Smart Grid a Climate Adaptation

Smart Grid a Climate Adaptation

I started my day listening to Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who is in Chicago for Ideas Week and also is stumping for his new book , How America Fell Behind. In his talk, Friedman’s first point emphasized that we need to adapt better to the energy and climate crisis.

The smart grid – the digital network that unites electrical providers, power delivery systems and customers, and allows two-way communication between a utility and its customers – promises to provide a key tool for that adaptation. That’s why I’m looking forward to participating in the Great Lakes Symposium on Smart Grid and the New Energy Economy next week to learn more.

Proponents of the smart grid note that its technologies allow customers to take control over their energy use. This suggests consumers can use generated electricity more efficiently – and efficiency generally equates with economic and environmental benefits.

I’m most eager, though, for the grid to get smarter since it is a key infrastructure change to assist with renewable energy.  A smarter grid should increase both utility-scale and distributed renewable-energy generation.  And as I’ve noted in previous posts, renewable energy is key for climate adaptation.  For instance, when extreme weather events impair utility-scale power generation or transmission, having access to on-site renewable energy (distributed generation, e.g., solar, wind or waste-heat recovery), can keep industry producing, retail selling and consumers buying.

Next week’s Symposium is taking a unique and interactive approach to exploring the connection between grid modernization, economic development and innovation, and environmental impact – all key elements of climate resiliency.  Perhaps I’ll see you there.