The U.S. energy grid is – and will be- going through significant changes financially and environmentally in the coming years. The industry has started heavily considering and implementing measures that encourage distributed connections to renewable energy resources like wind and solar as well as advanced analytics to more accurately gather customer data relating to demand.

“Will we all save money and energy in the end?”

But as energy authorities begin laying a new foundation for the industry, the same questions still crop up: Will these enhancements actually change anything about the ways providers intelligently distribute their resources and help end users pay less for the same quality of service? Will we all save money and energy in the end?

According to an assessment released by America’s Power Plan at the annual Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, both of these factors play heavily into the restructuring of the country’s grid.

Saving energy

To keep up with the demands of their customers, providers have had to make demands of their own to the generators supplying them with necessary power. Wholesale markets now run on granular data, updating constantly the same way the stock market might. While this might seem like a complication of something rather straightforward, that line of thinking may be outdated. After all, energy today isn’t like it was even a few years ago.

Driven less by monetary exchange, the energy industry now runs on performance metrics, where service reliability trumps all else, even profit. And according to a Utility Dive poll, utility executives prefer it that way. Fifty-six percent believe a performance-based system for ratemaking stands superior to traditional methods for determining costs.

Do good ideas translate into efficiency in both energy and cost?

Do good ideas translate into efficiency in both energy and cost?

By implementing measures like demand response and flexible market reporting, providers can more accurately determine gross consumption from their customer base. In turn, these organizations won’t overspend on the wholesale market because their information will have greater veracity. Couple that with increased reporting frequency and the APP thinks energy providers will see any excess capacity purchases diminish over time.

Saving money

For providers, a smarter grid not only means bidirectional flow between their customers, but between generators outside of their region. By opening up smaller energy markets to greater prospects hundreds of miles away, the APP believes providers can kick-start competition in their neck of the woods – thereby driving down costs overall – while also offering customers with a selection of options once unavailable to them.

For instance, Wind Utility Consulting P.C. believes by allowing the wholesale purchase of Iowa’s wind energy generation in surrounding regions, the resulting clamor for the clean alternative could help neighboring states meet the 30 percent carbon emission reduction required by the federal Clean Power Plan. Instead of building expensive new generators to meet demand – which will still most likely run on fossil fuels – coordinating out-of-state clean energy exchanges can fulfill the same low-cost desires while still adhering to green regulations. The end user receives clean energy at a feasibly lower price point.