Saturday, August 23, 2008

Smart Grid of the Future

• Eventually, the smart grid will let rates fluctuate even more dynamically, depending on conditions. This already happens in wholesale electricity markets, in which power suppliers buy energy from power producers. Now that would extend to the retail level - our homes. The price of electricity would dip when demand is softest, typically at night or on mild days, and rise in periods of strain. This would require appliances to be designed to interact with the smarter electric grid in order to adjust themselves.

• The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has already built and tested controllers that can make these adjustments happen. And over the next decade, it is expected that homes will have appliance controls with a sliding scale. At one end people could choose something like "maximize my ease and comfort." At the other, "save me the maximum amount of money." The highest-conservation settings might lead dishwashers to start only when electricity prices are at their lowest, or when hydro/wind power has kicked in.

• New electric meters coming...