The term Smart Grid represents a complex set of technologies with potential to enhance the efficiency and reduce costs of electricity production, storage, transmission, distribution and use. Advances in nanotechnologies and new nanomaterials will play crucial roles throughout Smart Grid systems, changing electricity transmission, reliability, resilience, and energy storage, and shaping electricity use and demand management in novel ways. Although Smart Grid systems are critical to developing a sustainable U.S. energy system, significant variation is apparent in visions of what these systems are and how they are developing. By exploring the values and contexts that shape Smart Grid development and implementation, this project contributes to ongoing efforts to accelerate the transition of our aging electricity system to increase future energy security, reduce the threats of climate change, and contribute to sustainable development.

This research, funded by the CISE directorate, the SBE Nano Initiative, and the STS program, is guided by four questions: (1) What are the parameters of the political and policy debates surrounding Smart Grid? (2) How do stakeholders in different regions articulate their visions of Smart Grid development and deployment? (3) What are the major deployment challenges for Smart Grid technologies? (4) How can theory on science, technology and society, socio-technical transitions, and energy technology deployment be refined and expanded to more effectively integrate empirical components of emerging energy technology systems? To answer these research questions, the investigators will analyze Smart Grids in three electricity transmission systems of North America: the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO), the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-New England) and the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT); both MISO and ISO-New England include Canadian interconnections. The principal investigators will conduct policy review and analysis, focus groups, interviews, and media analysis to examine the values that inform Smart Grid development and use as well as barriers to implementation.

The project contributes to a growing body of social scientific research on nanomaterials and scientific innovation. In addition to increasing understanding of national, regional and state-level influences on Smart Grid technology deployment, the researchers' results will enable energy professionals, state and regional planners, policy analysts, non-profits, and businesses to develop more effective strategies for involving the public in Smart Grid technology design, technology implementation, and policy formation.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Linda Layne
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Texas A&M Research Foundation
College Station
United States
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