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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The savings in a smarter electric grid

Washington State has been trying a so-called "smart grid," where people have their major appliances wired to the grid to reduce electric use during peak demand times, lowering electric costs.

For example, when high demand drove prices up (as utilities have to turn on "peaking plants" to generate extra electricity), special electronics turned off the heat element in the dryer or the water heater, helping to level demand.

This system is a combination of price monitoring and time-of-use pricing, and it lowered household electricity demand at peak times by 15%. During extended periods of heavy demand, the system lowered usage by as much as 50%.

In general, the system only intervened about 1% of the time, but cut 15% off the owners' electric bill. Not bad for a one-time $1000 investment.

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