Smart Grid Technology in Vermont Takes Off

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gathered with energy and environmental leader Monday to discuss so-called “Smart Grid” technology. The state received 69-million-dollars in federal stimulus funds to modernize its electric transmission system.

One of the main facets of smart grid technology is the use of newer electric meters by consumers. They allow both the rate-payer and the utility to instantly measure how much energy is being used. This gives the electricity provider information on power demand and consumers a tool to help find ways to conserve electricity. David Hallquist is the C-E-O of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, the third largest utility in the state. He says the technology also detects power outages quicker than before. Hallquist says this allows electricity to be restored sooner, in situations like during Hurricane Irene last year.

“We would wait for calls to come in and then you would have to pin these pins on a map and figure out where your outages were and send the crews to them. Being able to talk to meters in both directions, you can quickly see where the problems are. So with a storm like Irene, we’re able to restore power twice as fast. And it really is because we mobilize our crews to where the problem areas are much quicker.”

Vermont Electric Cooperative plans to have all of Its 33-thousand customers fitted with new meters by next year. From an environmental standpoint, the U.S. Department of Energy says,in the long term, smart-grid technology can cut carbon emissions from electricity use by up to 15 percent a year. This is because less energy is consumed and it becomes easier to more accurately gage how much power to produce. Trial programs in parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut are underway to study the benefits of Smart Grid technology. For New England Public Radio, I’m Adam Frenier.