In the wake of the aftermath of one of the most powerful tsunamis to hit Japan, they were faced with their Nuclear Power Plant shut down and had to rely on substation breakers to keep the grid in balance. A system of rolling blackouts was created so that they will have a supply-limited grid. The government went directly to the people, asking them to reduce consumption during peak hours so that the economy, and jobs, may continue uninterrupted. This helped to keep the grid working in the short term.
Now, Japan is faced with rebuilding their energy infrastructure and are considering Smart Grid Technology. Smart Grid Technology helps keep the grid in balance by using smart meters that allows grid operators to let consumers know what behavior is need. "It uses price signals and command signals to increase the real-time price of electricity and let the appliances figure out when to run based on the cost. If peak loads near a critical point, the grid could command some air conditions to shut down for an hour," says Dan Bihn of Solar Today magazine.
Its a great opportunity for Japan to integrate renewable energy like solar and wind technology into their power grid. By using the same price and control signals, the meters can determine whether to use wind power generation or solar power generation based on the condition of the environment (windy and cloudy versus no wind and sunny). Prices will drop and price-responsive loads will buy the cheaper power. This keeps the grid in balance without needing to add new, potentially hazardous, power plants.
Denmark has a large test project doing exactly this. It would be great if more industrialized countries, like the United States, would integrate SMART GRID TECHNOLOGY into their power grid and reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and oil dependency.