Obama's SmartGrid plans

Image: Department of Energy

Via Slashdot:

“On Monday, the Obama administration announced the next steps that the US will take to build its 21st century electric grid, and Information Technology is expected to play a big part in the plans. The White House hosted a 90-minute media event called ‘Building the 21st Century Electric Grid’ and is releasing a new report on what it will take for lawmakers and the private sector to come together to solve this aspect of the energy challenge.”

Here’s more from the official White House statement:

“Along with the announcement of new public and private initiatives aimed at building a smarter, expanded grid and empowering consumers, the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) will release a new report: ‘A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid.’ This policy framework charts a collaborative path forward for applying digital information or ’smart grid’ technologies to the nation’s electricity infrastructure to facilitate the integration of renewable sources of power into the grid; help accommodate the growing number of electric vehicles; help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur; and reduce the need for new power plants.”


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Patrick Davis

Really, I pity future generations.


smart grid = energy rationing
and who is going to pay for it? send me your guesses at howtoscrew@theconsumer.com

Oh goodie. More two-way wireless connections to control and monitor the grid! And at the same time, NASA is telling us we need to make the grid LESS vulnerable to EMP from the sun, and Leon Panetta is telling us we need to make the grid LESS vulnerable to international hackers.
The way to make the grid LESS vulnerable is to get rid of all computerized controls and decentralize, not to add more wireless control points and centralize.
But we won’t decentralize, because the present arrangement makes it possible to securitize electric power. Enron and all that. If we went back to the old arrangement with each city running its own power plant, there would be no way for Wall Street to manipulate the system. Profits would remain in each city, and Wall Street would be unable to, ahem, short the circuit.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

“…and reduce the need for new power plants.”
Does this signify the official death of the Green Dream where no additional power generation is required, we can get along just fine with economizing and efficiency improvements? Or is this more of the Green Theme where the “new power plants” are only “Renewable!” replacements that merely displace existing fossil fuel (and nuclear?) generation without the unnecessary(!) addition of more capacity?

Gaelan Clark

Sounds like Obama and the dems have found a solid industry from which to build their more base…thousands upon thousands of newly created union jobs which will be both government and private–but still union–in order to build this new fangled grid, to allow people to buy electric cars at everyone else’s expense, and—-this is the best of all—-they are going to reduce our need for more power plants………how?………Obama is going to change physics, because he stopped the oceans from rising, and we will all then be able to get two watts where only one exists!!!!!!


No doubt it will all be managed with Windoze SG1.


I always feel that when they say a process will ’empower the consumer’ what they really mean is that it will allow them to control the consumer. It usually ends up with the consumer having less power, not more.
Aaaah buzzwords, don’t you just love them?


There’s absolutely no way Obama is going to survive this next election, were he to spend even TWO billion dollars trying to hornswoggle people to vote for him again. We’ve all had about as much “hopey/changey” con-artistry as we can take. The American public will not be so easily duped next time around. What he’s offering we don’t want.


He hasn’t created world peace yet.


What do you need a grid for when you are killing power production?


and reduce the need for new power plants.”

What about power plants that are we already have, and need? Taking power plants offline that the nation needs, and which is the cheapest. Even higher energy prices are in the near future.

“Each generator will have to decide for itself whether the investment required to meet environmental requirements can be justified based on its projection of market prices and the cost of its capital. In any case, those costs will be passed through to consumers,” said Mark Pruitt, director of the Illinois Power Agency, which procures electricity for Illinois.
The Illinois Power Agency estimates that by 2017 the energy portion of bills could jump 65 percent from today’s rates.

More than 8,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity has been retired in the U.S. since 2005, according to data from industrial software company Ventyx. Generators have announced they plan to retire another 21,000 megawatts in the near future, and some industry consultant studies estimate 60,000 megawatts of power, enough for 60 million homes, will be taken offline by 2017.



See Germany – the Green Dream is dead. They recently announced a knee jerk reaction to Japan and vowed to close all of their nuclear plants early; but guess what will replace them? Nat Gas and Coal, that’s all they’ve got that can work. Even with all of their work on solar, they know they don’t dare rely on it. Back to Fossil Fuels. Wait, what about Global Warming? Oh never mind.
Germany gives us the template for how the Green Dream will die – Germany is claiming all of these fossil fuel plants will only be a “bridge” until renewable power is ready. What they don’t say is that it will be decades, if ever, til the time that will happen.
Now do I think new, better, energy providing techniques will come along? Of course! Technology marches on, and I’m sure that by 2050 or 2060, there will be all kinds of awesome that we can’t even imagine. THAT’S WHAT SUPPORTERS OF FOSSIL FUELS HAVE ALWAYS SAID!!! Use Fossil fuels NOW, and use them as a bridge to the future. Of course, that bridge is going to take 40 or 50 years to cross.
The reason we always took that position is that it’s the only logical course of action based on a rational assessment of our situation. It’s rather comforting to see that even some of the Greens biggest German supporters are getting beaten into that position by reality.


SmartGrid aim’s to reduce peak demand loads causing stress on power infrastructure. Electrical utility providers must design for demand, not consumption. Designing for peak demand is costly and wasteful.
Think of it like our roads. They work fine 90% of the time but during peak hour they do not cope well. The same is true with electricity. During peak electrical use periods (lunch time, dinner time) the electrical grid suffers huge stress. Add to the problem an ageing electrical grid.
A SmartGrid is a much more cost effective way to manage electrical use. The alternative is a massive replace/upgrade of all electrical infrastructure which will hit the pocket much harder.
Please learn the difference between electrical demand and electrical consumption. Get educated guys.


The smartest grid we could design would be a tall iron grid that completely encircles DC.

Stephen Brown

“Along with the announcement of new public and private initiatives aimed at building a smarter, expanded grid and empowering consumers ….”
I got as far as “empowering consumers” when the taurocoprolitic alarm sounded. This phrase is the NewSpeak code for “controlling the serfs”. When it is hot the Super Grid will shut off your air conditioning; when it is cold, off goes your heating.
The Super Grid decides who gets the electricity, it will be those who have got the power.


The future looks dark.


Is that smart grid anything like the smart meters that have been inflicted upon consumers, so that the ruling elite can turn off any section of “consumers” when it suits them. Visions of big brother deciding which group of voters of least consequence can do without power?
Its hard to electrically demand anything when your power is remotely shut off, that seems to effectively deal with consumption – the devil is in the detail, or is this another scheme that one is not allowed to examine that detail until it becomes law!!

“…future generations”.
Ain’t gonna be no “future generations”.
That’s the point. rubbing two sticks and stuff.
Oh. Wait. did they have fire in the stone age?

C Porter

President Obama. He speak with forked tongue.
Sign up to the smart grid concept with smart metering and you will be the first to have your power switched off in a rolling blackout, because they don’t want to pay for standby capacity for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

Frank K.

Dylan says:
June 14, 2011 at 4:47 am
I browsed through the document, and on the surface it looks OK. As a consumer, I would especially be interested in technologies which permit me to monitor and control my own energy usage, so as to reduce my utility costs.
However, it seems to me that permitting monitoring and control of electricity through digital means would make it ripe for hacking. We can’t even secure our government computers and data – what would prevent an enemy from writing a “virus” which would trigger massive power failures nationwide?

Ian W

help accommodate the growing number of electric vehicles;
The number will peak soon – once all the greener than you townies have tried them then gone onto another fad. Anyone that lives anywhere that is slightly remote will not want an electric car – you cannot walk to get a gallon of power if the battery fails 20 miles outside town.

Pete in Cumbria UK

Its the line at the top of the poster/flyer/picture that tickles me.. “The Smart Grid Can Deliver”
Who, exactly, are they trying to convince.. us or themselves? Something about it doesn’t ring true.
Dylan above makes some valid points but, what the Smart Grid is doing is removing redundancy – its taking the grid the same way as everything else has gone. Everything now is delivered on a ‘Just in Time’ basis. All well and good but it makes for a very fragile supply chain where upon one broken link instantly brings the entire thing crashing down. A good recent example was when (here in the UK), the petrol tanker drivers went on strike. Within 3 days the country had just about stopped. No-one, nowhere kept any reserve capacity.
Consider going for an airplane ride. Airplanes are riddled with ‘redundancy’, if one system fails another takes over. How would anyone feel if the aircraft only had one system, would you fly in it? The Shuttle has/had, as far as I know, 5 levels of redundancy in its Fly-by-Wire systems.
Similarly, the cars that we (most of us) drive, Why do we insist on/buy cars with 100HP+ engines when 20HP would get us to the legal speed limit? Is ‘safety’ not the usual response when asked to justify ourselves?
Is ‘The Smart Grid not removing that ‘safety factor’?


Translation of White House statement:
This initiative lays the groundwork to transition modern western countries into backward third world economies. The NSTC will release a new report filled with double speak, non-specific goals, and unverifiable objectives in a high level technical format only the authors can understand. Control of the population will be achieved through a digital system based on the digital concept of an on-off switch. Cooperative people will find themselves in the ‘on’ position while uncooperative trouble makers will be in the ‘off’ position.


@ Dylan
“A SmartGrid is a much more cost effective way to manage electrical use. The alternative is a massive replace/upgrade of all electrical infrastructure which will hit the pocket much harder.”
1) The SmartGrid IS a massive replace/upgrade of all electrical infrastructure
2) The SmartGrid WILL hit the pocket much harder

Luther Wu

The upshot of the smart grid is micromanagement of the end user, with attendant and profound implications.
Ordinary consumers have already discovered that with the new “smart meter” system, the day after one’s bill is due and hasn’t yet been paid, the 10- day cutoff notice arrives in email. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
There are those who will immediately say “well, pay your bill on time”, but what an irritating affront.
Not having tested the Utility’s resolve, I’m sure the 10th day would witness remote termination of services.
As for efficiency, “smart grid” away, but the grid will only be third- world reliable with no power input.

Pamela Gray

There is a good reason why even the most remote ranch here has an old windmill about to fall down somewhere on the homestead. As soon as reliable power came on board, that old windmill was shut down for good. At the same time, productivity soared.
But back to the old days. If you want a good education, it will be after you get home from indoctrination. Meaning, you will be reading by candle light. Nobama 2012.

Bruce Cobb

Ah, the SmartGrid/ GreenPower never-never land; government overreach and idiocy at its finest. People and businesses need energy when they need it. Postponing an activity until off-peak hours is usually either not an option, or can even have its own set of negative consequences.


All I want to know is will this reduce the cost of power to me or increase it?


Well they’ve already gotten control of the kids….
With smart meters and GPS, so they can tax you by the miles you drive ( and keep up with you)…..
Is there anything Obama can’t do?

James Sexton

KenB says:
June 14, 2011 at 5:07 am
Is that smart grid anything like the smart meters that have been inflicted upon consumers, so that the ruling elite can turn off any section of “consumers” when it suits them.
Sorry, not Dylan, but It is a large part of it. The meters are now viewed as a gateway communication device. Much of the intrusive nature of “smart grid” is done through the meters. Though, I don’t have much problem with the disconnection capabilities. In the past, for individuals, one would just go and pull the meter, or for rolling black outs, just through a switch higher up in the grid.
The disconnecting, it the least of your problems. I’ve stated this before, but I’ll keep stating this until people get what I’m saying. Prior to “smart grid” our meters were largely built like clocks. There was no circuit boards in them. In the U.S., they cost a grand total of about $20, their life expectancy, (reading at 97% accuracy) was about 20 years. This is for a form 2S class 200 240V meter(that’s meter geek speak for a typical residential meter. Today, there is no U.S. provider that makes them anymore. Now, we have these solid state meters. The total cost usually runs about $200 and is supposed to last for about 10 years. Their life expectancy or rather failure presents in an entirely different manner……they don’t slow down like the old ones did. Of course the new meters can and do offer new information with which we can bill people. TOU, peak demand, demand(we’ve had demand meters, but they weren’t typical of residential meters) and other inventive ways of bilking the consumer. Of course, it does no good to have meters with new capabilities if one doesn’t utilize them, so, we have to purchase communication devices……these vary, but usually come at an ungodly price. Ours ran about $1/2 million per data collector(easier to think as metering point of sub station, though this varies via the different vendors.) Then, obviously, if we have the comm, and meters, we need something to do with it, so you’ve got to buy software…..lots of it. In a little 3500 meter coop, we’ve got literally hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in proprietary software. And like the infomercial on TV, but wait!!!! There’s more!! In spite of have all the goody software, we still have so much more information, we need to do something with it! And we need people that are qualified to handle it. So, with all that money we saved, (from laying of meter readers) We’ll have to hire an operator for the software, a DBA to handle the inundation of information. Probably a net admin or additional help for the net admin if we already had one, and if we’re big enough, probably a programmer to write cool apps that weren’t included in the 6 figure software.
Now, consider the technology cycle we’re on. We’ve gone from something that was stable, useful and cheap. The technology advanced very slowly, because there wasn’t a perceived need. Today, I’ve got equipment for signal-over-power-line applications purchased 5 years ago that is termed “legacy products”.(Circuit boards that cost 2-5 thousand dollars and the replacement will cost about double….surprise, new features). This will not end. This will continue for time eternal.(Think Moore’s law and how it doesn’t just apply to processors) We will forever be compelled to stay with current technology. Continuous expensive investment will be required. And here’s the fun part. All of the cost will be passed on to the consumer.
I’ve asked several decision makers the same question. “When to we expect the pay-back point to be?” They all give me a familiar stare for a moment, and then state there isn’t one. And there is not. We will never make up the cost. No one will.
I’m sick of the term “smart-grid”. There’s nothing smart about investing $Trillions of dollars for no net gain. In fact, other than coming up with inventive ways to bilk consumers, can anyone give me an example of how a smart grid application’s benefits exceed the cost? Any smart grid application…….

Keith Battye

I thought that all of America’s power generation, distribution and billing was in the hands of private sector players. That being the case surely this smart grid concept only needs to stand the competition test. If it’s a good idea and makes money they will do it if they aren’t already.
I have some good friends who are electrical engineers working in large scale generation and distribution. They all seem like sensible chaps who don’t gamble with “iffy” stuff. Conservative if you will. If they are pushing this then it will do OK, if they are being pushed it will fail. It takes a long time and a lot of concentration to keep a grid up and innovation is treated with suspicion, particularly if it has a potential negative impact on the grid.


Dylan says:
June 14, 2011 at 4:47 am
SmartGrid aim’s to reduce peak demand loads causing stress on power infrastructure. Electrical utility providers must design for demand, not consumption. Designing for peak demand is costly and wasteful.

I don’t think people have really looked at this statement in detail. This is scary, just pretending that a system should not be able to cope with the worst case scenario to any system.
The point of making a good stable system is making sure it can handle the highs as well as the lows as efficienctly as possible. By saying that we no longer care about peak demand just says that the electrical system will be “dumbed down” so to speak and not engineered to actually work like it should. Why have a power grid in this case? Same with a transportation system. If the system does not work at its peak, what is the point exactly?
This is the unanswered question:
namely, why in the world should people accept a costly new infrastructure “improvement” that not only costs us more but works worse then what we have?
Politics at its best…tell people they are getting a real good deal and really just pull the rug out from under them.

James Sexton

Dylan says:
June 14, 2011 at 4:47 am
A SmartGrid is a much more cost effective way to manage electrical use. The alternative is a massive replace/upgrade of all electrical infrastructure which will hit the pocket much harder.
Please learn the difference between electrical demand and electrical consumption. Get educated guys.
Dylan, I don’t like piling on a comment that was likely made off the cuff and w/o thought.
Please demonstrate the one area in “smart grid” technology that is “cost effective”. Any part. The fact is, smart grid as about avoiding cost effective measures…..that would be called building new power generation plants. Yes we build for peak, and we’re never going to get away from that until we find a way to store AC electricity……. be sure to hold your breath on that.
Dylan, energy use = economic activity. Curbing the demand= limiting people’s activity and choice. That would be something I’d expect from Cuba or China. Not a nation created from the principles of Liberty.

Alex Heyworth

Smart grids are potentially a good idea (pardon the pun) but the devil is in the detail. How much is it going to cost, and what are the potential savings?
A “Policy Framework” is useless bureaucrat-speak without some idea of the numbers involved.

Sal Minella

LENR and CANR will save us all as soon as it saves Greece.


Smart grid is an other name for controlling the people by the goverment.


The only growing number of electrical vehicles, are those subsidized by tax dollars that the government is attempting to force on US citizens through contrived high gas prices and schemes like cash for clunkers which involved cars that were anything but clunkers resulting in the increase in price of used cars.
This is something Stalin would embrace. Instead of the people having the ability to purchase reasonably inexpensive and reliable power and the cars they want, the people will be faced with expensive, unreliable power that can be rationed with the throw of a switch by a computer program and cars they don’t want and can’t use when they wantt.

Frank K.

So I wonder if the “smart grid” detects that you’re using incandescent bulbs after 2012, will it report you to the light bulb police??

@Dylan: Yes, it’s important to get educated on these issues.
Ask yourself this question: who really benefits from “smart grid” technology? Do consumers benefit? If so, how?
No, “smart grid” technology is being pushed by the utilities so that they can charge you more for the power you use. With this technology, they can and WILL charge you for the cost of electricity from when you use it. Currently, utilities don’t have a way of segregating electricity costs by time of day used. They average the costs over time. Once the “smart meters” are in place, consumers will be charged based upon the cost for the energy when it was used. If consumers use energy when they need it, and that happens to be a time when a whole bunch of other people need energy, the cost per MW will be much higher. Consumers will pay more for power. That’s why the utilities are so eager to push this technology and take on the costs of outfitting homes with these devices. They know it will increase their bottom line. Consumers? Not so much.
The real answer is building additional electrical power capacity. Inexpensive energy is the driver of economies.

give him a chance, how many people were against the new deal? this could be a lifeline, and cut dependence on non-renewable sources of energy


This guy needs to read “Normal Accidents”. Any complex technological system is bound to fail in a catastrophic fashion with probability 1 given enough time. I want off the grid all together.


Who’s paying for this?
The nation is sucked dry of money, for the very few have the lions share of the dough, and they aren’t sharing.


I do not want my power supply system designed by a bunch of government bureaucrats…. especially far left-wing ones at that!


Smart Grid is an other word for controlling the people by the government.

Jack Linard

Has anyone calculated the increased electric power/energy requirement if, say, 25% of all cars in the US were battery operated?.
Dylan says:
June 14, 2011 at 4:47 am
Please learn the difference between electrical demand and electrical consumption. Get educated guys.
Unless Dyl is talking about the difference between power and energy, the only difference between demand and consumption would be the inability of suppliers to meet demand. This implies rationing or brownouts.

A little OT but Andrew Weaver says he will now focus on speaking to children. Why?
“I’m fed up speaking with the stereotypical angry, retired, grey-haired engineer,” explained the University of Victoria professor and global warming guru.”
Children are obviously a lot more receptive to his ideas than gray-haired engineers.

Jack Greer

Great news! About damned time, Mr President. American infrastructure is aged, crumbling and vulnerable, especially the electric grid. I’s time to invest in the USofA first. A wholesale upgrade to our neglected electric grid is way, way past due and is an ultra-important step toward energy independence.

Don K

Well, it’s actually a pretty good idea. But implementing it is going to require engineering and management skills that might or might not exist. And even then, there are going to be screw-ups.
None the less, if the “conservatives” plan to leave some hydrocarbons for their great grandkids to burn and if fusion, solar or some other power generation technology doesn’t eventually come through in a big way, we are going to need to manage our electrical usage a lot better than we are currently doing.
But how about we, for a change, ramp up smart grid technology slowly and methodically and try to avoid legislating bad ideas into place before the concepts have been time test and refined into useful, usable technologies?


Dylan says:
June 14, 2011 at 4:47 am
SmartGrid aim’s to reduce peak demand loads causing stress on power infrastructure.
Do you mean wasteful practices like washing when the wind isn’t blowing or running the AC when it’s uncomfortably hot or turning on the heat when it’s bitter cold or cooking meals when you are hungry instead of when the ‘grid’ tells you to?
Off peak spring demand in California is 20GW and peak is 30GW.
That changes to 20GW and 50GW in the summer.
Sorry, the only way the ‘smart grid’ is going to significantly impact Californian ‘peak demand’ is by disabling air conditioners.

Don K

More succinctly. I’m tired of half-baked whether it be anti-lock braking systems that add complexity, but don’t actually work very well, power distribution technologies, or the #$#)$@) Internet where the seven zillion “standards” are considered to be advisory at best.