Smart Grid

Electricity has a bright future as a clean and efficient source of energy. Significant progress is possible on further improving the efficiency of the electric grid as the US electric system is transformed to a smart electric grid. At the center of the evolution of the smart electric grid is the introduction of new technology at the customer meter, as well as the distribution and transmission system level. This technological innovation has required that the road map to a smart electric grid become a partnership of electric utilities and technology companies. Unsurprisingly, the introduction of this new technology has presented new legal, policy and regulatory challenges for state and federal utility regulators, including concerns about customer data privacy.  It also presents exciting new career opportunities to masters and JD graduates educated in this field.

In 2010, the IEE launched its smart grid initiative when it was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for $450,000. The work of the IEE Smart Grid team is ongoing and we highlight some of our exciting research successes in the paragraphs below:

THE ELECTRIC BATTERY: CHARGING FORWARD TO A LOW CARBON FUTURE

In 2017 the Smart Grid faculty and student team of Professor Kevin Jones, Ben Jervey (MERL '17), Sarah Barnowski (JD '17) and Matthew Roche (JD '16) published a new cutting-edge book on energy storage.  Now more than ever, consumers want to understand not only the basic facts behind the electric battery and the challenges of battery storage in everyday devices, including vehicles, but also whether increased, widespread application of battery technology has real environmental benefits that could change the future of our planet. Is 21st-century battery technology the foundation on which our low-carbon future will be built? The Electric Battery: Charging Forward to a Low-Carbon Future documents the long history of the battery and identifies the reasons it is now a key to achieving a low-carbon world. 

The book provides an unprecedented and easy-to-understand explanation of both the policy issues and technological challenges facing the battery in the quest to significantly reduce humanity's collective "carbon footprint" on the earth. Readers will be able to intelligently evaluate the chances of electric storage batteries ultimately becoming as mainstream as petroleum-product-fueled infrastructure and vehicles. The chapters in the book break down the complexity of the technology and elucidate the historic confluence of events that makes battery technology economically viable to any reader looking to understand the technological and policy breakthroughs that could enable a low-carbon future—for this generation as well as for subsequent ones.  

Here is what our clean energy leaders are saying about the IEE's new book:

"At a time when scientists tell us we must aggressively transition away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we will need to be able to store sustainable energy for use in homes, businesses, and transportation. In The Electric Battery, the authors show how the electric battery is a key to achieving our sustainable energy revolution."—U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

"The key to a better, sustainable future is not just clean, renewable energy but also reliable, affordable storage. This book is a must-read for everyone thinking about storage."—Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator, 1993-2001

For more information about The Electric Battery. 

Beyond Community Solar: Aggregating Local Distributed Resources for Resilience and Sustainability

In Chapter 4 in Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge, a book from Academic Press that examines the viable developments in peer-to-peer transactions enabled by open platforms on the grid’s edge the IEE Smart Grid Team addresses the important issues of community sustainability and resilience. With consumers and prosumers using more electronic platforms to trade surplus electricity from rooftop solar panels, share a storage battery, or use smart gadgets that manage load and self-generation, the grid's edge is becoming crowded. In this chapter the IEE's Smart Grid Team of Professor Kevin Jones, Flora Wenhui Ji, Erin Bennett, and Borna Kazerooni examine how communities can go beyond the benefits of community solar and how community energy leaders in California, New York and Massachusetts are employing community choice aggregation to reduce their communities carbon footprints and to improve energy resilience.  You can find more information about this book here.

THE FUTURE OF UTILITIES: THE UTILITIES OF THE FUTURE

In 2015 the Smart Grid team collaborated with a group of international researchers on a new book exploring the Utility of the Future. The book, edited by Fereidoon Sioshansi, the President of Menlo Energy Economics, examined the rapid technological advancements plus falling costs of distributed energy resources and how it is turning an increasing number of consumers into prosumers, eroding utility revenues and threatening the historical business model. Our team authored a chapter on the "Distributed Utility: Conflicts and Opportunities Between Incumbent Utilities, Suppliers, and Emerging New Entrants." Student authors included Taylor L. Curtis (JD/MELP '15), Marc de Konkoly Thege (MERL '15), Daniel Sauer (MELP '15), and Matthew Roche (JD'16). You can find more information on the book here.

A SMARTER, GREENER GRID: Forging Environmental Progress Through Smart Energy Policies and Technologies

 

In 2014, Professor Kevin Jones and David Zoppo (JD 2013) published their new book with Praeger which examines the five environmental pathways for a smart electric grid to help mitigate climate change. The book includes research contributions from twenty-one student members of the IEE's Smart Grid Project. According to John D. McDonald, P.E., Director Technology Strategy and Policy Development for GE Energy Management - Digital Energy, "The success of the 'smarter, grid' depends on technology, industry standards, and policy development. The application of digital technology, integrated into interoperable solutions that address the business needs of electric utilities, is not enough. The strongest driver for investment is policy, particularly with respect to the environment. A Smarter, Greener Grid addresses all key drivers very effectively, particularly the nexus of digital technology and the environment."

More information about "A Smarter, Greener Grid"

 

Smart Grid Case Studies

The Smart Grid Research Project utilized case study research to examine: What legal, regulatory and other policy changes can best ensure that Smart Grid implementation in the US improves reliability, enhances consumer value, and meets our clean energy goals? Below are links to all of the case studies that we have completed to date.

 

Smart Grid Customer Data Privacy Policy

New digital smart meters like this Elster meter have the ability to collect and store much greater amounts of detailed customer use data. Significant public concern over the concern that big data threatens the protection of consumer privacy led the Smart Grid Project to develop: A Model Privacy Policy for Smart Grid Customers. This model policy provides a guide for utilities, regulators and consumer advocates to use to protect customers' rights to privacy regarding their electricity use data. Below are some of the resources that the Smart Grid Project has produced in this area:

Model VLS Smart Grid Privacy Policy

Presentation to the American Public Power Association - November 8, 2011

Listen to Professor Kevin Jones discuss smart grid technology, demand response and customer privacy on WNYC

 

Contact the Smart Grid Team

For more information about our Smart Grid Project you can contact:

Kevin Jones, PhD
Director, Institute for Energy and the Environment
Professor of Energy Technology and Policy
Phone: 802-831-1054
Email: kbjones@vermontlaw.edu