3. The smart grid can help businesses reduce their carbon footprint. More and more companies are looking for ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they're responsible for emitting, both for the sake of environmental stewardship and to comply with current or future legislation. Much of those emissions comes from electricity consumption, as power tends to be generated from coal and other fuels that produce CO2.
[ Learn about how vendors are developing tools to help companies measure their carbon footprint. ]
The smart grid can help companies reduce energy consumption, which in and of itself helps put a dent in their carbon footprints. But one of the promises of the smart grid is greater availability of clean energy, such as solar and wind power. "Whether in a utility scale configuration or in wholly distributed installations, the integration of renewables with traditional grid operations requires special consideration and smart grids can reduce this cost of assimilation," said IBM's Schurr.
For example, Schurr said, "Transmission access is often cited as a constraint to more renewable energy development. This constraint is a combination of the lack of transmission lines to interconnect the utility scale wind or solar plant, as well as lack of available capacity on the existing transmission assets downstream of the interconnection point. If smart grid technologies can allow transmission operators to capture additional capacity through more dynamic loading, asset risk assessments, new market designs, and reduced spinning reserve that is otherwise contracting for transmission capacity, the costs and lead time of constructing new capacity can be reduced."
4. The smart grid opens up new opportunities for tech companies. The third quarter of 2008 saw venture capital investments in energy efficiency and smart grid grow to $272 million. The market for metering hardware and software and networking technologies for the smart grid was $2.7 billion in 2008 and will grow to $4.7 billion in 2013, according to a report from Lux Research titled "Alternative Power and Energy Storage State of the Market Q4 2008: Weaving the $65 Billion Power Web." In other words, there's already plenty of money being invested and made from smart-grid projects, and there's more to come.
Much of that cash needs to go into the IT hardware and software that will make the smart grid work, from the meters and networking equipment to the software that aggregates and provides information. Numerous companies, both new and established, are taking part.