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Emerging Energy Use

David McNew/Getty Images

Emerging Energy Use

The electric grid is getting smarter. At least that's the hope of utilities and government bodies now investing billions of dollars in overhauling the system that doles out energy to homes and businesses across the country. Experts compare the coming grid upgrade to the personal computing revolution of the 1980s, when computing shifted to PCs away from hulking mainframes.

The aim is to make the grid more reliable, efficient, and adept at dispensing renewable energy such as wind and solar power. The new "smart" grid would also be capable of two-way communications, making it more responsive to the ebb and flow of energy-use patterns. For instance, utilities such as PG&E (PCG) are replacing mechanized meters with advanced digital versions that can help consumers and the utility better manage energy consumption. That's just the first step in a wholesale transformation in how power is consumed in the U.S.

Read on to see how the development of the smart grid might impact your life.