Today is Labor Day – the holiday that celebrates workers. We should all say thank you to the utility workers who are toiling this weekend – and sometimes in very unpleasant conditions – to restore power anywhere experiencing an outage. Let’s hope their hard work is supported by technologies that let them work smarter too. Grid modernization projects can accelerate response to outages and restoration of power. Smart Grid technologies that help monitor and control equipment in the distribution grid – the low voltage grid that includes substations, poles and wires, transformers, and smart meters – can provide data that helps pinpoint damages and even determine which crews have the skills and supplies to conduct repairs. Some of these technologies are revolutionary, but more often they are evolutionary improvements to how things are currently done.
September 3 is also the anniversary of the Treaty of Paris that formally ended hostilities between the brand new United States of America and Great Britain in 1783. The Battle of Yorktown was the last major engagement that resulted in the British Army’s surrender on October 19, 1781. The British Army – the most formidable military force on the planet at that time – was so stunned at this defeat that their band played “The World Turned Upside Down” at the formal surrender ceremony.
So what does a mention about the Revolutionary War have to do with the Smart Grid? A lot, actually. Smart Grid technologies integrate domestic, renewable energy sources like solar and wind into the power grid. Grid modernization enables the displacement of one fuel source – oil – for multiple domestic renewable fuel sources to power electric vehicle transportation. This is revolutionary thinking, and its time has come.
Gasoline prices have never been higher than they are this Labor Day. And in addition to this pain at the pump, when you add up the subsidies and tax breaks for oil (passed on to American taxpayers); along with the costs of pollution from extraction to consumption (also passed on to American taxpayers); and the military costs of the defense of shipping lanes to protect the transport of oil to countries other than the USA (and of course also passed on to American taxpayers); we’ve got a lot of taxation with little representation in energy security. The US military suffers the human casualty costs of attempting to ensure energy security built on oil. That is why it is moving to alternative forms of energy to reduce dependence on oil both onshore and offshore.
Some Americans argue for increased oil drilling within the USA borders. It’s part of the Republican party platform. But this “drill baby drill” crowd ignores two inescapable facts. Oil is a conveniently transportable fuel. In a free market system, North American oil will flow to the highest bidder – on- or offshore. Most likely, American taxpayers will continue to pay the costs noted above. There is no energy security with oil. The truly revolutionary strategy is to invest in Smart Grid projects and restructure our economy on energy sources that remain onshore, like solar and wind. This strategy will produce economic and energy security for Americans, and we’ll once again turn the world upside down.