When it comes to understanding the smart grid, there’s nothing like simplicity, so let me start by asking you a “very simple” question:

Can you think of a solution that provides an alternative to aging infrastructure and the huge investments it requires, something that reduces carbon emissions, deals with forecasted increases in energy demands, while at the same time, supports the integration of distributed and intermittent sources of alternative energy?

Okay, you got me. Truth is, the challenges faced by the electricity sector are extremely complex, but before you lose hope, let me tell you about a growing industry that believes it has the answer to this question: the smart grid.

Why is this important?

For Canada, the investment requirements between 2010 and 2030 will amount to $293.8 billion in electricity infrastructure!

According to a report prepared by the Edison Foundation, by 2030 the electric utility industry in the US will need to make a total infrastructure investment of $1.5 trillion to $2.0 trillion. The conference board of Canada reports that in this country, the investment requirements between 2010 and 2030 will amount to $293.8 billion in electricity infrastructure.

Yes, that’s right! As the population keeps increasing and we keep adding more and more appliances to our homes (not to mention the requirements of large businesses), the electricity sector must ensure that our needs for reliable, inexpensive, clean and plentiful electricity are satisfied.

So how can the smart grid help? At the end of the day, it represents an investment itself.  To succeed, the smart grid will need to demonstrate that its solutions—whether on the generation, transmission, distribution or consumer levels—are an effective substitute for the huge investments that we discussed above.Smart Grid

For entrepreneurs who would like to learn more about the “who’s who” in the smart grid and the opportunities that exist in the generation and distribution levels, we’ve prepared a white paper titled Ontario Utilities and the Smart Grid: Is there room for innovation?”

The paper summarizes where the utilities’ smart grid policies and technologies now stand and where they are heading. It highlights the global frontrunners in the race toward the smart grid, and outlines how industry stakeholders (regulators, policy-makers, utilities, vendors, academics and customers) can assess which utilities and technologies are considered the “smartest.” The role of the Ontario regulator is discussed in view of smart grid implementation, as are the policy-setting objectives and challenges it currently faces.

In case you missed the opportunity to register and attend today’s event, Ontario Smart Grid Opportunities in the Electrical Utility Sector, be sure to check our website over the next few days for a summary of the event’s proceedings, including videos and presentations. You’ll learn from Canadian and American experts about global opportunities, key technologies, best practices and policy mechanisms.

Finally, as promised, a simple explanation of the smart grid, courtesy of cartoonist Andy Lubershane.

Now you don’t have any excuses for not getting involved in—or at least being aware of—the smart grid movement.

Jesika Briones

Jesika is the International Program Manager for the Advanced Energy Centre. She works with MaRS cleantech advisors and experts from academia, industry and government to support the development and adoption of clean energy technologies in local and international markets. See more…