WMEAC and Consumers Energy Present Smart Grid Energy Forum

West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Consumers Energy will present Visions of a Smarter Grid: An Exploring Our Energy Future Forum, on Wednesday, January 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Inner City Christian Federation Assembly Hall at 920 Cherry Street SE in Grand Rapids.

WMEAC launched the Exploring Our Energy Future Forums last year to examine the future of West Michigan’s energy infrastructure and its affiliated industries.  The four previous forums examined a wide range of energy issues in the state and the environmental, economic, and social concern involved with each.  With this latest forum, panelists will examine one of the most pressing concerns for the future of energy in West Michigan and nationwide:  How to improve the electrical grid itself.

“Whether it’s alternative energy, energy efficiency or electric cars, so much of the future of our energy infrastructure will be determined by the improvements we can make on the grid,” said Nicholas Occhipinti, WMEAC Director of Policy and Activism. “If we can develop a smarter grid, we can open up so many other exciting, extraordinary possibilities.”

For instance, some Michigan residents already have the ability to “talk” to their appliances about how much they cost during use, and how much energy they are consuming or CO2 they are generating at any moment.  In Grand Rapids, Consumers Energy recently concluded a SmartStreet pilot program that introduced these concepts to the East Hills neighborhood. The utility installed “smart meters” at approximately 60 neighborhood homes and businesses, allowing participants to view their real time energy usage through web portals and home energy display units. People could literally see their electric usage rising and falling depending on how much electricity they used.

A smarter electric grid could potentially improve utility service, conserve energy, address peak loading issues (which could lower electric rates and/or reduce overall capacity needs), and create a more favorable environment for the growth of renewable energy and electric car use.

The forum will focus on technology, engineering, policy and the extraordinary possibilities as well as difficulties surrounding our energy future.  Panelists include Kimberly Pargoff , Manager of Grid Energy Storage, Government & Military Solutions for A123 Systems;  Kristin van Reesema, SmartStreet Project Manager, Consumers Energy;   Ian Hiskens, Vennema Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan; Patrick Hudson, Smart Grid Section Manager, Electric Reliability Division, Michigan Public Service Commission.

The event is free.

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