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What is the smart grid? To put it simply, it is a more technologically advanced version of the power grid. For example, through two way communication utilities and consumers can match power demands and prioritize the use of electricity to when it is cheapest. This communication also provides large amounts of data to make the grid more efficient. The smart grid can also prioritize using renewable sources when possible, but switch to other methods of generating electricity when needed. This targeted approach to generation leads to greater energy efficiency and cleaner energy use. Here is a video to give more information.

Smart Grid Classroom Activity

The classroom is a great place to introduce the smart grid. In the following activity we will use candy to represent the resources needed to generate electricity for the grid. Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Choose two types of candy/tokens and put them in a container (enough so every student can get one of each). One will represent renewable and get replaced, while the other will represent non-renewable. 
  • Step 2: Go around your class and let students choose up to four pieces of candy/tokens. After each student, replace any renewable candies/tokens. 
  • Step 3: When you run out of candy/tokens, explain to the students that they have used up the resource limits, even if not everyone got some.
  • Step 4: Reset the activity.
  • Step 5: Go around the class again, but this time instead of letting the students pick, you negotiate how much candy/tokens to give. Some ways to do this are: 
    1. Explain if you are running low so the student may choose to take less than four.
    2. Let them know how many students still haven’t received candy/tokens.
    3. Introduce placeholder tokens the students can exchange for candy/actual tokens. You can offer to give them two candies for one token if they agree to go last, or require two tokens for a certain candy if you are running low. 

The conversation between the teacher and the students represents the two way communication of the smart grid. You are able to target resources, offer better times to receive power, and be efficient about the distribution to ensure the best possible result.

The combination of resources that go into generating electricity is referred to as the fuel mix. The renewable and non-renewable candies from the activity represent how different resources go into making the final output that is delivered to homes.

Fuel Mix

An important part of the future of electrification is what fuel mix we use to generate electricity. The fuel mix is the amount of different energy resources used in order to produce electricity in a given area. This Instagram reel will help visualize how the fuel mix has changed over the years.

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The smart grid will also impact our access to electricity, making it easier and more cost effective to move towards electrification. The need for access to electricity is only increasing as the world continues to innovate. Be sure to watch for our upcoming Instagram reel where Ellen and Peter are going to talk about the move towards electrification and some of its benefits.

The smart grid is an important part of our electric future. It promises to improve emission rates and cost savings for consumers. Exploring how it works is going to be an important part of education for years to come. NEF is excited about joining you on this adventure.