The Path to Drawdown: Smart Grid
Addressing climate change and staying below 1.5ºC of global temperature increase requires a massive scaling of zero-emission energy sources. Thankfully, renewables like solar and wind are fast expanding their capacity worldwide. But to provide reliable clean energy to every household and organization in the world, we need a smart power grid.
The power grid is the dynamic network of power generation, transmission, distribution, storage, and consumption. But our power grid was designed more than a century ago, when electricity needs were simpler. It relies on a handful of (mostly fossil fuel-based) power stations, and electricity only flows one way from power stations, to transmission stations, and finally to consumers.
This centralized, one-way grid system has outlived its usefulness. It’s economically inefficient because consumers often can’t plan for the fluctuations in the price of electricity throughout the day. It’s vulnerable to blackouts when power lines break or power stations can’t generate enough power to fulfil demand. It doesn’t easily integrate renewables like solar and wind power, whose electricity generation is intermittent.
The smart grid can overcome these weaknesses. By integrating sensors and software to the existing grid, it gives utilities and consumers the data they need to understand and quickly react to changes and the supply and demand of electricity. With smart meters, consumers can plan their electricity usage according to its price, lowering the cost of electricity to households and overall demand during critical periods. Through data and automation, the smart grid can integrate and optimize solar and wind generation, even with their intermittent nature. This also means power generation becomes decentralized and adaptable, reducing the likelihood of blackouts and price fluctuations.