Because electric utilities are highly regulated, substantial changes in the operation of a utility and in its interaction with consumers must be supported by proactive policy changes. These policy changes must be guided by accurate consideration of a wide range of interacting factors. Economics of power utility operation, consumer incentives, concerns regarding robustness and cost-efficiency of the power system, the desire to switch to more reliable energy source and limit greenhouse gases, the need to protect consumer privacy, and concerns about cybersecurity—all of these and more play a role in informing decisions of policy-makers. Effective proactive policies can only be developed if there is a good understanding of how this complex system of consumer, industrial and utilities agents will respond to changes, before these changes are actually introduced.
Students in the Smart Grid IGERT work with UVM faculty in the Community Development and Applied Economics, Natural Resources and Complex Systems groups on campus to develop leading edge systems models to predict the effect of policy changes as the smart grid is introduced. Students work with scientists at Sandia who excel at development of large-scale systems models, as well as directly with policy-makers within the State of Vermont, to develop a clear understanding of policies that need to accompany smart grid development and their impacts.