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10 Big Questions About the Smart Grid

A primer for the 68 percent of consumers who have no idea what a smart grid is.

by / September 14, 2012

be reverse engineered. We use an architecture that cannot be taken down. If any part of the system is compromised, the system reconfigures to protect itself, localize and fend off the attacks. 

6. What implications does broadband have on the grid?

Utilities will use a variety of wired and wireless, broadband and narrowband communications technologies for their smart grids. Communications networks will carry information to and from the many sensors, control technologies, and metering devices that will be used in a smart grid, including devices used in homes and businesses.

A utility will use broadband connections to engage with customers for smart grid services. Customers will use network-connected applications on in-home energy monitors, home computers and smartphones to interact with demand-response or energy management programs.

Utilities will likely use a combination of broadband communications technologies, including their own infrastructure for broadband over-the-power-line communications. They will also use a variety of fiber-optic, wireline and wireless technologies for broadband communications.

7. What’s the simplest thing about the smart grid and what’s the most complex thing about it?

The simplest thing about smart grid is consumers’ general expectations for their electric services. Basically consumers expect that when they turn on an appliance or product that uses electricity, it will work without any disruptions of service, it will be safe and secure and affordable.

What’s complicated is achieving the infrastructure needed to deliver on those expectations. We have established the general architecture needed for smart grids and have begun putting the initial technologies, like smart meters, in place.  But it will take five to 10, possibly 20 years, depending on the level of effort, to deploy the technologies to create complete, end-to-end smart grids. And we need to come up with some truly breakthrough engineering achievements to solve some of our toughest smart grid challenges. This all ties back to the need for public and private partnerships and financing to support smart grid research and deployments and training. 

8. In that vein, there are always pros and cons of a solution. What are those as related to the smart grid?

The smart grid will create a more stable and efficient electric power system. It will significantly reduce the number of power outages experienced in the United States and, if an outage does occur, the smart grid will minimize

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Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.

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