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Connecting America's Stories: Smart Grid Innovation

May 20th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

A lot of analogies have been made between electricity and broadband as resources that should be accessible by all Americans.  But one of the things that is so exciting about the National Broadband Plan, is that it shows how we can use broadband to modernize that very electrical network – creating a Smart Grid.  Add to that clean energy technology innovations – all connected by broadband and other advanced communications – and the plan will help Americans live greener, cheaper and more efficiently.

Nick Sinai led the team that put together the Energy and Environment section of the plan.

The Department of Energy released a very interesting study showing just how important the Smart Grid is.  In fact, it showed that we could reduce the carbon emissions from the electricity sector by up to 12 percent directly, and 17 percent indirectly, with greater use of Smart Grid communications technologies.

That would be like taking 65 million cars off the road.

Right now, due to a lack of communications technology, energy providers often don’t know a neighborhood has lost power until their customers call them.  Smart Grid technology would add greater intelligence to the infrastructure that is already in place to make our system more reliable, responsive and efficient.

In this video, Nick talks about the potential that broadband communications technology holds for America’s energy future.

If we automate the grid better, we can deliver energy more efficiently and reduce the amount of coal and natural gas that we have to burn that create carbon emissions.

And then the more that we get consumers involved in understanding their energy use, and seeing prices that reflect the cost of providing that power, the more they will shift their usage, or make smarter energy decisions.

Knowledge can truly mean more power.  Giving consumers information about how they are using energy is one of the most exciting innovations in the proposal.  Nick talks about how simple changes could change the way we look at our electric bill.

It’s pretty opaque to the customer.  They don’t know what’s the most efficient, and how much energy they’re really using for an appliance or a flat screen TV.  They just get a bill at the end of the month and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to them.

New technologies, like thermostats that you can adjust from your smart phone, or refrigerators that only make ice at night, will take energy efficiency to another level.  A future powered by smarter grids, homes, and vehicles could change much of the way we live our lives, and could potentially help Americans save on their utility bills. 

Please share your stories of how broadband communications are helping your family conserve energy and save money.  Stay tuned for more in the Connecting America’s Stories blog series, where we will continue connect you with the people who wrote the National Broadband Plan and discuss how it will affect your life.

 

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