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Advancing the Smart Grid

UL is participating in a pioneering smart grid research project, Pecan Street Demonstration, compiling the industry's most extensive database of consumer electricity consumption practices.


With investment in grid modernization, waste in the electrical system can be reduced by 31 percent.1 In addition, making consumers more aware of safe electricity production and consumption as well as the impact on economic and environmental outcomes will speed up acceptance and adoption of advanced technology innovations. By focusing our New Science on emerging smart grid technologies, UL is able to appropriately document the necessary processes, standards, best practices, rules and methodologies that will serve as a blueprint for safe smart grid technology implementation.2

Waste in the current electrical system in the U.S. costs roughly $500 billion a year.15

Waste in the current electrical system in the U.S. costs roughly $500 billion a year.4


The price of meeting the world’s energy demands is estimated at $26.3 trillion through 2030 — an average of more than $1 trillion a year.3 Waste in the current electrical system in the U.S. costs roughly $500 billion a year. Costs from storm related outages to the U.S. economy are estimated between $20 billion and $55 billion annually,4 and losses from power-line damage total $150 billion a year.5


A smart grid is a digitally enabled electrical grid that gathers, distributes and acts on information about the behavior of all participants (suppliers and consumers) in order to improve the efficiency, importance, reliability, economics and sustainability of electricity services. Used in tandem with smart meters, solar panels, wind turbines, inverters, energy storage devices, electric vehicles and home energy management systems, smart grids are rapidly changing the power landscape and the rules of engagement.6


Having developed a reputation with consumers as a trusted brand for safety, UL is uniquely positioned to be a positive catalyst to accelerate smart grid adoption and industry transformation. As part of our ongoing commitment to advancing emerging technologies, UL is participating in one of the nation’s foremost smart grid research projects — Pecan Street Demonstration.


Supported by a $10.4 million smart grid demonstration grant from the Department of Energy (and more than $14 million in matching funds from project partners), Pecan Street is being led by a team of researchers from The University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Environmental Defense Fund to develop and test an integrated, clean-energy smart grid of tomorrow in otherwise ordinary, contemporary homes. This first-of-its kind research project is compiling the industry’s most extensive database of consumer electricity consumption practices.7


Five hundred residences in Austin, Texas, are participating in Pecan Street Demonstration: allowing their energy usage and consumption to be monitored and analyzed. Half of the residences are located in Mueller, a one-square-mile community that boasts the highest concentration of homes with electric vehicles (60 total) and the most owner-installed solar panels (200 of the 250 homes) in the U.S.8


UL is focusing on two key elements of the research project:

  1. Safety: looking at electrical fire and shock hazards for home energy management systems and appliances, including electromagnetic compatibility issues, functional safety and tamper resistance.
  2. Interoperability and system integration: continually looking on both sides of the meter, striving for safe living and working environments.9
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Five hundred residences in Austin, Texas, are participating in Pecan Street Demonstration: allowing their energy usage and consumption to be monitored and analyzed.8

In addition, UL is training and certifying a team of evaluators to review and rate the grid project performance according to the Perfect Power Institute’s Power System Design and Performance Assessment standards developed in conjunction with UL. These technical specifications are based on input from mayors and other community-based stakeholders, including a number of smart grid pilot projects and other expert advisors. Communities can use the project ratings to compare service providers, shape policy incentives and work with utilities to ensure access to electricity that is cleaner, more affordable and reliable. With more communities and states moving toward restructuring, grid developers can use these ratings to better inform decision-making while entrepreneurs develop applications that allow consumers to better manage their electricity use.10


UL is working with utilities, technology providers and consumers, helping ensure the safety and security of the technologies involved with the Pecan Street Demonstration. In this role, UL is helping reduce component failures, improve product life cycles and accelerate market adoption of the smart grid.


The market for smart grids and renewable energy integration is expected to grow from $3.8 billion last year to $13 billion by 2018.11 UL’s important work with Pecan Street has reimagined an energy distribution system in a way that could support and accelerate the installation and management of smarter and cleaner electricity services, reducing costs and harmful environmental impact while enhancing reliability and peace of mind.


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