Department of Energy

Smart Grid Week: How the Transition to 21st Century Grid Impacts You

June 5, 2013

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Smart meter technology plays a key role in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. <a href="/node/300517">The Team Tidewater Virginia's smart meter</a>, as seen on opening day, indicates the team generated 5 kW hours of electricity in the first several hours of the competition. | Image courtesy of Lachlan Fletcher, Studio 18a.

Smart meter technology plays a key role in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. The Team Tidewater Virginia's smart meter, as seen on opening day, indicates the team generated 5 kW hours of electricity in the first several hours of the competition. | Image courtesy of Lachlan Fletcher, Studio 18a.

Our new Energy.gov series, Smart Grid Week, highlights efforts happening across the country to build a more reliable, resilient and secure electric grid. Throughout the week share your own perspectives and ask questions about the smart grid via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email. Follow the series by visiting energy.gov/smart-grid.

Our electric grid is becoming smarter, more reliable and secure. As the transition to a 21st century grid continues so too will the opportunities for you to take advantage of its increasing capabilities.

Just consider the rise in smart meter installations across the country. At last count more than 15 million smart meters have been installed under the Recovery Act. These intelligent devices give consumers access to information on how they use energy at home. Unlike older meters -- which provide customers a monthly record o felectricity usage -- smart meters record household energy usage in hourly or 15 minute increments. Utilities, co-ops and other electricity providers are pairing this data with web tools and software that help customers identify immediate ways to reduce energy usage and save money in the process. For instance, since the Tri-State Electrical Cooperative installed 15,000 smart meters for the majority of its service area -- the enhanced access to home energy data is helping customers reduce their electricity consumption by 10 percent.

The capabilities of smart meters extend beyond home energy-savings. The devices are also helping electricity providers improve power reliability for customers and reduce operation and maintenance costs. With greater information on how much electricity is being used, utility companies know instantly when and where outages occur and can restore power more quickly. For Pepco, when a tree limb fell onto a power line, knocking out power to 1,100 customers, smart meter data allowed the utility to reroute power to all but 200 customers in less than one minute.

Our evolving electric grid is also creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to advance innovations that empower consumers and grow the nation’s economy. The increased access to newly available and previously underutilized energy data is catalyzing the development of products and services that empower consumers to take control of the amount of energy they consumer and how much they spend on their monthly energy bills. Apps for Energy, the Energy Department’s inaugural apps competition, ushered in more than 50 innovative ideas for web-based and mobile applications to change the way consumers and businesses think about and use their energy data. The winning submissions provided new apps for a range of important sectors -- including residential and commercial utility customers, electric vehicles, ENERGY STAR buildings and others.

Coupled with increased access to energy data is the critical importance of protecting consumer privacy. Last year, the Administration released a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that provides companies with clear codes of conduct and serves as a guide for consumers to understand what they can andshould expect of companies that handle personal data.

While much progress has been made to deliver on the promise of a 21st century grid, this is only the beginning. Continued support for grid modernization efforts will createmore opportunities to grow our economy, empower consumers and foster innovation.

Curious to learn more about how the smart grid impacts you? Ask us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ or via email. We’ll be answering your questions in a follow-up piece on Energy.gov/smart-grid