Smart Grid | February 04, 2009 |
How Much Is Enough to Start the Smart Grid?
Creating 280,000 new jobs sounds pretty good right about now. And some large organizations believe it could happen if the United States invests in a somewhat controversial smart grid infrastructure.
The Obama administration is on board and hopes to put $4.5 billion into the economic stimulus package to develop a smart grid. The House of Representatives recommended that amount for the Smart Grid Investment Program, and organizations such as the GridWise Alliance believe that jobs will be created very quickly once the funding is released.
However, that is only a quarter of the funding GridWise suggests is needed to create such large job opportunities. In a report (PDF) published by KEMA and the GridWise Alliance, they anticipate that a potential disbursement of $16 billion in smart grid incentives would act as a catalyst in driving associated smart grid projects worth $64 billion. This would create 280,000 new positions across various categories, of which more than 150,000 will be created by the end of this year. Additional jobs that would be created from smart grid growth include renewable energy source suppliers, distributed generation suppliers of products and services and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles.
The theory goes that if everyone in America had intelligent meters installed in their house that connect to a smart grid, the meters could provide information telling them the best and cheapest times to run a dishwasher or laundry machine. This allows utilities to more effectively manage power plants, which lowers their costs and allows them to use the most energy efficient generating facilities.
They could also return extra energy to the grid when the homeowners getting energy from solar or wind generated more than they needed. Homeowners could recharge electric vehicles during off-peak hours and reduce energy use and greenhouse gases.
That all sounds wonderful. And, of course, no one is against those aspects of the grid. But some believe $4.5 billion is too much to spend on technology that has yet to be fully understood. We’re not sure exactly what can hook up to a smart grid. So should the money be focused on some model projects with a full array of smart gadgets or put into the installation of smart meters in every home in the country? Still, others believe that the more you connect to a network, such as Internet protocol lines, the more valuable it becomes.
One thing is for sure. If we’re going to promote and accommodate renewable energy, the smart grid seems like the most effective and rewarding plan. And whether we approve or disapprove of the way government approaches it (or throws money at it), it looks like experimentation is going to begin. That’s a good thing.
To find out more about smart grids, check out the Department of Energy’s Web site.