What is the smart grid?

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The Independent Online

By 2020 it is estimated that 80 percent of Europe will be connected to the smart grid, which will allegedly improve energy efficiency, lower electricity costs and be environmentally beneficial - but what actually is it?

Consumers around the world remain skeptical about the smart grid and its connected utilities such as smart meters. In some parts of Australia there has been friction between local residents and companies trying to install smart meters according to a July survey by General Electric .

On September 25, in an effort to remove any confusion and to gain consumer trust, the Cleantech Group released a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy entitled US Smart Grid Vendor Ecosystem.  

Though often focused on the business and economic aspects of the smart grid, the 94-page report does describe components of "the home energy system of the future" - "wireless sensors, smart appliances, and smart plugs" and how such utilities as solar panels or electric cars would be included in the grid.

The European Union's European Technology Platform for the Electricity Networks of the Future also provides a definition of a smart grid - "electricity networks that can intelligently integrate the behavior and actions of all users connected to it." 

The report from the US Department of Energy is available to download for free at http://cleantech.com/research/upload/2010-US-Smart-Grid-Vendor-Ecosystem-Report.pdf

The smart grid definition from the European Technology Platform for the Electricity Networks of the Future is available at http://www.smartgrids.eu/?q=node/163 .