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Smartening of Power Grid Needed to Reach Clean Energy Goals

Our cars and homes will be constantly communicating with the Power Grid in the future. Smart thermostats can submit data on how much energy is being used or wasted to heat or cool the house. Solar panels will reveal how much energy they have on hand, while electric cars will reveal when and where they charge, as well as how much power they need for their journey.

Solar and electric vehicle batteries might even be willing to give up the energy they’re storing if it’s needed elsewhere. Ben Kroposki, a director at the National Renewable Energy Lab, said, “You just plug it in, and somehow it automatically talks to its nearest neighbors. Hey, I just want to let you know I’m out here. I can provide these kinds of services back.” The foundation of what’s known as a “smart grid” is the conversation.

Smart grids are a two-way street, unlike America’s ageing grid infrastructure, which was designed to send energy in one direction — from Power Grid to homes and businesses. Knowledge and energy are sent back to the grid or to other homes and buildings by homes and buildings. For example, an electric vehicle battery might be able to provide power to a region that is experiencing a blackout.

A smart grid often listens for commands from the utility, allowing it to charge when solar or other renewable energy is at its peak. It’s an easy enough concept that’s been promoted for more than a decade as a way to boost the power sector’s productivity, environmental impact, and resiliency. However, electricity grids have a long way to go before they can be considered “smart.” Under the stressors of climate change and more severe weather, they’ve continued to struggle spectacularly.

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