Opportunity Behind the Smart Grid

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