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A growing selection of energy efficient products have been spreading throughout this industry worldwide.
In the United States market, natural gas and clean power are chipping away at the coal industry. The Smart House: Xcel Energy's Smart House would include a smart meter, applicances, thermostat, high-speed connections and a plug-in for a hybrid electric car. SmartGridCity customers can view energy savings, calculate hours of backup power and adjust temperature settings online.
How information technology will make America's electrical system cleaner, more efficient and more reliable. Val and Bud Peterson are passionate about saving electricity — a seemingly hard thing to pull off given their lifestyle. That’s because their house is part of “SmartGridCity,” the nation’s first fully integrated smart grid system, organized by Xcel Energy of Minneapolis, Minn. And though consumers like the Petersons feel good about their savings, they’re getting a lot of help from power companies with vested interests in increasing reliability, improving service and saving money.
Power companies can avoid some such catastrophes by keeping vegetation around their lines more closely trimmed.
Building more power plants could create the additional electrical capacity needed for peak hours.
Smart grid systems, however, use information technology to help avoid that waste, telling companies via advanced transformers and meters when they can reduce electricity supply to certain households because demand is low, or even when to borrow electricity from those households because demand in other areas is high.
The smart grid technology in Bud and Val Peterson’s house allows the couple to use energy when it’s needed, save it for later when it’s not, use it to charge their car, or even send it back to the energy company. Xcel has also given the Petersons a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which, in addition to getting 54 miles to the gallon, actually builds up energy in its own lithium ion batteries from braking. The Petersons’ electric bill is paid for by the University of Colorado, so Val doesn’t know exactly how much money she and Bud have saved over the course of the program. The Arfmanns do not have a plug-in electric hybrid or lithium battery storage like the Petersons. Seeing a detailed account of their electricity use was enough to spur the Arfmanns to action.
And with the help of solar panels on their roof that provide real-time power to the house, the Arfmanns even produce an extra 1,000 kilowatt-hours each year that they can sell back to the grid. Research suggests that Dennis Arfmann’s conscience and Val Peterson’s competitiveness are worth taking advantage of. The Petersons, the Arfmanns and likely many other households across Boulder are pleased with their energy savings. Colorado’s total electricity load demand is growing 2 percent per year while its peak demand is growing 2.2 percent per year, according to a 2007 report by the California Public Utilities Commission. At the same time, power companies face looming pressure from state governments to adopt more renewable energy in their portfolios. Lack of transmission lines to regions with high wind, sun or geothermal potential has been a major roadblock to expanding the country’s use of renewables. At the same time, companies could reduce demand during peak hours by encouraging consumers to cut back on usage, says Don von Dollen of the Electric Power Research Institute, who manages IntelliGrid, the institute’s research program on smart grids. And if for some reason a tree does knock out power, Henley says smart meters would give companies an instant rundown of where service is needed. With the help of her lithium ion batteries as backup power, Val Peterson says a few power outages have even escaped her notice. All these smart meters, solar panels, lithium ion batteries and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles sound expensive — and they are. But even though billions have already been invested in smart grid technology, it should only be the beginning of government funding, says Ahmad Faruqui of the economic consulting firm Brattle Group. And, Faruqui warns, even after the infrastructure is updated, power companies will still continue to need help from states and the federal government.
In the meantime, consumers like Val and Bud Peterson and Dennis Arfmann are relishing their energy savings.

New Era Colorado is an innovative vehicle for hands-on democracy, a full-spectrum civic engagement organization which provides the resources and tools for young people to gain collective power in all levels of the democratic process, including issue organizing, electoral mobilization, and the legislative process.
More than half of the states in the United States have officially enacted quantitative energy efficient targets. Gaille is one of the top business bloggers in the world, and he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. The couple lives in a 650-square-meter (7,000-square-foot) two-story house in the mountains, provided by Bud’s job as chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. The company is working with green technology investors to outfit about 45,000 houses in Boulder with smart grid technology.
And with more investment in smart grid technology now than ever, experts say that not even the economic crisis can slow smart grids down. Either way, the active choices of “smart” power providers and consumers mean that consumer lifestyles need not change. Instead of heating the whole house when she wakes up, Val programs her home office thermostat for warm temperatures in the morning, and the thermostats in the bedroom, TV room and hallway for cooler temperatures. Two photovoltaic panels on the south side of their Spanish-tile roof can produce 6 kilowatts of solar radiation. The Petersons can then transfer the energy to their battery storage at home — or even sell it back to Xcel when it’s needed elsewhere in the grid. But money is not the whole point, says Dennis Arfmann, who also volunteered his house for SmartGridCity. Instead, they have a “smart” meter that tracks electrical consumption in the house every 15 minutes, along with tracking their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning circuit and the circuit that powers their dryer.
When they found out that their dryer consumed a considerable portion of their electric bill, they decided to begin drying their clothes on a line. A 2007 study in the journal Psychological Science, for example, found that when 290 residents of San Marcos, Calif., were informed of their energy usage compared to a neighborhood average, above-average consumers decreased their usage significantly. The town’s reputation for environmentalism was one of the reasons Xcel chose Boulder for the SmartGridCity program, says Tom Henley, a company spokesperson. Colorado has called on companies to draw 20 percent of their capacity from renewables by 2020. The 45,000 homes in SmartGridCity alone have cost $100 million — about $2,200 per household. The federal stimulus package passed in February allocates $11 billion for smart grid investments, including five demonstration projects similar to the SmartGridCity, Hauser says.
Venture-capital firms invested $183 million in smart grid companies during the second half of 2008, “as much as the previous four years combined,” USA Today reported in January. Even some of the largest and longest coal plants in the United States are getting closed by authorities and States. From Cleveland to Toronto, from Detroit to New York City, power outages darkened the region. Trees will inevitably get in the way, he says, but grid systems don’t have to be so vulnerable.
A 2007 report by the California Energy Commission, for example, found that electricity demand in that state will increase 1.4 percent per year between 2008 and 2016. Power companies send electricity out into the grid without any idea of whether consumers need it at that particular moment. An “inverter” translates the direct current from the solar panels to alternating current, which gets used directly or stored in lithium ion batteries in the Petersons’ old boiler room. A plug-in meter also allowed Dennis to measure the energy usage of different appliances around the house. The study also found that adding a smiley face to below-average bills helped prevent those users from lapsing into a closer-to-average consumption level. And although lithium ion batteries like the Petersons’ have improved the storage capabilities of renewable energy, Hauser says the intermittency of wind and solar will become a growing issue as they make up a larger portion of our electrical capacity. Still, Hauser says power companies will be willing to foot most of the bill for upgrading their grids with smart technology because the savings from smart electricity use will more than cover their investments.

It was supposed to be $11 billion for the smart grid, but a good chunk of that has already been allocated to a couple of regions in the U.S.
That means less cost — but it also means less revenue.” Transmission and distribution systems have fixed costs for utilities no matter how much customers buy, so energy savings would cut into the profits needed to cover those costs. The same article pointed out that, “While a solar-panel factory costs about $300 million, a venture capitalist can take a big stake in a smart-grid technology company for only $50 million. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the expressed written permission of the American Geosciences Institute is expressly prohibited. In Asia, several countries on the forefront of this region are looking for new cheaper and and cleaner energy resources. For example, if every household replaced one traditional light bulb with a fluorescent bulb approved by the Department of Energy-Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, it would “save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year,” according to the program’s Web site. If a snowstorm takes out the electricity in Boulder, the batteries provide up to two days of backup power for four circuits the Petersons have designated as essential: Bud’s computer, Val’s computer, the refrigerator and the security system. Those readings convinced the Arfmanns to replace all of their incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones, update their kitchen appliances with Energy Star-qualified appliances and unplug an extra freezer they had in the garage.
President Barack Obama’s “New Energy for America” plan (yet to be passed) would call for 10 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewables by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025. But when you get around 10 percent or 15 percent, it starts to really cause operation problems,” he adds. And although Henley is quick to point out that smart meters on a “dumb grid” will only give companies the ability to know when their customers are out of power, von Dollen calls such initiatives a fundamental building block. To keep power companies afloat and profitable, Faruqui says that regulatory agencies will need to allow companies to charge a little extra. Currently, more than half of the annual energy consumption in the world is consumed by the Asian region alone. On a hot August afternoon, human activity coupled with air conditioning meant the grid had little breathing room.
In fact, on average, Hauser says, Americans use the nation’s full electrical production capacity only about half the time, so often power plants remain off or idle, simply waiting for peak demand. They also now turn off or unplug energy-chugging appliances like their computer and big screen TV when not directly in use. A smart grid would help smooth over that problem, so when the winds are calm, operators could rely more on stable sources like coal, or take energy from the consumer end of the grid.
In fact, they’re as comfortably warm as ever — yet, recently, their electric bill decreased. Workers and residents crowded the streets in sweltering heat to escape from their no longer air-conditioned buildings.
Dennis says he and his wife have reduced their electricity consumption from about 7,000 kilowatt-hours per year to about 4,000. That’s not a lot of money for 142 million customers.” Without more financial backing, Faruqui says, a national smart grid could lose momentum, creating an awkward “quilt work” of different smart grids. With no way home, thousands trekked across the Brooklyn Bridge by foot, while ferries hauled commuters across the Hudson. Switch the temperature settings from “summer” or “winter” mode to “vacation” with one click. And because the technology of the smart grid allows the Petersons to control everything from a Web account, they can change their settings from anywhere in the world.
Although power was restored throughout much of the region within days, the outage caused $6 billion in economic losses, according to estimates by the Department of Energy.

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