For most of the last century, our electrical grids stood as an engineering marvel of the modern age and a global symbol of progress. The cheap, abundant power they brought changed the way the world worked — filling homes, streets, businesses, towns and cities with light and power.
But these grids are products of a time when energy was cheap, environmental impact wasn't measured and consumers weren't even part of the equation. Back then, the power system could be centralised, closely managed and supplied by a relatively small number of large power plants. It was designed to distribute power in one direction only — not to respond to the global dynamics of energy supply and demand.
In today's context, the world's grids are incredibly wasteful. With little or no intelligence to balance loads or monitor power flows, the world loses enough electricity annually to power India, Germany and Canada combined.
Fortunately, our energy can be made smart. It can be managed like the complex global system it is.
How can we make our energy smart?
We can now put sensors into everything from the meter in the home and the turbines in the plants to the network itself. In fact, the intelligent utility system actually looks a lot more like the Internet than like a traditional grid. It can be linked to thousands of power sources – including climate-friendly ones like wind and solar.
All of this intelligence generates new data, which advanced analytics can turn into insight, so that better decisions can be made in real time. Decisions by individuals and businesses on how they can consume differently. Decisions by utility companies on how they can better manage loads. Decisions by governments and societies on how to preserve our environment. The whole system can become more efficient, reliable, adaptive... smart.
What are we doing?
IBM scientists and industry experts are working on smart energy solutions like these around the world:
Our electrical grids can be a symbol of progress again — if we build the entire system with intelligence. And we can.
Let's build a smarter planet.