Smart grid brings U.S. power into 21st century
Managing energy use at home or work is easier—and cleaner—with a smart grid
In the era of smartphones and touchscreens, our nation’s century-old power grid is ripe for an upgrade.
The smart grid harnesses many of the same digital tools that have modernized internet-based communications. New sensors, wireless technology and “set it and forget it” energy management tools—along with increased access to energy data—enable customers to waste less energy and gain more control over their electricity use and costs.
The outdated grid vs. the smart grid
|Outdated grid||Smart grid|
Flow of energy
|One way, with energy flowing from power plants to homes and businesses.||Multiple ways, allowing people to make and move their own energy. They can also sell the energy they make.|
|Next to none, other than manually turning the lights and appliances on and off.||People can preset—and control by way of smartphones—how and when their home or business uses energy.|
|“Meter readers” manually measure usage monthly. Utilities may only know there’s an outage if a customer reports it.||Sensors continuously track usage, and can detect problems quickly.|
How Pecan Street is helping bring the smart grid home
In their own words: Pecan Street families share what life is like with clean, connected power.
Much of this technology already exists today, but people and policymakers can be reluctant to upgrade without ample data that this new way of powering communities is better.
Solution: Several years ago, EDF partnered with the University of Texas, the City of Austin, Austin Energy and others to create Pecan Street Inc, a consumer-oriented smart grid research lab. About 300 households in Austin’s Mueller neighborhood experience the benefits of the smart grid.
Results: Low-carbon, efficient electricity use is the norm. For air conditioning alone, 38% less energy is used in Mueller’s green-built homes, compared to similar conventional houses in Austin.
Smart grid customer and Austin resident Dale Bulla—who can charge his electric car with the energy from his rooftop solar panels—puts it another way: “I’m driving on sunshine.”
Pecan Street has now expanded to over 1,300 residential participants in locations across 17 states, with more than 2,000 devices being monitored. The data collected by the lab is helping improve policy decisions about clean energy across the country.
What’s needed to bring it to scale?
Primarily, we must remove obsolete rules that govern how power companies operate—rules nearly as outdated as the century-old power grid itself. With the help of projects like Pecan Street, we’re working to fix these laws in several key states where energy demand is highest.