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The Future of Smart Grid

Energy plays an essential role in modern society, permitting systems that meet human needs such as shelter, employment, transportation, and sustenance. In 2018, the U.S. spent $1.3 trillion on energy, or 6.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Spread over the population, annual costs were $3,891 per individual. In Smart power grid concept, energy efficiency or demand response means using less power to perform the same tasks. Demand response is to manage and controlling customer consumption of electricity in response to supply conditions. As the potential of Smart Grid technologies is discussed today, the focus is on how utilities can control energy consumption at homes to shave peak loads, without actually curtailing the power supply.

Current demand response schemes are implemented with commercial as well as residential customers, often through the use of dedicated control systems to shed loads (e.g. boiler, heating cooling systems, etc.) in response to a request by a utility during the peak hours. Demand response can significantly decrease the peak price. Incentives are discussed to get the consumers to allow the utility control over major home appliances.

Demand response incentives can be formal or informal. For example, the utility might create a time diversity-based tariff. Thus, commercial and industrial power users might impose load shedding on themselves at peak hours, or use their own generators to avoid heavy tariff. Smart metering has been implemented in some jurisdictions to provide real-time pricing for all types of users, as opposed to fixed-rate pricing throughout the demand period. In this application, users have a direct incentive to reduce their use at high-demand, high-price periods. Owing to the attitude and lifestyle of people concerning energy, many users are not able to effectively reduce their demand at various times. Automated controls systems exist which are effective. However, security, privacy and convenience concerns accompany these discussions.

Researchers are also making thought provoking developments to control energy consumption at home, however, the methods proposed are too expensive to be feasible, complex, require the appliances to be smart; and thus, neither offer cost effective solution, nor bring in the advantage's utility consumers are looking for. One way to think a simple, innovative, cost effective solution, and overcomes all the shortcomings of the previous solutions. It does not introduce heterogeneity of control, guarantee consumer privacy, and is flexible as it relies on existing communication technologies. Getting consumers to reduce the peak load remained a difficult and daunting goal, mainly because of unavailability of technologies, and the initiative required to change the attitude and lifestyle of people concerning energy. However, with the focus of the industry on defining and conceptualizing the smart grid, and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) initiatives, home energy automation is being extensively studied for energy conservation.

Across the United States, electrical companies quickly started replacing the old-fashioned meters with the electronic smart meters, which capture data such as consumption of electric energy, voltage levels, current, and power factor, and transmit it wirelessly to the company's computers. In 2018, U.S. utility companies had about 86.8 million AMI installations. About 88% of the AMI installations were residential customer installations, and it's not hard to recognize why utility companies like them. The devices eliminate the necessity for the electrician to come and check every house separately, which saves a lot of money. However, more significantly, AMI allow electrical companies to gather to gather near real-time energy usage information on how energy you're consuming and when you're consuming it, which allow them to plan accordingly for the power demand more effectively and regulate pricing profit.

Smart Meter Resistance

If you're a person who buys into the whole idea of a smart power grid and wired future, that all sounds great. However, some people are resisting the installation of smart meters and they do not think this is a great advancement. Many people see that smart meters invade their privacy, making them susceptible to hackers, denies their freedom of choice, and perhaps harmful their health. In some parts of the country, utility companies, can impose monthly penalty for refusing installation of a smart meter. Across the country many people have refused installation of smart meter. For example in Phoenix, Arizona, where a local utility has been installing the meters since the 2005 more than 20,000 people have refused installation. Only two states allow customers to refuse smart meters at no cost: New Hampshire and Vermont. Most states with opt-out programs either require that a customer allow a smart meter to be installed or pay to opt-out.

Health Privacy Concerns

AMI use 2.4 GHz microwave (and 900 MHz) radiation for communications which is what our microwave ovens, Wi-Fi routers and other wireless devices use. The Smart Meters are also on 24/7. The continuing cumulative exposures have been found to be harmful and are not taken this into consideration in the rollout of these devices. Neither the federal government nor grid profiteers have undertaken a single public health study about the long-term health effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation from smart meters. Thus far medical literature is now loaded with peer-reviewed studies about the non-thermal biological effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Smart meter opponent, are concerned that police or other government agencies might obtain smart meter data from electrical companies without a warrant. This is because energy consumption can show whether a person was home or not. Also, this is can be used by thieves to determine when you are home or not.

Sixty percent of U.S. distribution lines have surpassed their 50-year life expectancy, over the next two decades, electrical companies across the U.S. will invest as much as $2 trillion to revolutionize our aging and inefficient energy infrastructure, creating a once-in-a-century opportunity to revolutionize how we generate, distribute and use electricity. Smart Meters enable a utility to provide customers with detailed information about their energy usage at different times of the day, which in turn enables customers to manage their energy use more proactively. Smart Meters are being rolled out nationwide and internationally. Customers with smart meters can save money by carefully watching their energy usage based on the data the meters provide.



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