Skip to Content

Everything Is the Grid

December 21, 2010

Smart grids alone could help curb the need for additional power plants and decrease carbon emissions. But they’ll do even more good where they can be combined with new heating and transportation systems, whether that’s on the scale of an individual building or of an entire city.

“In most places we’ve got completely separate power, heat, and transport systems,” says David Clarke, CEO of the U.K.’s Energy Technologies Institute, an organization jointly funded by industry and the British government. Because power generation appears to be the easiest energy system to “decarbonize,” Clarke foresees that nearly all heating and transportation will eventually be brought under the electrical umbrella, through technologies such as electric vehicles and residential heat pumps that use the air or ground as a heat source or sink.

Before that all-electric future arrives, Japan is testing other technologies to reduce urban energy demand by better integrating power and heating systems. It is spending a billion dollars in four cities over five years to develop and deploy technologies such as residential natural-gas fuel cells: the cells reduce the amount of power the grid must supply, while waste heat from the fuel cell is used to warm the house. When electricity and heat are both generated on-site in this way, a house requires less total energy than it would if warmed and powered separately.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.