The utility of the smart grid extends well beyond deciding the best time to do our laundry or turn on the dishwasher. The essential benefit is that it enables real-time two-way communication to monitor and control the electric grid. According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO):
- “smart grid technologies collect information along the grid and use that information to operate the grid more effectively … Such information also monitors power quality, electrical flows, and strain on equipment … and reduce the number and severity of unanticipated outages.”
- “Smart grid technologies and services such as smart appliances, smart building technologies, electric vehicle charging stations, in-home generators and storage facilities will allow consumers to automatically respond to price signals and use electricity more efficiently.”
- “smart grids also help utilities accommodate more local, renewable generation on their distribution networks whether it’s a small-scale biogas generator at a landfill dump or a solar panel on the roof of an apartment building.”
- “Smart grids also enable the electrification of the transportation sector by providing the supporting infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles.”
- “In the longer term ‘microgrids’ could develop which allow large institutions, neighbourhoods or remote communities to operate self-sufficiently, isolated from the broader power system. In the case of a power outage, a local neighbourhood could be isolated from the rest of the system and share power amongst itself from their in-home generators and EV batteries.”
Did you notice those key words – in-home generators, storage facilities, renewable generation? From a community perspective, it means our homes, businesses, institutions and even our vehicles can be generators of revenue, as well as energy consumers. Research is continuing on electric vehicle-to-grid (V2G) connectivity so that parked electric vehicles can be used as a temporary load leveling energy source as well. Vehicle owners would be credited for the energy used.
- In spring of 2011, Ontario had 25,000 microFiT projects in development, totalling more than 200 MW of supply