The Grid Revolt

16th August 2010 by

The other evening I was cooking up dinner with the ol’ BBC Radio 4 on in the background.  Between frying onions and peeling carrots, I paused and started listening to Power Play’s program about the smart grid.  I for one, never really paid attention in science class so I thought it was about time I learned something useful; my energy grid education began.

In summary, the summer of 2009 saw the UK government rule that all electricity suppliers would have to install smart meters for every household in England by 2020.  In order to save energy, don’t we as consumers need to know what we’re currently wasting it on in the first place?  The answer could be the smart meter which is supposed to instigate energy efficiency by telling you where you spend your energy thus allowing consumers to realise where they can cut it.

Alongside the smart meters, there’ve been ongoing debates about the energy grid system currently in place.  The grid is already 60-70 years old and most agree that the whole grid needs to be replaced with a more intelligent one.  According to the Department of Energy & Climate Change, a Smart Grid is an electricity network that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it- generators, consumers and those that do both- in order to efficiently deliver a sustainable, efficient and secure supply of energy. Combine that with the fact that older nuclear power stations across Britain are closing, there needs to be a solution put into place as soon as possible.  Some experts say that when we go ahead with replacing the grid, it will be the third industrial revolution: the new energy revolution!

With this new revolution, there are always companies waiting to bank on what they can. Both Microsoft and Google have already targeted the market with each of their own ideas/devices.  Microsoft has developed Hohm, a website which provides help and links to energy monitoring devices.  Google has PowerMeter, which is a free energy monitoring tool that allows you to view your home’s energy consumption from anywhere online.  I won’t be surprised when more and more companies begin to launch their own products to fall in line with the new revolution.

Personally, I’ve never been one for gadgets.  I feel like the smart meter might just be another gimmick on consumers.  That said, a part of me wonders if the smart meter may well help us with energy consumption.  I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I don’t really pay attention to my energy bills in the first place partly due to utter confusion reading the bill and due to my own lack of interest.  Ultimately I’m interested in saving energy and if it means simplifying the way energy suppliers communicate the information to me, revolutionize our energy grid (possibly at my cost), and get on the energy saving gadget bandwagon, then perhaps I need to open my mind and my wallet a bit further.

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