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Broadband reliant smart grid technology to save electricity

01 May, 2009

In his "rebuilding America" plan, President Obama pushed smart grid technology to the forefront - citing it as a way not only to eliminate power outages, but also as a mechanism for job creation and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, none of that will be possible without broadband Internet connections.

A smart grid attaches a digital network to the utilities grid, allowing consumers and alternative sources of renewable energy to communicate and allocate energy to where it is needed most .

According to a Baltimore Sun article, the demand for electricity is thirteen times what it was fifty years ago - and that number will grow by thirty percent in the next decade. Bracken Hendricks - a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress - explains why a smart grid is so necessary:

"Electricity in the grid is like water in pipes. You need to manage supply and demand. You have to keep the levels in balance, or the whole system crashes down."

According to a report by Speed Matters partner the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) called the Digital Road to Recovery, a $10 billion investment in smart grid technology would create 239000 jobs.

In Bethesda, MD - right outside of the nation's capital - a technology firm called Current Group has turned a house into a test laboratory for smart grid technology.

A Washington Post article explains the process:

"In the front yard stands a utility pole hooked up to a special transformer that connects the power lines to high-speed Internet. Hundreds of sensors attached to the lines monitor how power flows through the home. That information is then sent back to the utility company.

The process, Current says, lets a utility company more efficiently manage the distribution of electricity by allowing two-way communication between consumers and energy suppliers via the broadband network on the power lines."

Companies and other organizations are hoping to receive funding from the $4.5 billion that President Obama and Congress set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for smart grid technology development. It is important that smart grid stimulus funding create good, union jobs for utility and other workers.

'Smart grid' presents great promise, complications (Baltimore Sun)

The Digital Road to Recovery (ITIF)

Engineering a Smart Grid for Energy's Future (Washington Post)

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