Life on the Grid is Getting Smarter
For nearly a century, the electrical grid remained
essentially the same. Yet, as electricity consumers we keep asking it to do
more for us. Chill or heat our homes. Help keep
our drinks cold, freeze our food and dry our laundry. Charge our phones,
computers and cars. Deliver us electricity where we want it, when we want it,
and for a reasonable price. And, just as important, please find a way to integrate more renewable energy resources into our
grid so we can move away from fossil fuels.
These demands are among a growing number of factors that are
driving major changes in the utility business models. It is widely accepted that the grid will need
to become “smarter” in order to find this optimal balance among the dynamics of
supply, demand, pricing, consumer behavior and intermittent nature of renewable
energy. Fortunately the grid is modernizing. Consider:
- More than 38 million homes in the U.S now have
- The mix of renewable resources for power
generation is growing: 74 percent of all new
electricity generation in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 came from solar
energy, according to Solar Energy Industries Association.
- Governments and utilities have invested approximately
$8 billion in smart in grid upgrades since 2007.
Understanding the smart grid and relationships between
utilities and consumers is among the core research areas of the University of
Washington Clean Energy Institute, and the UW Renewable
Energy Analysis Lab (REAL Lab) led by professors Daniel Kirschen, Miguel
Ortega-Vasquez and their student researchers.
The research involves developing complex algorithms and
mathematical formulas to help utilities understand power use and to develop
economic models that will provide a road map for the optimal balance of
the grid. One of their current research projects focuses on is the impact of
time of use pricing, which combines an analysis of consumer behavior,
electrical grid demand, and utility power pricing. Read more here:
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