Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has announced new initiatives to support development of the smart grid. He also warned that the country is not doing enough to get the grid ready for renewable energy. He acknowledged that privacy concerns are making some utility customers wary of recent smart meters, which are a key component of the smart grid.
The initiatives include a nonprofit organization, Grid 21, that will promote new smart-grid technologies to consumers, a student competition aimed at improving energy efficiency at home, a series of meetings about Recovery Act smart-grid projects, and a “rapid-response team” to speed reviews of energy-transmission projects. The Department of Agriculture also announced $250 million in loans for rural grid development.
In 10 to 20 years, Secretary Chu sees solar power costing $0.06 to $0.07/kWh making it competitive with fossil fuels. Once that happens, he said, there will be a boom in solar panel installations that may strain the grid.
Solar energy presents a challenge for utilities because output fluctuates with the sun’s position and clouds. Utilities must actively manage the fluctuations, especially in neighborhoods with large numbers of solar panels or electric vehicles that need charging, to ensure that the right voltage levels are maintained and power doesn’t go out.
Renewable sources of energy will also require new transmission lines, especially since some of the windiest or sunniest places are far from large cities, where power is needed most.
Dept of Energy
Filed Under: News, Policy