Thanks to smart grid technology, however, business and home owners can arrange with their local utility to have their building's AC systems automatically turned down or certain lights turned off when the grid is being heavily taxed. That reduces the strain on the grid, thus preventing rolling blackouts and costly downtime.
2. The smart grid can help measure and reduce energy consumption and costs. One of the visions for the smart grid is that consumers will be able to monitor their energy consumption in real time, or at least near real time, via the Web. Moreover, in the future, you'll be able to dig down to more granular levels to see how much energy individual systems and equipment are consuming and what it's costing.
For both businesses and consumers, this provides the opportunity to identify ways to reduce energy costs. You might find that changing the temperature a couple of degrees or that turning off more equipment at night can make a significant difference to your electricity bill. You might find that running certain processes after hours is more economical. You might also identify a major energy-drainer that should be replaced.
Taking it a step further: Suppose yours is a business with multiple sites, whether offices, retail stores, or call centers spread out across one state or the entire country. You'll be able to compare the energy consumption of each site and identify those that are using significantly more energy. From there, you can start digging into the causes and making changes.
The smart grid will even enable large businesses to connect their building energy management systems with their utility's systems to interact in new and innovative ways, according to Steve Widergren, administrator for the GridWise Architecture Council. "Today very few buildings exchange information digitally with their electricity provider. Contracts are set up manually for flat or sometimes time of use rates, both sides read their own meters, and bills are sent through the mail to reconcile energy usage," he said in an interview.
"But suppose contract selection is done online and offers choices such as real-time rates and emergency services," Widergren continued. "Once the building manager selects a contract, the building system automatically configures itself to connect to the energy provider information system to periodically exchange metered data and pricing information. The building system adjusts demand, balancing the needs of the business with the price of energy."