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Smart Grid

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Can real-time pricing green the grid? [VIDEO]

Unless you've been living off the grid, you've probably heard about President Obama's "all of the above" plan for America's energy future, which embraces everything from oil drilling and natural gas fracking to wind, solar, and even pond scum. In the last couple years, the Obama administration has pumped billions into cutting-edge clean energy technology. But these all share a common problem: plugging into an electric grid that is mostly unchanged since the 1930s. Energy experts say meeting our carbon-footprint reduction goals will remain a pipe dream until we can revamp electricity distribution. The solution? The "smart grid," a nickname for a sweeping series of updates on everything from power stations to the meter in your home, which promises to save power and money by being sensitive to your energy use.

In the second installment of Climate Desk's Future Energy series, see how America is modernizing the largest machine on the planet.

Read more: Smart Grid

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Everything that is good for the environment is a job

Van Jones. (Photo by Zach Gross.)

In his newest book, Rebuild the Dream, green economy pioneer Van Jones reflects on his journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider, shares intimate details of his time in government, and provides a blueprint for reinventing the American Dream. Along the way, he contrasts the structure and rhetoric of the 2008 Obama campaign, the Tea Party movement, and Occupy Wall Street. The following excerpt from the book focuses on a new green economy.

Many politicians want us to lower our expectations about the economy. I say it is time to raise them. We should go beyond the shriveled thinking imposed upon us by today’s mania for austerity. The time has come to propose solutions at the scale of the problems we face. We can and we must revive the economy -- in a way that respects people and the planet.

For too long, we have acted as if we had to choose between strong economic performance and strong environmental performance. We have been torn between our children’s need for a robust economy today and our grandchildren’s need for a healthy planet tomorrow. We have been trapped in the “jobs versus the environment” dilemma.

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Obama makes strong call for clean energy — oh, and drilling and fracking too

(Photo by Alex Howard.)

Clean energy rocks. Nice, deserving people get jobs at wind-turbine plants. Solyndra-style investments are critical. Oil-industry subsidies suck. Energy efficiency is an economic engine. We need to drill, baby, drill. And we need to frack, baby, frack.

Those weren't the words, but those were the sentiments in the energy portion of President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He dedicated a significant chunk of the speech to energy issues, making an unexpectedly vigorous appeal for renewable power, cleantech investment, and efficiency -- as well as for natural-gas fracking and oil drilling.

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A magical meter and friendly competition help one community dial back energy use

The Island Energy Dashboard gives residents a real-time look at how much electricity they're sucking from the grid. When Puget Sound Energy announced plans to build a new substation to meet rising electricity demand on Bainbridge Island, Wash., in 2009, it apparently didn't know who it was dealing with. Bainbridge is a well-to-do suburb of Seattle (a 35-minute ferry ride will drop you right in downtown), and home to more than a few techies, computer programmers, and folks who have letterhead with lots of fancy degrees in front of their names. Eric Rehm, a software-engineer-turned-marine-biologist, says that "a mosh pit …

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Keystone ‘victory’ is nothing of the sort, say testy wonks

Enviros’ opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has succeeded in delaying or possibly even deep-sixing a project that would have carried oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas (and over a drinking water aquifer and the epicenter of a bunch of earthquakes). But not everyone is celebrating. Professional wet blanket Michael Levi wants you to know that this is probably a pyrrhic victory, more likely to result in delays to the kind of action the U.S. needs to take to avert the worst of climate change's effects. And he has a point, sort of. If Keystone …

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Power for the people: Energy for the 99 percent

Image: Power Up AmericaCross-posted from the Center for American Progress. The Occupy Wall Street protests are focusing Americans' attention on the fact that power is increasingly consolidated into the hands of very few individuals and corporations. This is especially true in the energy sector. Two weeks ago, the country's five largest oil companies -- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell -- released their third-quarter profits and once again revealed that high gas prices are bad for consumers but great for Big Oil, which pulled in a staggering $101 billion in profits during the first nine months of 2011. …

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Did Germany screw the planet by deep-sixing its nuclear plants?

Germany's phaseout of nuclear power was a boneheaded move that has wreaked havoc with its power grid and cost consumers dearly, and it will hurt the planet by leading to more coal-fired power, says a feature by Aaron Wiener in The New Republic. But wait, says Grist's own David Roberts! Germany did no such thing! With cheap nuclear power standing in the way, Germany could never have ramped up an all-renewables grid. (Exactly the point previously made by Arne Jungjohann in Grist.) Here's the Storified thread of the Twitter discussion that followed Wiener's piece, in which a rare sort of …

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Hybrid power plant turns wind directly into automotive fuel

Enertrag is a new hybrid power plant whose parent company invites you to "drive to [your] local petrol station and fill up with 50 litres of wind … !!!" Three exclamation points! Renewable energy has made Germans so adorable. Their website even has a picture of German chancellor Angela Merkel showing off a tank of hydrogen gas like it's a baby panda. The idea is simple: Use tried-and-true methods to transform wind power into electricity, which is used to electrolyze water and strip out the hydrogen, which can then be used as automobile fuel or burned in a combined heat …

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China pours money into smart grid technology

Cross-posted from Center for American Progress. There is no way to get around this fact -- China aims to modernize its energy infrastructure at home and dominate clean energy technology markets abroad. At the 2011 Smart Grid World Forum in Beijing late last month, China's State Grid Corporation announced plans to invest $250 billion in electric power infrastructure upgrades over the next five years, of which $45 billion is earmarked [PDF] for smart grid technologies. According to its three-stage plan, China will invest another $240 billion between 2016 and 2020 (including another $45 billion toward smart grid technologies) to complete …

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Critical List: Romney’s down with coal; Iran starts up a nuclear plant

Mitt Romney, in a desperate attempt to fit in, says he wants to burn more coal. Iran's making nuclear power. There’s no way that could go wrong! But worldwide, renewables are beating out nuclear in terms of installed capacity. Two people have died already in the more than 60 wildfires ravaging Texas. A Vermont company thinks it can expand the capacity of the grid by more accurately measuring the heat of power lines and letting utility companies know, based on those measurements, whether they can run more power through their lines. Students, don't buy an iPad if you're only going …