Smart Grid: A Closer Look at Potential and Obstacles - Slide 2

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A "smart grid" is a modernized, two-directional, electricity delivery system that monitors and regulates energy used by consumers, whether residential, commercial or industrial. The goal of a smart grid is to reduce energy consumption (and therefore demand), save money and increase reliability. Governments also promote upgrading to smart grids as a way to achieve energy independence and fight global warming.

The potential for the smart grid to do a host of good things -- cutting energy use, improving the environment, saving homeowners and businesses money, and generating revenue for a wide variety of companies in the telecommunications and IT sectors -- is unquestioned. The smart grid clearly is a winning initiative for society, as well as many companies.

That’s the good news. Just as the potential of the smart grid is an area of almost limitless potential, it also is an area of almost limitless complexity. The initiative, which is no less than to redefine and rework the way the nation supplies power to its homes and businesses, could easily get bogged down in conflicting agendas, governmental inertia and antiquated and legacy thinking.

The sheer breadth of the project – or, more accurately, projects – creates the dangers. Dozens of areas must be addressed, from how information is shepherded back and forth from home to utility, how to best guard the grid against being overwhelmed by demand, and how to enable people to remotely control their energy use. And, of course, there are profound security concerns at each step. Each of these will be areas of competition and, most likely, half-hearted cooperation between vendors.

In this slideshow, we take a look at the key components of the smart grid and the obstacles facing this massive undertaking.

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