About the Center for Smart Power Grids

SPG has been chartered by GMU on May 1, 2009 to address the unique challenges of modernizing the nation’s electric grid. The stimulus package allocates $4.5 billion toward this goal designed to resolve major deficiencies in the following areas:

  • Efficiency and Reliability
    According to DOE, outages and power quality issues are estimated to cost American business more than $100 billion on average each year. If the grid were just 5% more efficient, the energy savings would equate to permanently eliminating the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars. There have been five massive blackouts over the past 40 years, 3 of which occurred in the last 9 years. As an example, a rolling blackout across Silicon Valley totaled $75 million; in 2000, a one hour outage caused $20 trillion in trades delayed in the Chicago Board of Trade; the Northeast blackout of 2003 resulted in $6 billion economic loss to the region; a blackout costs Sun Microsystems $1 million per minute.
  • Security
    The grid's centralized structure makes it vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The most serious problem is that interdependency of components may cause a cascading series of failures that could bring our nations' banking, communication, traffic and security systems to a stand still. The Northeast blackout of 2003 is a painful example of such cascading failures, which were originally triggered by a small accident. Clearly, a similar event may be easily triggered by a terrorist attack.
  • Environmental/Climate Change and Global Competitiveness
    The US accounts for 4% of the world population, but produces 25% of its greenhouse gases. A key contributor to the greenhouse gases is burning coal for power generation. Other countries aggressively pursue "Smart Grid" initiatives.

The Smart Grid initiative is designed to move the centralized, producer-controlled electric network to one that is much more distributed and consumer interactive. Particularly, much power will be generated from residential solar panels, and priced on what it costs in near real time, so that the usage can be adjusted dynamically. Key designated uses of funds include:

  • Enhancement of energy infrastructure security and reliability;
  • Facilitation of recovery from energy supply disruptions;
  • Smart Grid technology research, development and demonstration; and
  • Implementation of Smart Grid Interoperability Framework.

The goals of SPG are to research, develop and introduce for use

  • decision guidance software solutions
  • economic and market models, and
  • public policy recommendations

for the focus areas including:

  • recovery from energy supply disruptions to minimize negative economic impact;
  • near-real-time energy pricing and power consumption scheduling
  • optimal enhancement of electric grid infrastructure to make it robust against natural and man-induced disasters; and
  • smart grid interoperability.