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Make the SmartGrid Accessible to All

What is the SmartGrid? It is a measured governmental and industry response to a growing emergency.

Electricity usage in the United States is projected to grow more than twice as fast as committed resources over the next 10 years, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced today in its annual 2007 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. Unless additional resources are brought into service, some areas could fall below their target capacity margins within two or three years. In parts of western Canada, demand is projected to outpace resource growth within about two years.

“We are at the stage where emergency situations are becoming more frequent,” said Rick Sergel, president and CEO of NERC. “Though some improvements have been made, we are requiring our aging grid to bear more and more strain, and are operating the system at or near its limits more often than ever before. As operating margins decrease, we are limiting our ability to manage unplanned events like equipment failures and extreme weather,” Sergel said.

In response, the Obama administration the two following choices. Increase supply which includes mining more copper for transmission and burning more coal for cost-effective production or reduce demand best achieved by efficiency and storage.
Is cost-savings or usability a better carrot?
Thus, we have competitive funding opportunities directly disbursed by the Dept of Energy to demonstrate and invest in lasting SmartGrid solutions. You would rightly assume that your utility is building a team of startups, large manufacturers and investors to apply for these matching government funds.

The key to the success of these SmartGrid solutions is often overlooked, the role of the general public. The current design of the program is based on the assumption that people will more efficiently use energy and voluntarily sacrifice the comfort of air conditioning or convenience of washing your clothes whenever they want. While there are individual consumers can actively reduce their bills dramatically, the average savings is only 5%. However, I question, will you give up your A/C on the hottest day of the year, in Miami, Florida, for 5% savings?

The “Today Show” shows clips of consumers using smart meters to control appliances and managing their energy consumption through an online web site, and it says the average resident in the trial saved 5 percent on their average monthly energy bill.

If saving money is the “carrot” at the end of the stick, then all they have is a stick. No, the Game-Changing technology that the SmartGrid will deliver is that finally our technology will be easier to use. Why do I make such a bold statement? Because it has to be usable and accessible to everyone.

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual’s ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology.

When the user interface is standardized to work with Screen Readers et al. we all benefit from its simplicity. No more will you have to deal with different remote controls and learn how to use each product separately. If you believe that the SmartGrid should benefit all of us, you can email the Dept. of Energy by May 6th at to ensure that our tax dollars support projects that are compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.


Written by ishak

May 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Smart Grid

One Response

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  1. Very well written, Ishak. Thank you. I’d like to mention the 5% energy savings for the Miami example might not be accurate. Surely you will save power, but enrolling in a Demand Response program like what offers will save 10% off the top of each month’s energy bill ~ without even turning down the usage. The Demand Response industry pays customers to enroll. DR is the easiest, fastest, greenest, and overall best solution to meet the crisis of diminishing spinning reserves ~ a cool name for excess power.


    May 5, 2009 at 2:17 pm

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