In order to achieve our 100% clean energy future, we need the right tools to get there. That's why it's critical for Hawaii to embrace a modern power system that can reliably and efficiently integrate multiple sources of clean, renewable energy. In 2014, we canvassed 4,000 homes on Oahu to increase awareness about why we need a modern, “smart” grid.
For more than 100 years, Hawaii’s power plants have been gulping oil imported from overseas—as much as 31,000 barrels a day. Our demand for electricity produced this way drains our local economy and pollutes the environment.
For a healthier, more sustainable future, we must replace fossil-fuel-based electricity with new streams of clean, renewable power. Some of these new streams will provide steady power. Others will fluctuate, like energy from the sun and wind. Our old electricity grid will struggle to accommodate all of this new power, so we need a modern, “smart” grid.
Think of the modern grid as a sophisticated network like the human body’s nervous system. The nervous system instantly communicates what is happening throughout the body and activates the appropriate response.
In a modern grid, smart meters act as the nerve endings, detecting energy demand at each point on the grid. Their function is critical: A home that can’t signal the grid is as helpless as a hand that can’t tell the brain the stove is hot. Our old analog electric meters are just as helpless. They can’t communicate how much power is needed or when the power goes out. Smart meters can.
In addition to smart meters, other new technology—like energy storage—is also vital to the modern grid. Besides all the “hardware,” we’ll need new economic models that price electricity higher when it’s scarce and lower when there’s a surplus of clean energy (also known as “time-of-use rates”). And we’ll need new electricity generation models, such as widespread (or “distributed”) rooftop solar energy and interconnected microgrids.
The benefits of a modern grid will mirror the transformation from rotary phones to smart phones: Customers will enjoy more choices, better connectivity, and greater value.
Honolulu Civil Beat Commentary: Modern Grid: Plugging into Hawaii’s Bright Future
Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative
Environmental Defense Fund Fact Sheet
My Home and the Modern Grid: Understanding Smart Meters