Smart grid development is a low-carbon solution that Drawdown lists as a “coming attraction” that can help utilities accommodate the rise of renewable energy. It could also eliminate 0.7 to 2.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050.
Today’s electricity grid is largely obsolete, was built to serve fewer, larger sources of “base load” power that often burn fossil fuels, and is increasingly unable to support the transition to renewable electricity sources like solar and wind, Drawdown notes. The smart grid, by contrast, is more “nimble and adaptive”, and can adjust to more variable renewable sources.
The main difference between the smart grid and the traditional power network is that the smart grid is a two-way communication system between supplier and consumer, enabling the system operator to “predict, adjust, and sync power supply and demand” while relying on energy efficiency and demand response to manage loads. “Smart grids can reduce overall consumption while facilitating the shift away from centralized fossil fuel plants and their greenhouse gas emissions,” Drawdown states.
While the technology may still be some decades away, Drawdown says smart grid investment will still deliver long-term savings, lower emissions, and overall grid stability as long as security and privacy issues can be addressed.