For those not up to speed, there is a good primer in the IEEE December newsletter, The Institute, which I get as an IEEE member. (At the end of the semester I get behind on my mail and journals, so I just caught up today.)
Here are a couple of opening paragraphs from the article:
The electricity grid is made up of four main components: generation, transmission, distribution, and customers. Generation refers to the production of electricity from sources of energy, such as coal and natural gas. The transmission system carries the electric power from the generators over long distances to a distribution system, which brings the power to the customers. Distribution systems can include power stations of their own.It’s a little rah-rah on the technology, but then what do you expect from a bunch of engineers? At least — unlike GE or PG&E or SDG&E — it’s not peddling a specific product or service.
Developing countries often have antiquated systems. But even more modern systems, which in a developed country such as the United States can be 50 years old or more, are typically inefficient, unreliable, polluting, incompatible with renewable energy sources, and vulnerable to cyberattack.
The Department of Energy has a website and a 2008 report that seem even more rah-rah. The latter is a propaganda piece worthy of a political campaign (or lobbying for increased appropriations) rather than a textbook or scientific article.
Still, the smart grid issues are essential for instituting distributed generation with unpredictable interruptions such as residential rooftop solar and small scale wind. So even if smart grid is not an RE fight, it’s one that RE depends on.