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Sacramento getting smart grid

Two-way meters will allow users and the area's utility to monitor and control usage; installation is set to kick off next month with completion set for mid-2011.

Sacramento County plans to install a smart grid.
Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Sacramento County's community-owned electric utility has signed a deal for Silver Spring Networks to provide a smart grid for roughly 600,000 homes and businesses.

Installation is to begin in July with an expected completion date tentatively set for March 2011.

So what will residents be getting?

The smart grid will include the installation of two-way electricity meters and home area networks that will provide real-time usage information, rate information, and the ability to control a building's energy usage. This will allow users to monitor their electricity consumption, enabling them to adjust some of their energy usage habits (if they want to) from peak to off-peak hours. They would also be able to communicate with the kind of "smart appliances" under development by companies like GE.

Perhaps more importantly, the meters and smart grid will give the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the sixth largest community-owned electric utility in the U.S., the ability to immediately monitor usage and determine usage trends across its entire service area.

The new system will reduce operating costs for SMUD and enable it to improve its reliability, while providing customers with more information about their energy usage, according to SMUD's 2008 annual report (PDF).

"The new technologies will allow customers to make energy choices based on cost, comfort and convenience. Imagine a future where your appliances, electronic devices and programmable thermostat communicate with your electric meter, or where you can call up your energy profile on a laptop or a cell phone from any location," said the report.

The new deal coincides with what many experts have been saying: smart grids may be the next green-tech bubble.