The Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) hosted a well-attended Smart Grid presentation on January 25. The public forum was led by Green Mountain Power vice president Robert Dostis and Representative Adam Greshin.

Vermont is set to receive approximately $69 million in federal funding to launch Smart Grid technology across the state. MRVPD director Joshua Schwartz said that the Department of Energy's positive response to the funding request was due to the coordination of the communities.

"It bodes well for the state," he said.

Smart Grid technology links electric meters on homes to the utility to measure and monitor real energy usage in real time; the current manual metering system is read on a monthly basis.

Another issue with the antiquated system, according to Schwartz, is the utility's inability to get in front of big peaks in power and prevent power outages.

Schwartz said that, under the current system, GMP doesn't find out about power outages until the phone starts ringing. Smart Grid allows more reliability and operational efficiency.

Schwartz assisted the Localvolts with the grant application that was recently funded through the Vermont Community Foundation to purchase energy monitoring equipment.

As a part of a small business outreach program, energy monitors will be installed in small businesses for three months. Energy usage will be used to determine recommendations for increased efficiency.

The idea, according to Schwartz, is to "get a group of information and share with the public in a couple different businesses; the more we know, the more we can do," he said.

Currently 8 percent of the country utilizes some kind of Smart Grid technology. Users can log in to a website to monitor home energy usage in real time. Because Smart Grid also monitors peaks in energy, users will be able to minimize energy consumption during times of high peaks.

Schwartz said when Smart Grid comes to the state, "It will mean better electric service and provide customers with opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint and their electric bills. The addition of high-speed information and communication technology to the electric grid will change the way utilities operate and how customers interact with them."

The $3.4 billion Smart Grid grant was part of this year's American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Vermont will be the first state to have use Smart Grid technology throughout the entire state.