Matt Wakefield, smart grid program manager at the Electric Power Research Institute, says, “The implementation of the smart grid is a continuous process. As new technology is developed and becomes cost effective, it is being used to find the most effective way to meet supply and demand.”
To make the smart grid a reality, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-profit electric research and development company, says power companies need to invest between $17 and $24 billion a year over the next two decades. Much of those costs will be passed onto consumers.
Clark Gellings, an EPRI Fellow, explains, “We need to tell power customers there is going to be an improved power system that will result in reduced costs even if they do not see an immediate reduction in their bill,”
EPRI estimated that by the year 2050, the average electric bill will probably go up by about 50 percent if the smart grid is deployed. If not, Gellings said, the average electric bill could go up by almost 400 percent.
Some of the biggest technology firms in the world are competing to supply the smart grid infrastructure, including IBM, General Electric, ABB, Siemens, Google, Toshiba, Cisco, and Microsoft. In addition, Power retailers like NRG and Consolidated Edison’s ConEdison Solutions, can use the smart grid to sell more demand response and other services.
The United States currently gets about 46 percent of its power from coal, 21 percent from natural gas and 20 percent from nuclear. Renewables, like wind and solar, generate less than 5 percent of the total. But in his State of the Union message in January, President Barack Obama set a goal of 80 percent clean energy by 2035.