Smart Grid Tricky

By Published On: May 2, 2008

Like the Internet in the 1980s, smart grids may be the wave of the future in California, but they still face many current and potential obstacles, including cost, complexity, technology advances, and regulatory changes. This was among the messages communicated during a day-long workshop on smart grid activities and technology conducted April 29 by the California Energy Commission’s efficiency committee. But despite the challenges, numerous factors–including aging infrastructure and an aging workforce–make regional smart grids a necessity, San Diego Gas & Electric technology strategist Terry Mohn said. Smart grid technologies include advanced communications and controls, intelligent software, and self-healing systems designed to avoid rolling blackouts. Many utilities believe that with minimal cost, the technologies can boost efficiency and at the same time improve reliability. Ideally, a smart grid would be able to use modern tools to detect and fix emerging problems and re-route power flows, but the industry must move beyond the current heavy use of old radio technology, add more sensors and smart meters, plus increase automation, various speakers said. Among those that gave presentations during the workshop were representatives from the state’s three investor-owned utilities, plus officials from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. California Public Utilities Commission member Rachelle Chong sat in on the workshop. The meeting was one in a series of five being held to cover issues pertaining to adoption of new load management standards.

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