vehicles. This often correlates with on and off peak electrical generation and can strongly influence the demand for services associated with PHEV use. "Alternatively, PHEVs can potentially be used to store electrical energy in their onboard batteries for peak-shaving or power-quality applications, offering potentially powerful synergies to complement the electric power grid" (EPRI 55). Hybrid vehicles are often said to be the direct outcome of Smart Grid technologies in that they often mirror the processes that traditionally associate with renewable processes.

In order to influence the natural environment in a positive way, renewable energies operate on many systems and are tightly integrated within in small processes, which occur every day in the general public. Accessing "greener" technologies begins with understanding resource consumption. Because electrical vehicles have become so popular within the past decade, the need for electricity has increased as a result. Electricity generated by nonrenewable sources that pollute the environment with carbon emissions does little to reduce the problems society currently faces. Because the resource of electricity is projected to increase in demand as more technologies rely on it, clean generation is needed. All of these processes rely heavily on Smart Grid generation systems and storage. Without the use of Smart Grid technologies, the production of the energy needed will simply fail. Supporting systems, which rely heavily on extraction further damages the natural environment. The fiscal, environmental and health costs are far greater as the demand for electricity increases.

What are the lasting environmental impacts of switching to a "Smart Grid" system?

While much focus is on what can Smart Grid technologies do for the common American consumer in the present, there is vast promise for the future on many levels. Researchers make it clear that one aspect of the Smart Grid alone will not provide sufficient results. Instead, forecasts are generated on a collective level, outlining the major components that would be projected to generate the highest results. In the case of the United States, a collective effort is necessary to achieve this goal. Because the nation is one, accustomed and designed to consume more than it produces, the difficulty in achieving a reduction of emissions is heightened. It is said that the United States holds only 5% of the world population, yet consumes more than a quarter of the world resources (Eco 20). Because consumption rates are so high in the country, reliance on renewable energy sources is steadily increasing. While it becomes a challenge to put an exact amount on future impact, one must consider the rate at which technology is developing. Innovations that is reliant on Smart Grid energy production continues to increase every year and shows no sign of ceasing. Because society has grown increasingly reliant on these technologies, it would be nearly impossible to function at a sufficient rate without them. In support of a more environmentally conscious society, Smart Grid technologies utilize the notion of education for consumers. An example of this would be the use of advanced metering to calculate environmental footprints. Louisville, Kentucky is the first North American state that adds a customer's carbon cost to their utility bill (Zheng 1). By educating individuals on what they contribute to the environmental crisis, Smart Grid technologies are on track to make a huge impact. Individual responsibility becomes collective and results continue to portray such philosophies. Because Smart Grid technologies operate on information on consumer habits, important information is generated and shared.

A study conducted by the GOOD association partnered with IBM forecasts an analysis, which projects reductions in American energy consumption if the Smart Grid is fully employed by 2030. Analyzing a plethora of Smart Grid technological mechanisms, this study projected the percentage of carbon emissions that are projected to reduce as well as the metric tons per year. A common mechanism known as the Smart Meter is said to reduce carbon emissions by a total of 3 percent every year. This percentage equates to 92 million metric tons saved per year. Because smart meters are able to effectively monitor electrical distribution and storage, these mechanisms organize information and provide feedback on how efficiently electricity is being delivered to the consumer. Technology like this is a way to correct inefficiency, thus resulting in less energy used and wasted. A second mechanism would be the ability of the Smart Grid to produce more efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting. Paired with an efficient utility system, these projects are primarily based off of basic electrical uses primarily in the private sector. Assuming that industries will continue to refine and create more environmentally conscious appliance for household use, a combination of common efficient appliances is used to calculate this specific forecast. Utilizing all these systems efficiently, it is projected 3 percent will be saved annual with a total of 90 million metric tons saved. A third mechanism is the Smart Grid’s ability to optimize voltage distribution to reduce losses and end-use consumption. Monitoring power surges and delivering real time information to electric distribution centers is a way the Smart Grid utilizes technology to provide instant feedback. This feedback results in increased regulation, and provides information on problems commonly associated with high peak electrical delivery to further establish an increasingly efficient system. This mechanism is projected to reduce emissions by 2 percent annually with a savings of 59 million metric tons.

It said that with full utilization of Smart Grid technologies, by the year 2030 carbon emissions in the United States will be reduced by over 12 percent annually with a reduction of 360 million metric tons every year (GOOD/IBM 1). The collective number project is seen to have a significant impact on the natural environment, however, it is important to remember that simply using Smart Grid technologies to generate renewable electricity is not the way this number is achieved. Because much of the carbon emission is currently generated by vehicle use, the relationship between Smart Grid technologies and electric vehicles is highlighted. Just as important as electrical generation is, the most important issue to remember is how electricity is used by the population and which steps are necessary to ensure outside technologies positively correlate with the philosophies behind renewable energy production. Fossil fuels generated by driving traditional vehicles continue to pollute the atmosphere and damage fragile environmental systems beyond repair. Creating an emphasis on driving electric cars is a way in which carbon emissions are reduced in high volumes. It is apparent how important and influential transportation and vehicles are in American culture, thus the opportunity to introduce efficient electric vehicles at lower costs is introduced. Understanding the relationship between Smart Grid energy production and the systems that use this resource is important when reviewing environmental mitigation strategies.

Because the Smart Grid operates on efficiency, projections like the one mentioned above become possible. Simply employing cleaner and faster systems, the impact on the natural environment is greatly reduced. Without the utilization of new technologies, the carbon emission levels will surely continue to climb. As this number grows, as will the expense associated to clean up the environment and continue to produce electricity using non-renewable energy sources. It is the goal of Smart Grid technologies that eventually such technologies will not only be applied to electricity, but similar technologies will regulate water, agricultural and other necessary resources to sustain the planet. Operating on real time information is a huge asset in the fight to protect the natural environment and mitigate the processes of climate change. It is apparent that in order to see a significant change in environmental impact, the full components of the Smart Grid must be used on a national level. While individual mechanisms do make a difference in their own right, a collective effort is needed to make a significant change to counteract the impacts of the increasing levels of carbon emissions found in the natural environment. The forecasted trends of Smart Grid technologies in relation to the natural environment do look positive, however, there is much work to be done in order for these technologies to make a large impact. Through the processes of collective effort, new legislation and increasing emphasis on education, it is likely there will be a positive influence between the Smart Grid and environmental sustainability.


The Government plays an important role in the promotion of Smart Grid technologies within the United States. Without government support, there will not be enough funding and resources to fully launch Smart Grid technologies on a national level. Because there is such a high expectation from governmental entities to endorse sustainable resource production, Smart Grid technologies are often utilized within these institutions. The movement of the Smart Grid phenomenon is seen on many levels; perhaps most intriguing is the way in which the U.S Government represents and embraces this movement. President Obama was quoted in 2010 as saying "Each of us has a part to play in the new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs—but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation—workers and entrepreneurs; scientist and citizens; the public and private sectors."

Initiatives within the White House do support the acceleration of alternative energy sources because it is universally known that these technologies are necessary for human survival. Because the United States is trying to repair its image of being a highly consumptive country, ideas like the Smart Grid are tools that help guide lawmakers in making better and more efficient decisions for the citizens and natural environment. Being that the United States uses the most resources on a global scale, using and promoting renewable energy technologies is the only long-term solution for the rate at which the nation consumes. In order to sustain the demand of resources within this country, it's vital for such technologies to be employed and endorsed by the highest governmental institutions.

What are government policies on the utilization of Smart Grid systems?

It is only in recent years that the U.S. government has invested a significant interest in the promotion and use of renewable energy technologies. Because global analysis concludes that Global Warming is a great threat for the future of human existence, there is much pressure from the public to change outdated policies in the United States. It has become evident that policy change will need to occur on a large scale, and the reevaluation of existing policies is a necessary step to fully ensure that the U.S. is operating on a sustainable level. Because the United States relies heavily on foreign commerce transactions, many operations and laws stem beyond local transactions. The United States serves as a foundation for foreign economic and political processes, consequently much of the legislation developed and used within the U.S. can often serve as a basis in regards to international political systems. Likewise, the United States adopts foreign policies as a means to learn from foreign government systems and how such laws influence the general population. The basis of political investment and policy naturally correlates with the need to protect local citizens first and foremost. Addressing the problems, which plague the citizens of the United States is of prime importance and is often addressed in new legislation regarding the Smart Grid movement.

To understand the processes and origins of common Smart Grid policies in the U.S., it is important to look at how the term Smart Grid is defined within these entities. "The federal government defines the smart grid as a dynamic system where the generation, distribution, and use of electricity are tied together in a real-time demand relationship. Cyber secure 'smart' technologies for metering, communications concerning grid operations and status, and distribution automation inform this demand relationship"(Ames 1). The definition created by the Government for the Smart Grid is found under Title XIII, section 1301, of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Because the American government considers itself such a major stakeholder within the Smart Grid movement, a request for information (RFI) which seeks stakeholders input on how to overcome policy challenges was issued by the government (Ames 1). Programs such as RFI are a way in which the government communicates with all sectors in an effort to purse the development of more efficient systems and processes.

The White House released a report titled "A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future." The purpose of this report is to specify Smart Grid initiatives and fiscal investments to support them. The report also aims to monitor and guide new energy policy and allocates federal budget funds to different areas of the energy plan. It is noted that the plan is a framework for the implementation of efficient technology as a means to secure cyber threats from invading Smart Grid systems as well as giving more control and information to the consumers (GOV 1). The objective of this plan unveiled in the summer of 2011, is to update the current electric grid system and accelerate the use of Smart Grid technologies across the United States. As part of this initiative, it is stated in the plan that a 250 million dollar loan will be funded by the Recovery Act as an investment to over 140 Smart Grid technology projects in an effort to see the full results of these technologies. Because the government views Smart Grid technologies and the sustainability movement as a means to bring in new investment and job opportunities for citizens, it is outlined in the Recovery Act the importance of these investments.

There are a total of four main goals in the report. The first involves enabling innovation. The plan outlines the ways in which the government will accomplish this goal. The ways in which this goal is to be accomplished requires a unified compliance from various sectors within the government, public and private sectors. The Government vows to support these innovative industries and continuing developing policy and funding in order to provide a foundation for this research. The second goal aims to increase investment to modernize the grid and help cut utility bills. Primarily the issue of fiscal funding is addressed. Given the current economic state and the goals of the recovery act itself, the 250 million dollar investment was deemed appropriate for specific Smart Grid technologies currently in need of such funding. The third goal seeks to give consumers more reliable information and greater control over the way they use energy. Through this initiative the reliance on real-time communication is addressed. Understanding the importance of this communication not only reduces the amount of energy consumed, but also saves the consumer money on an individual basis. Being aware of individual consumption and responsibility places a new emphasis on energy conservation and often leads to greater social changes. The last goal of the plan is to protect against cyber attacks on the grid system. Because so much of these technologies rely on real-time communication, the threat of virtual and cyber attacks now exists. Given the recent cyber hacking events, which plagued many corporations, it is agreed that these attacks must be mitigated and protected against (Executive Office 1-108).

An example of a piece of Smart Grid legislation would be the e-KNOW Bill recently passed in congress. The bill is known to be a provision, which requires electric providers to make consumer’s electricity usage available to them through electronic form. If the consumers have Smart Meters, they would be granted full access to any information gathered by the specific meter and would have access in at least 48 hours after the utility company received the information from the device. If consumers do not have a smart meter, they are still granted access to all information 48 hours after the data is received from the source. Through this bill all retail electric providers are mandated to hold and retain any information for at a minimum of 13 months after the date the data was recorded. Consumers also have the right to authorize third parties access to this information. This bill is a way that the government can insure consumers and providers have direct communication and record throughout the business relationship. This is a means of giving consumers a better insight into the amount of energy they consume and help to create specialized plans for consumers in order to save resources and money. This legislation coincides with the popular theme of real-time communication found in many of the newest Smart Grid technologies (Simchak 1).

Through national influence, how are local governments striving to promote efficient energy systems for future generations?

To fully analyze this idea, one must look at specific government agencies. The state of Arizona is an example of local government, working directly with Smart Grid technologies and aiming to improve quality of life through the utilization of renewable energy industries. The urban planning aspect of local government and energy delivery and consumption is correlated on a direct level, often acting as a catalyst for the other. While there is much to be said about national governmental policies, often times the direct action of such policies can be seen in local government institutions. Because the public has access to these institutions, it is important to the national government that smaller localized government institutions accurately represent the policies that are being managed and created in the White House. The goal for local government is to set an example for the surrounding community and show the real applications of Smart Grid technologies in an effort to make bigger changes in the community. Because policy is so instrumental in the creation of Smart Grid systems, public support is absolutely essential. There is no stronger way to show people the benefits of Smart Grid systems than by actually using them and making those results a part of public entities. Through projects aimed at Arizona communities, local government works with federal agencies to provide funding and resource in an effort to expand Smart Grid systems on a local level.

Any example of this would be the Arizona Cooperative grid modernization. The purpose of this program is to upgrade traditional electric grid systems in three different institutions in Arizona (Southwest Transmission 1). The first institution is referred to as the Southwest Transmission Cooperative (SWTC) and is considered to be the largest sector of the project. Alongside SWTC two distribution systems are also involved known as Mohave Electric Cooperative (MEC) and Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC). Through the support of local government entities, SWTC is installing micro-processor-based protective relies and monitors for the equipment. These technologies are said to make systems more efficient by providing real time communication to distributors as well as to monitor equipment in the fields, ensuring that all activity is working efficiently with minimal outside threat. MEC is following suit and as a response to the collaborations of SWTC is replacing thousands of outdating electric grid meters with smart meters as a means to expand a communications network.

Replacing outdated electric meters ensures that all systems operate on an efficient level, as well as providing direct feedback to consumers and distributors. Facilitating smart meters is a relatively easy way to achieve this goal and set a standard for Smart Grid technologies working along side these new systems. As a result of both the projects of SWTC and MEC, the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative is implementing a technology known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) as means to automate distribution. Advanced metering is a way in which distributors are able to monitor and automate electrical distribution as a means to save money and resource in getting the product to the local consumer. This project is part of a Recovery Act program created by the U.S. Government as a means to update outdated grid system and save money for the state as a result. The federal share invested in this project is projected at over 32 million dollars ( 1).

Paired with the Arizona Cooperative Grid Modernization project is the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District. Both of these projects are employed under the Recovery Act Smart Grid Program as means to create jobs and expand the Smart Grid across the country. The Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District's Advanced Data acquisition and Management Program involves the installation of smart meters, supporting infrastructure and the advancement of service option for consumers ( 2). The goal is ensure that all SRP consumers are receiving smart meter technology as a means to monitor individual consumption of resource. Although many SRP consumers do utilize Smart Grid systems, the purpose of this project is to make the use of Smart Grid meters a universal concept in the company, and aims to distribute these technologies at a low cost to existing and new consumers. Through this project SRP expects the smart meters to reduce costs and field service visits by employees as a means to lower vehicle emission costs and reduce the cost of energy for consumers. By reducing the need to manually monitor and gather information, the company predicts the amount of money saved will directly influence its customers and in turn reduce electrical rates. The budget for this project is estimated at over 114 million dollars with a federal share of approximately 57 million dollars. The funds associated with this project are expected to cover the costs of hiring additional workers and developing infrastructures to support new Smart Meter technologies. The distribution of such technologies and installation fees are also seen within the total budget of the project.

Another local project facilitated by local government agencies is known as the Navajo Tribal Utility Association Smart Grid Project. The Navajo Tribe works directly with government officials to plan and execute this plan with the use of federal funding as a means to expand new technology infrastructure and mitigate current outdated grid systems in the area. The location of the project is in Ft. Defiance, Arizona and is expected to receive nearly 5 million dollars in federal funding to develop a Smart Grid system. Through the U.S Department of Energy's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Navajo Tribal Utility was selected as 100 companies to receive the stimulus. The purpose of choosing the institutions that were to receive the federal funds was picked on the basis of need from the communities in question as well as the projected future value of the initial requested investments. Areas in need of renewed infrastructure and job opportunities for citizens were considered for the stimulus funding. The goal of this project is to install a Smart Grid network paired with a data management system for approximately 38,000 consumers in the area. The project is projected to serve not only the local community, but provide access and service for surrounding communities as a means to created a Smart Grid hub in an area that typically replies on outside energy resources. Local government is said to facilitate this project on the basis of reducing the reliance on outside resources and promoting renewable energies in areas that struggle on economic and social levels. The project is expected to services areas in New Mexico and Utah and is projected to be valued at nearly 10 million dollars upon completion.


While much of the philosophy behind Smart Grid innovation revolves around the idea of climate change and sustainability, community involvement has played a vital role in such development from the very beginning. Because Smart Grid philosophy relies on a collective strategy for implementation and use, the smaller communities within this realm often act as the engine or "drive" behind the evolution of such systems. Without the support of smaller communities, implementing Smart Grid technologies does little to aid the American public and further creates a gap between public and private institutions. The basics of the Smart Grid is built upon the idea of preservation of earth and community, thus creating the need for community involvement and support. Smart Grid technologies act as an economic catalyst and support systems for a community in desperate need of infrastructure and jobs. Because so many citizens are struggling in the current economic times, the need for reliance on efficient energy systems increase as does the awareness of those who use these systems. Perhaps most importantly is the idea of larger private institutions working directly with the community sector to create a sense of mutual understanding and the goal of future preservation and sustainable efforts. While there is certainly money to be made from a corporate standpoint, a large part of this involvement relies on the idea of saving money for consumers as a means to not only stimulate the economy but create vital long lasting relationships between the public realm and private institutions. The sense of trust and security, which comes out of these relationships further catalyzes the necessary advancement of renewable energy systems and aids in educating the public. The role of small community interaction is one closely related to most any process involved within Smart Grid implementation, and continues to support and grow as these systems evolve.

How can members of the community utilize Smart Grid technologies?

One way that members of the community are encouraged to utilize Smart Grid technologies is by investing in efficient energy technologies. An example of this would be driving plug-in electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are not commonly referred to as "EVs". Since the sustainable movement began, hybrid vehicle industries have been targeting middle class consumers in the race to create a hybrid vehicle market through demand of the public. Through utilizing more efficient vehicles, which operate primarily on electricity, the need for wasteful production and nonrenewable energy consumption decreases significantly. "EVs can reduce CO2 emissions over 30 percent given the current US grid mix" (GE 1). These decreases lead to less infrastructure in supporting production and can be seen as decrease in overall production costs. While electric vehicles are still a relatively new concept, the potential and innovation continues to expand every year and relies on important input from consumers.

The concept of the electric vehicle operates on a cycle of steps in regards to proving the validity of its purpose. EVs are said to be powered by renewable energies such as solar and wind. Production of EVs traditionally use lightweight materials and operates on the notion of sustainable production and consumption. The role of the smart grid transmits information between the utility providers and "charging stations" which is said to allow consumers to manage vehicle costs. Through using real-time technologies, communication between manufacturers and consumers results in personalized energy consumption information and gives a more efficient account as to the amount of energy consumed. Companies such as General Electric (GE) are said to provide infrastructure such as transformers and sub-meters to support the influx of electric vehicles. These technologies aid in common problems associated with electric vehicles and provide support and new infrastructure for these systems. From the residential standpoint, it is said that by plugging in an EV into a standard household outlet (traditionally 120 V) the charge for the vehicle will be significantly faster. Some systems have Internet connections integrated, further recording energy usage in communication with energy providers. Through a full charged battery, the electric vehicle is said to travel up to 100 miles before needing to be recharged again, which takes approximately 4 to 8 hours. As the use of electric vehicles increases, commercial charging stations will be built as a means to promote the use of EVs (Electric Drive Transportation Association). The cycle of electric vehicles not only saves money for consumers, but practices efficient energy practices in conjunction to the Smart Grid movement. Such systems are catalysts for further sustainable practices on a personal and community level.

What are real life examples of community sustainability projects working with Smart Grid technologies?

An example of a community sustainability project in regards to Smart Grid technologies would be the Pecan Street Project in the Mueller community of Austin, Texas. For the project 100 residents volunteered to have Incenergy's Home Smart Grid System installed in their homes. Incenergy has agreed to provide these homes with energy efficient appliances and monitors as a means to research the benefits and organic processes of these systems over the course of one year. Project team members include Incenergy, Austin Energy, Texas Gas Service, Environmental Defense fund, the city of Austin and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. This system is designed to capture electric and gage use on six major appliances for a minute-by-minute analysis. The study also gathers data from 10 homes that are powered by solar system on their rooftops. The project is divided into two phases. The first phase will use the data collected to design appliances, systems and EVs for the second phase of the project. The second phase of the project tests the use of these new innovations on over 1,000 homes and 75 businesses in the area (Stevens & Lee 1). The phases within this project start out relatively small and focus on smaller community operations, but ultimately are designed to advance out further and impact the community on a much larger scale by involving larger private institutions.

The purpose of the Smart Grid Task Force project is essentially to understand the needs of the customer database. Through monitoring the every day use of appliances in typical households, researchers have a better understanding as to where the energy is used and how to design systems, which operate on efficiency for the consumer. This is a means to promote Smart Grid technologies and show homeowners the benefits of using more efficient appliances and mechanisms. The project aims to connection consumers and innovators in a way, which promotes a healthy consumer-provider relationship and sets a standard for the competition. Austin Energy is known as a Smart Grid success story and has deployed over 400,000 smart meters to its consumers. Austin Energy credits its extensive communication and outreach effort for the success of the systems within the community. Through the relationship and care that private institutions like Austin Energy shows towards the community, a further sense of trust and respect is established between these two realms and further aids in the promotion of Smart Grid energy systems. Understanding the importance of community support and dedication is a key component in distributing these technologies and making a larger difference on a global level.

How do local governments work with the community to promote and apply "Smart Grid" technologies?

The role of local government correlates closely with the community sustainable movement, and the use of new innovative technologies. Through offering incentives and educational programs, local government often becomes the catalyst for Smart Grid development on a community level. An example of this would be the work that is being done in San Jose California. The Silicon Valley Leadership group paired with the City of San Jose and PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) formulated a partnership known as the Silicon Valley Smart Grid Task Force. The purpose of this project is to understand the impacts Smart Grid technologies and infrastructure has on economic development. PG&E president Chris Johns quotes "The leaders coming together to create this task force understand the direct connection between creating a high-tech electric grid and answering the energy, environmental and economic challenges of the 21st century. Consumers, businesses, government and communities all share a stake in its success, and the task force represents a new and important way for us to work together towards this vision." According to the Department of Energy, it is estimated that integrating Smart Grid technologies into existing grid systems will save an estimated 36 billion dollars by 2025 through economic gain and distributed generation (PR News Wire 1). The role that private and public offices play relate closely together in a collective project such as the Silicon Valley Smart Grid Task Force, and requires extensive support from local government entities. Working along with private entities is Mayor Chuck Reed who quotes "As mayor, my role is to keep San Jose residents aware and educated about the technology changes that can help our homes and businesses become more energy efficient. This task force’s effort will help achieve a smooth transition to this new technology for the people of San Jose." The researched gathered from this study is finding that if all U.S households lowered their energy consumption by at least 15% through the use of more efficient energy systems, by 2020 an average of $360 would be saved per consumer every year. The money saved alone in this process is a means to stimulate economic growth and encourage spending in business and retail sectors (PR News Wire 2). The importance of this program is to show other communities across the United States that local government does in fact support private research and study when it comes to providing the best services and support to the public realm. Instead of adding additional political hurdles for private institutions to jump, government offices can work closely with these groups and help with providing fiscal and public support.


Innovation relies heavily on education and without the use of academic institutions; the ways in which research is conducted would greatly suffer. The resources granted within University based entities are vital in the success of Smart Grid research and development. Without the knowledge acquired from research and study, there would be no innovation or progression in Smart Grid innovation. Education has been of prime importance in the development of Smart Grid technologies, before the theory was even developed. Educating the young and old about current events and occurrences creates the foundation for sustainable awareness and serves as a basis for professional development. The benefits of creating Smart Grid infrastructure are many, but one in particular involves the need for professionals to manage and upgrade these systems. Because of the requirement of new infrastructure systems, educated and creative young professionals are greatly needed. Innovators and creative young professionals play a significant role in the development and idea behind significant Smart Grid innovation and fuel the concept of sustainable design and renewable energy philosophies. Through providing adequate education and services, students have the opportunity to involve themselves in the Smart Grid movement. Education also branches into the realms of community outreach and public education. It is no surprise that education is fundamental for change and the Smart Grid is no exception. Understanding the ways students are being educated gives further insight to where the Smart Grid idea will go, as well as the extent to which the community will embrace these ideas.

What are schools and universities doing to educate students on "Smart Grid" technologies?

While education is found in a variety of setting and situations, an important part of the institution often happens in the academic setting. In regards to educating people on what Smart Grid technologies mean for the social and environmental world, much can be taught within the classroom. Whether the curriculum is based towards the younger generation of students or on a professional graduate level, the message remains relatively the same and the importance of investing and expanding upon renewable energy technologies is of prime importance. Through educating students, the knowledge translated often leads to better decisions and can often influence a younger generation to be part of the Smart Grid and sustainable movement. This education not only informs students, but also seeks to inspire young adults to want to make a difference and help create a more sustainable planet for their children. While academic education is important, the value of public education remains equally important. Through educating the public, families are informed to make decisions that could be financially beneficial as well as a means to teach younger family members of the importance surrounding the ideas of renewable energies and sustainable technologies.

A way in which Smart Grid education can be brought into the classroom setting can be seen through example set forth by the Silver Springs Network. Silver Spring Networks and the Education Development Center is creating an educational program focusing on helping the general public understand the benefits of Smart Grid technologies and how this technologies impact the community and global populations. Jesse Berst of Silver Spring Networks says "Everyone in the industry is spouting the platitude that we have to engage consumers and educate them about the potential of the smart grid. But Silver Spring Networks is one of the few companies that are stepping up to the challenge. By spending to create and promote a smart grid curriculum, it is helping to grow the industry for all of us." While the program aids to educate the general public, the initial phases of the program are being tested in two high schools in California as well as two high schools in Ohio. The curriculum is titled A Smart Energy Future claiming to have no cost to educators and is designed to help teachers and students understand Smart Grid concepts and the challenges faced with traditional grid systems. The program is designed in two major sections. The first section aims to help student understands the basics of what the Smart Grid philosophy is and educate the students on the problems in which Smart Grid technologies are designed to addressed. The second part of the curriculum is designed to help students teach others about Smart Grid technologies. Students are to prepare their own materials as a way to outreach to the community as well as family and friends and educate the public on the Smart Grid.

One of the greatest education benefits is the construction of specialized institutions, which directly aim to educate people on Smart Grid innovation. An example of this would be the Robert. W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation and the construction of word-class IIT Smart Grid Education and Workforce Training Center based at the Illinois Institute of Technology. This facility is said to be cutting edge and transforms the idea of the Smart Grid into a tangible possibility for all students and public visitors of the center. "The center will provide various 'webinars' on various topics including smart rid, sustainability, electric vehicles, wind energy generation, and others. These 'webinars' will be available through the channels of education through the center and also for general public education and awareness"(Galvin Center 1). This institution is designed on a multi level training program and is intended to instill knowledge for the community as well as provide a foundation for those interested in pursing Smart Grid technologies on a professional level. The center also highlights in the professional training program offered as a means to train upcoming professionals in the field and insure that the newest innovations within the Smart Grid research sector are correctly taught and instilled within these professionals. The IIT Smart Grid Education and Workforce Training center designs and implements curriculum on university, early education, public education, technical certification and professional training levels. Such structure is designed to provide a service to all facets of the community and focus on education so the public can make better decisions in regards to energy consumption as well as increase the awareness of the energy problems society faces.

What are the popular University studies being conducted to better understand "Smart Grid" systems and future trends?

Much of Smart Grid innovative research begins in the University setting conducted by graduate students and professors. Research associated with sustainable technologies can often be seen in scientific academic based study, proceeding to levels of testing and selective phases within professional academic institutions. An example of such studies can be seen through the work at Colorado State University. Colorado State is a unique university in that there is a specialized laboratory called The Grid Stimulation Laboratory operating under the Energy Conversion Laboratory and claims to have the world’s only megawatt-scale physical grid simulation technologies. These technologies a means to stimulate grid systems for the research and testing of new Smart Grid innovations. The primary research conducted in this laboratory facility involves wind energy and how this energy impacts and influences the Smart Grid system. Along with scientific innovations, this branch of research at Colorado State University collaborates with Spirae Inc as a means to fund these projects. The private entity involved within University research aids in the funding and management of the resources involved in the studies. Such studies are published and often tested on a variety of levels within the academic institution. A large part of the research conducted within this university involves testing Smart Grid technologies, which are designed to aid in the current grid system. These technologies are not necessarily influencing the traditional infrastructure of the grid itself, but rather to aid in the problems the traditional grid system possesses. These innovations are a way in which scientists and researchers can aid in blackouts and outside cyber attacks on the grid system. The partnership with Spirae is largely funded by European Utility Companies. The research and innovation conducted within Colorado State University is designed to increase wind energy use in Denmark, which is said to have one of the highest uses of wind power in the world. Through the influence of international trends, it is anticipated these studies and innovations will ground themselves in the American market.

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville was awarded a five year, 18 million dollar award from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to research and help develop sustainable Smart Grid technologies. UT was one of many American universities competing for this funding and the title of having this type of academic and professional research associated with a university. University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek quotes "This award propels UT to the frontlines both domestically and internationally of smart-grid research. We have the leading experts and the sophisticated tools to develop the transformational technology that will make our power grid greener, safer, and smarter." This award marks the first time in which University of Tennessee has led in a NSF Engineering research Center project and the first time in which ERC is planning to address power transmission systems. The goal of this study is to analyze the inefficiencies within these systems and design Smart Grid based technologies as a means to mitigate these issues. Through a lengthy selection process and a critique of universities all over the nation, the University of Tennessee was chosen as recipient of this money and the prime facilitator of this branch of funded research. The award is deemed especially rare due to the fact that only 33 American Universities have received this funding since the program was established in 1984 (Meters 1). The new center is referred to as Center of Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT) and revolves are academics, industry and national based laboratories. CURENT is a way in which undergraduate and professional students can work alongside professors and researchers to gain valuable research experience and learn first hand the impacts of Smart Grid technologies in real world situations (Meters 2). The application promoted within this institution reaches into the community sector and creates a new platform for renewable technologies.


From looking at multiple studies and economic trends, one would make the assumption that electricity is a vital part in sustaining the human race. Because society has become so intricately wrapped in the operation of electric technologies, the basis of society and cultural progression relies on the resource of electricity. From this understanding, it's apparent that such a resource must be protected and given the opportunity to evolve as surely as the world does. Electricity is one of the most valuable assets on the planet, and it is in the best interest of the human population to continue investing in the extraction and production of such a vital resource. Understanding that traditional grid systems no longer support the demand of the population, Smart Grid technologies are vital for the growing demand of electricity. Continuing to implement out dated systems will not only cost more money to maintain, but will eventually become overloaded all together. "Today's electrical system is 99.97% reliable, yet still allows for power outages and interruptions that cost Americans at least $150 billion each year—about $500 for every man, woman and child"(U.S. Department of Energy 9). No longer will production of the current electrical system be as efficient nor will the health and safety of citizens be guaranteed. Understanding that electrical production is a grave concern should be a priority for any citizen interested in the survival of future generations. The simple idea exists that as long as society and industries continue to thrive and grow, so must the resources, which sustain them. As seen within the research presented, large corporations and government institutions are not necessarily the biggest catalyst behind Smart Grid technologies. While government policies such as the Energy Independence and Security Act are certainly a step forward in the promotion of more efficient electric production, the most influential sector responsible is the American public. Understanding how to shift the perspective on investing in new technologies begins on a community level with an emphasis in education, and utilization of community based electric grid technologies. An example of this is found through the exploration of "Microgrid" systems and the positive impact that producing enough energy to sustain smaller communities has on overall grid patterns and electrical conservation.

Smart Grid initiatives, as seen in studies conducted by various national universities, play an intricate role in the lives of young professionals. From the research to the application, the shift in energy education is a fundamental component, which has changed greatly. From an urban planning perspective, a heavy emphasis on renewable energy technology and its use is stressed in the classroom. Students are expected to apply such technologies and concepts in the public realm, and understand the philosophy behind them. Smart Grid emphasized curriculum focuses on the importance of renewable energies and gives insight to the careers around these ideas. Renewable energies are not only seen as a means to mitigate growing climate problems, but are offering fast growing careers as well as continuing to provide jobs for citizens. A prime example would be the study of large-scale energy storage for power plants at the University of New York. Students and researchers work on the storage of unused energy and the development of high performance systems to dispense energy in large volume power plants (Catell 3). Through this education, a new generation is created. The new realm of focus is on the idea that sustainable energy production and storage is a necessary part of society. Evolving trends morph from the idea of extracting nonrenewable resources, to creating resources and storing them for future use. One may argue the mindset has changed from "What can my planet give me?" to "What can I give my planet?" The problem of climate change is undeniable, and civilization is realizing that adapting to these changes is going to be an issue that impacts every person on the planet in the near future. While some do not feel the direct impacts of the problem yet, it is inevitable that these changes will impact the planet as a whole. With this in mind, Smart Grid technologies aim to sustain the resources that are left on the planet with the hope that it is indeed possible to produce enough resources to sustain the population for as long as possible.

As the economic downturn continues to grip America, it's necessary to remember that during times of financial hardship, investing in industries which fuel not only the economy but also provide for basic human needs is one that gives nearly an immediate rate of return for citizens. Under the implementation of Smart Grid systems, it is quoted "U.S. generating plants can make up 16% more electricity than they expect to need even on the hottest summer day" (Levinson 2). Through the utilization of Smart Grid technologies, citizens now have the power to produce and even sell energy to larger corporations. While the initial investment does require a substantial amount of funding, it has been argued the profits associated with such technology surpass any initial cost. Understanding that electricity is a core foundation for the function of American society is one that is necessary to remember during challenging economic times. While many have made the decision to cut out excess resources from their lives, one of the few basic requirements for life and continued health is electricity. It is unlikely a citizen would cut out electricity from their life as means to save money, given the dependence of this resource. The reality is, there is no sure way to function without the use of electricity in the modern world. Granted there is always the notion of reducing the use of consumption, which is an admirable feat to accomplish; however, acknowledging that electricity is just as vital as most any other basic resource is one that is commonly understood in developed societies. The amount of money and resource that is lost due to black outs and power outages has an immense impact on the economy. An example of this cited by the United States Department of Energy is in 2000 when a one-hour power outage resulted in 20 trillion dollars worth of trade delayed at the Board of Trade in Chicago. This example is one that expresses the close integration of electricity and economic processes. Economic functions rely heavily on the use of electricity and depend on these systems to maintain themselves constantly. The aspect of finance is one that is of major concern for the United States, however it's necessary to remember that without such a resource, society and its' supporting industries will fail. It's in the best financial interest of the United States to invest in Smart Grid technologies despite the economic downturn. Sustaining the human population should be the number one concern worldwide. Without a planet there is no need for finance!

Not only does investing in smarter, more efficient technologies sustain the human population, it's much better for the health of the planet. Because climate change is such a dominant issue, people are reevaluating the ways in which they consume nonrenewable resources on the planet. Understanding that the planet is in danger from rising temperatures and increased pollution is the first step in mitigating this ongoing problem. Newer technologies are a key strategy in delaying or possibly solving the problems associated with climate change. While the change of the earths' climate is inevitable, there are many proven ways to delay this change and perhaps repair some of the damage that has been done. The planet contains all of our most valuable resources and it is impossible to extract such resources without technology. The next step in understanding this is to research and create technologies that will work for the human population, but most importantly for the planet. Smart Grid technologies operate under the basis of creating renewable energies and using minimal resource to accomplish this. Utilizing natural, bountiful resources such as wind and solar rays are ways to solve some of the problems with the traditional grid system. Investing in technologies, which utilize every available resource is absolutely vital for the protecting the planet, as well as generating additional resource for the growing population.

The planet is by far the most valuable asset human beings have. Understanding that the population will continue to increase, and resources will be stressed to meet that demand is a fact, which becomes a foundation for the Smart Grid philosophy. Whether mitigation occurs in the public realm or the private realm, the significance of such processes still exists. Perhaps the key in the investment of renewable technologies is to understand the importance of education. By making people aware that these resource problems do exist and are a growing threat against society, the acceptance of Smart Grid technologies may increase significantly. If there is an opportunity, backed up with knowledge to aid these projected forecasts, it is in the best interest for any society to embrace such processes. Through researching local processes of the Smart Grid system, the conclusion of such research is incredibly evident. It's safe to predict that traditional grid systems will falter, likely in the near future. Understanding that this forecast is heavily researched and widely believed on a scientific basis, it is extremely important to look for energy alternatives to sustain the planet. The benefits of investing in such technologies far outweigh the risk of fiscal challenges. Smart Grid technologies make sense on an economic level, but most importantly make sense on a collective social level.


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Sierra Coughlin is a senior at Arizona State University pursuing a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Business and Urban Planning. She is a member of IEEE's Society on Social Implications of Technology. Sierra Coughlin places an emphasis on interdisciplinary perspective in regards to renewable energy research and innovation. She strives to develop a career in sustainable development, and continues to examine the philosophy behind the Smart Grid in her academic and professional endeavors.