There has recently been a lot of talk in the media and debate by government officials about the “smart grid”. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocates billions of dollars in incentives for research and funding of projects that demonstrate smart grid technologies. Even though it has been researched at universities and discussed in many scientific journals and industry publications for more than a decade, there is still no clear industry definition or agreement of what the smart grid is.
The electric power industry describes it as “electricity with a brain”, or as a “self-healing” grid.
Some utilities are promoting the smart grid as the application of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to the existing grid, which simply means more intelligent meters and control devices that are consumer interactive. The idea is that smarter customer control devices will receive signals from the grid and process this information based on the customer’s real demand, then make decisions that will save energy by switching some of the consumer loads off during peak demand hours.
This paper summarizes the United States Federal Government’s vision for the smart grid, as well as the tools utilized, the opportunities created and challenges faced.