Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Do We Beat Vectren? With A Unified National Smart Grid

Lately, our city residents have been in an uproar over the proposed electric rate hikes from Vectren. A few weeks ago, I attended the regulatory hearing at the Centre to hear testimony from local residents.

At the hearing, almost all of the complaints centered around the basic same problems..

1. Vectren doesn't have competition.
2. The EPA is finally gettting ahold on polluting coal plants which will drive up electrical costs.
3. Not only does Vectren have a regulated monopoly, we are also only able to obtain energy sources in the Tri-State.

For those who fear that they will be dealing with Vectren forever, I'm here to tell you that it will get better because help is on the way. What is this help and how will it beat Vectren.

The solution to our electrical woes is something called a "Unified National Smart Grid." To be exact, this grid is two concepts in one. Let's examine both of them and then put the entire grid together.

First, it is important for us to understand what a "smart grid" is. From Wikipedia...

"A smart grid is a digitally enabled electrical grid that gathers, distributes, and acts on information about the behavior of all participants (suppliers and consumers) in order to improve the efficiency,importance, reliability, economics, and sustainability of electricity services."

Translation: A smart grid is better than our current grid because it allows us, the customers of the power company, to communicate back to them with a smart meter. This allows for better efficiency, security, and communication. The main component of the smart grid is the smart meter which allows for the two way dialogue. The following video tells us about the smart grid...

Converting all of America's electrical lines to smart grids would be a huge accomplishment for our country. However, it would still keep us dependent on Vectren. Therefore, we cannot stop there. The next step we must then take would be to set up a "Unified National" smart grid.

What is a smart grid that is unified and national? Just like its name, the grid is able to connect all of the grids in the U.S together. Why is this important? Because connecting all of our grids opens the door for competition from all parts of the U.S. From Wikipedia once more...

"High capacity transmission such as current technology 800KV high voltage direct current lines would span the country providing linkages to local electric utilities and distantly located bulk power generation facilities. The national backbone would be intelligent in a similar way that local smart grid clusters are. As local electricity networks are upgraded to smart grids, interactions with the national backbone can become more coordinated. Examples given of the kinds of coordination are that hydropower from the northwest can be dispatched if wind is expected to temporarily subside in the Dakotas. Discretionary air conditioning in California can be turned on if there are strong winds blowing in Delaware."

Here is yet another great video from our Federal Government...

Here are the benefits identified by our government...

  • More efficient transmission of electricity

  • Quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances

  • Reduced operations and management costs for utilities, and ultimately lower power costs for consumers

  • Reduced peak demand, which will also help lower electricity rates

  • Increased integration of large-scale renewable energy systems

  • Better integration of customer-owner power generation systems, including renewable energy systems

  • Improved security

  • If completed, the Unified National Smart Grid would be one of America's greatest accomplishments. Imagine a grid that can bring wind energy from the plains to huge manufacturing states like Ohio. Imagine a grid that can identify its own problems and correct them quickly. Also, imagine a grid that allows you to tell Vectren to hit the road while you tap into America's wind, solar, and tide energy from various parts of the country.

    According to political leaders such as Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens, it is estimated that the grid would cost $400 billion to construct but would quickly pay for itself with tariffs on transmission.

    So while you may think that dealing with Vectren is a problem that will never go away, relax, the Unified National Smart Grid is on its way!

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