How technology and policy drive California toward a better, smarter electric grid

This information provided by Smart Cities Council North America.

Sometimes technology for technology's sake is a trap that can hamper major electric grid upgrades. For California, now working aggressively toward a comprehensive smart grid that incorporates its clean air and renewable energy goals, the marriage of policy and technology is helping the state ensure success and sidestep the traps. Read the story below for a summary of California's strategy — and an example of a local approach to smart grid implementation. — Doug Peeples


By Nick Schiffler, Onvia

As American cities invest in improving their overall infrastructure they face the challenge of addressing aging electrical grids and distribution systems. For many state and local agencies, the time is right to take that challenge head-on – and California is helping to lead that charge.

In fact, about 20% of all bids and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) related to smart grid design and engineering come from the Golden State. California has had more smart meter integration than any other state in the country, and has used one of the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy policies to push these efforts forward.

The state continues to advance policies that require a modern energy grid, such as creating energy storage mandates.

According to the GridWise Alliance, California "approaches these issues in a comprehensive way, so that the various elements of its greenhouse gas reduction strategy tend to work together."

A recent study found that the United States had installed 65 million smart meters by the end of 2015. Two California utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison – topped the list with more than 5 million smart meters each.

One of the many California government agencies willing to invest in smart meters is the City of Palo Alto. The city was considering implementing a smart grid as far back as 2011. After a thorough review, the city decided to wait a few years to allow technology to mature and bring down the costs of implementing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (a type of smart meter that uses two-way communication to track data in real time).

Now that smart meter technology has improved and gained more widespread use, they’ve decided the time is right. Palo Alto recently released a RFP, tracked in the Onvia Exchange, to seek companies providing consulting help for developing their smart grid strategy over the next five years. They plan to spend an estimated $11 million over four years to implement their Smart Grid Road Map.

With proactive, evolving policies and smart meter technology in place, California appears poised to remain the leaders in smart meters for years to come.

Nick Schiffler is a business-to-government (B2G) market analyst and content marketer for Onvia, leading commerce intelligence at the core of the B2G marketplace. Follow Onvia on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date with the latest government market insights.