The smart grid could reduce the United States’ energy use and CO2 emissions by up to 18% by 2030, according to a new report from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Of this, 12% would be direct reductions, while up to almost 6% could result indirectly.

The report, “The Smart Grid: An Estimation of the Energy and CO2 Benefits,” shows a direct link between the smart grid and carbon emissions, and it identifies eight mechanisms by which the smart grid can reduce energy use and carbon impacts associated with electricity generation and delivery.

These mechanisms, with their associated electricity and CO2 emission reductions, assuming 100% smart grid penetration, are:

  • Conservation effect of consumer information and feedback systems – 3%
  • Joint marketing of energy efficiency and demand response programmes – 0%
  • Deployment of diagnostics in residential and small/ medium commercial buildings – 3%
  • Measurement and verification (M&V) for energy efficiency programmes – 1% direct, 0.5% indirect
  • Shifting load to more efficient generation – <0.1%
  • Support additional electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – 3%
  • Conservation voltage reduction and advanced voltage control – 2%
  • Support penetration of renewable solar and wind generation (25% RPS) – <0.1% direct, 5% indirect.

The report says the importance of these reduction estimates is in their combined effect. While several of the mechanisms are estimated to have small or negligible impacts, five of the mechanisms could potentially provide reductions of over 1%. The magnitude of these reductions suggests that, while a smart grid is not the primary mechanism for achieving aggressive national goals for energy and carbon savings, it is capable of providing a very substantial contribution to the goals for the electricity sector.