We write a lot about the smart grid–a catch-all phrase that essentially refers to a method of delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers
using two-way digital technology that controls in-home appliances to save energy, cut down on costs, and increase grid reliability (read: fewer headache-inducing blackouts). The U.S. government has already invested plenty of cash in building out smart grid projects, including $47 million in July and a whopping $3.4 billion topped off with $4.7 billion in matching private investments in October. But while these benefits are nothing to sniff at, it’s been hard to pinpoint just how much CO2 a U.S. smart grid could save–until now.
According to a report from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory entitled “The Smart Grid: An Estimation of the Energy and CO2 Benefits” (PDF here), a smart grid could potentially cut down on CO2 emissions by 18% by 2030. That’s a pretty significant number–at December’s COP15 conference, the U.S. pledged to cut down on CO2 emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The nitty-gritty details of the report are below:
Keep in mind the little disclaimer at the bottom: these estimates assume 100% penetration of smart grid technology. That’s a long way off. The majority of people don’t have smart meters, and even though 33 million devices are expected to be installed in U.S homes by 2011, we can’t be sure that that heavy government support will continue through 2030. Still, even partial deployment is critical for an electrical infrastructure that can one day support millions of electric cars plugging into the grid at the same time every evening. Because the smart grid won’t just save CO2–it will also wean us off nonrenewable sources of energy.