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- Building the Power Infrastructure of Tomorrow
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Building the power Infrastructure of Tomorrow
As U.S. energy producers adopt smart grid technology, it has the potential to bring benefits to both domestic industry, particularly manufacturers, and exporters of smart grid products and services. (photo © TebNad/iStock)
Smart grid technology allows U.S. companies to better control their energy costs and to improve their competitiveness in the domestic and international marketplaces. The International Trade Administration has been working with industry and government groups to make sure that the details about this technology are given wide dissemination.
by Shannon Fraser
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), total U.S. energy use over the next 25 years is expected to rise from 96.6 quadrillion British thermal units (Btus) in 2010 to 114.5 quadrillion Btus in 2035. To meet this demand, the United States will have to rely not only on the exploitation of new sources of energy—some of which are already in limited supply, or which present potential environmental risks—but also on the more efficient use of the energy production already online. Such an approach could bring into everyday use many exciting technologies that will allow for remote control and monitoring of appliances and production equipment, the real-time monitoring of power use, and the automation of power substations. Those technologies are not science fiction, but can be deployed today. They are made possible by smart grid.
Smart grid technology is a system that integrates the traditional power transmission and distribution (T&D) network with an overlay of information communications technologies. The system allows power lines to communicate with and control all kinds of machines that are connected to it, such as heating-ventilation-air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, electric vehicles, washing machines, and cell phones. Electricity consumers can then proactively manage their energy use.
From a business perspective, smart grid technology gives electricity-intensive industries, such as manufacturing, the ability to better track and manage their overall energy-consumption patterns. This ability, in turn, can help implement energy-efficient practices throughout a production facility.
Federal Effort through Stimulus Funding
ITA Outreach to U.S. Businesses Highlights Benefits of Smart Grid
The International Trade Administration (ITA) recently highlighted the business benefits of smart grid at “The Business of Smart Grid Conference: Benefits for Minnesota’s Companies and Workforce,” a one-day workshop held in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 9, 2010. The program was coordinated by ITA with the Minnesota Trade Office and the University of Minnesota and highlighted the emerging business and job creation opportunities generated by regional smart grid initiatives that impact numerous sectors of U.S. business and industry.
In remarks to the attendees, Mary Saunders, ITA’s deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing and services, noted the importance of smart grid technology to U.S. exports, “From an international trade perspective, developing uniform standards for the smart grid is extremely critical in ensuring that … products and technologies developed in one part of the world can be exported and used in other countries.”
More than 120 participants, who represented multinational firms, small and medium-sized enterprises, venture capital start-ups, academia, and government, engaged in discussions on the current deployment of smart grid programs in Minnesota, as well as future opportunities for emerging smart grid companies.
This fall, ITA will be participating in additional smart grid conferences, including the GridWise Global Forum (September 21–23) and GridWeek (October 18–21). Both conferences will be held in Washington, D.C., and will include senior representatives from global smart grid companies.
U.S. companies interested in learning more about smart grid technologies and resources should visit the U.S. government smart grid portal at www.smartgrid.gov.
At a conference on smart grid technologies held in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 9, 2010, attendees heard from representatives from the Department of Commerce, including Mary Saunders, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing and services. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
In the United States, numerous smart grid programs are already being implemented with assistance from the federal government. In fall 2009, President Barack Obama announced the release of $4.5 billion in smart grid stimulus funds. An additional $7 billion was released for broadband deployment, which will ensure that smart grid reaches local and rural communities throughout the United States.
In making this financial commitment, the United States has taken an all-encompassing approach to smart grid technology by emphasizing a two-way flow of electricity and information between power plants and electricity customers. The U.S. smart grid system will enable grid optimization, demand-side management, advanced utility control, energy storage, vehicle-to-grid technologies, advanced metering infrastructure, home areas networks, and the integration of renewable energy sources.
Because of the smart grid stimulus program, 26 million smart meters will be installed in U.S. homes and 877 electricity-monitoring sensors will be integrated in the domestic T&D system by 2013. The Obama administration forecasts that smart grid deployment will create 43,000 new jobs and, if matched by private-sector investment, could create an additional 61,000 smart grid jobs.
The DOE estimates that by 2023 the U.S. economy as a whole will realize savings of between $46 billion and $117 billion because of the deployment of a modernized power grid. And with a more secure and reliable grid network, DOE estimates that U.S. businesses will save $100 billion per year. Such savings can be redirected to other business uses, such as research and development, new equipment, and new workers.
Like the United States, foreign countries are also implementing smart grid programs, but the definition of smart grid varies. Some countries define it in more narrow terms by focusing on smart meter installation (such as Brazil and the European Union) or on high-voltage direct current transmission lines (such as China). Other countries, such as Spain, are focusing on renewable energy integration.
In many instances, U.S. firms are partnering with in-country utilities and companies to integrate U.S. smart grid components into the local power grid. With more electric vehicles, smart appliances, and other types of smart products, international trade opportunities for U.S. producers of smart grid products are expected to increase.
Harmonization of Smart Grid Standards
For such international opportunities to materialize, it will be important to ensure that smart grid products and technologies developed in one part of the world can be exported and used in other countries. Public-private partnerships will be an important tool in this effort. Recently, for example, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association received an International Trade Administration Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) award for “The Development of a Secure, Robust, and Reliable North American Smart Electrical Grid.” This public–private partnership will facilitate exports of smart grid products and technologies as an integrated smart grid system is put in place throughout the North American power grid.
Blazing a Trail
The success of the initial steps taken by the federal government to promote smart grid technology will largely depend on how this technology is implemented by the private sector.
When President Obama announced the federal government’s funding of smart grid this past October in Florida, he outlined the technological challenges that lie ahead, “This is the nation … that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in an atom; that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell; that connected a continent with a massive system of highways and railroads. And I believe we can blaze such trails again.”
Shannon Fraser is an industry analyst in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.
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