How Internet Concepts and Technologies Can Help Green and Smarten the Electrical Grid

By: 
Srinivasan Keshav and Catherine Rosenberg
Appears in: 
CCR January 2011

Several powerful forces are gathering to make fundamental and irrevocable changes to the century-old grid. The next-generation grid, often called the ‘smart grid,’ will feature distributed energy production, vastly more storage, tens of millions of stochastic renewable-energy sources, and the use of communication technologies both to allow precise matching of supply to demand and to incentivize appropriate consumer behaviour. These changes will have the effect of reducing energy waste and reducing the carbon footprint of the grid, making it ‘smarter’ and ‘greener.’ In this position paper, we discuss how the concepts and techniques pioneered by the Internet, the fruit of four decades of research in this area, are directly applicable to the design of a smart, green grid. This is because both the Internet and the electrical grid are designed to meet fundamental needs, for information and for energy, respectively, by connecting geographically dispersed suppliers with geographically dispersed consumers. Keeping this and other similarities (and fundamental differences, as well) in mind, we propose several specific areas where Internet concepts and technologies can contribute to the development of a smart, green grid. We also describe some areas where the Internet operations can be improved based on the experience gained in the electrical grid. We hope that our work will initiate a dialogue between the Internet and the smart grid communities.