Smart Grid Could Backfire

For every opinion, there is a dissenter. For every bit of conventional wisdom, there is at least some counter evidence. While common sense and popular appeal seem to point to a smart grid that is more efficient and less disruptive, a recent study reaches a very different conclusion.

Researchers in Germany published results of their study in the July 22 issue of Physical Review E. “Econophysics of Adaptive Power Markets: When a Market Does Not Dampen Fluctuations But Amplifies Them” finds that widespread deployment of smart meters could lead to grid blackouts and other massive issues. The scientists said the idea of a worldwide smart grid is only focused on the short-term, which could be a mistake.

The authors argue that economic modeling of smart-grid markets makes the incorrect assumption that the behavior of multiple agents or consumers in a market can be averaged out over time, leading to a grid that operates smoothly without disruptions or spikes. Instead, the authors suggest that consumers are more likely to do the same thing en masse, especially when they all have the aid of smart technology and the information that it provides.

For example, the researchers found that offering cheaper rates at nonpeak times could encourage everyone to adjust their patterns, creating greater demand in off-hours.

This could overload the system at a time when low demand is expected. In this respect, the researchers find that smart-grid technology could have the opposite effect of what is intended. 

To avoid this dilemma, the report’s final recommendation is that more thought should be put into the smart grid before committing to a full-scale rollout.

About the Author

Rick Laezman

Freelance Writer

Rick Laezman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been covering renewable power for more than 10 years. He may be reached at

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.