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An Electric Revolution, Chapter Four: Microgrids: Where Technology and Consumers Connect

While a holistic, robust and all-encompassing system of community microgrids will clearly take a decade or more to implement, the end result is a consumer-controlled virtual utility. The technical areas of innovation needed to enable an intelligent distribution grid already have been identified and are within reach. They include:

Merging electricity and telecommunications to enable electronic appliances and devices to automatically exchange electricity and information with the bulk power distribution grid so that consumers can choose the most cost-efficient and convenient times for using power.

Electronically controlling and monitoring the distribution system in order to direct the flow of power with pinpoint precision, anticipate disturbances and correct them before they occur, saving the high costs of outages.

Transforming today’s one-way electric meter into a two-way consumer portal that enables electricity, price signals and demand decisions to flow back and forth at the direction of the consumer.

Seamlessly integrating local power resources, including solar power and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, allowing consumers to purchase and sell excess power while helping states meet clean energy standards.

In this highly feasible future, utilities will operate under different rules, with incentives that emphasize reliability, efficiency and a lighter environmental footprint. Full deployment of these innovations could produce a 30 to 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions and a similar improvement in energy conservation. And it would represent a true paradigm shift in how power providers interact with consumers.



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