The Smart Grid Begins with a Simulation

It’s expensive to install networked meters. Given the rapid turnover of products as new technology develops, it’s an expense that utilities are not willing to require of their customers. The test market for Smart Grid technology is in wealthy towns like Boulder, Colorado where citizens are willing to afford the developmental costs of energy efficiency.

One way to get Portland involved is a website that simulates the home energy dashboard of a Smart Grid. Data streams from appliances, lights, and room temperatures allow the home owner or building manager to see where they are wasting energy. The website displays the fluctuating price of electricity as demand rises and allows customers to plan their use of electricity for off-peak hours. The dashboard tracks how changes in behavior or structural improvement affects energy use. Networked to a thermometer outside the building, the energy dashboard could acclimatize the building’s temperature to the weather.

Individual consumers interact with the Smart Grid through their personal computer. The same infrastructure of Xcel’s grid in Boulder can be made available as a simple website tutorial-game in which you play to maximize your savings. Let’s experiment with the technology on a simulation website before spending millions to install it systemwide. PacificCorp and PGE can best implement new technology when the customers demand it after having experienced it for themselves, virtually.