Smart Grid for Carbon Mitigation

Although our administration is now pushing smart grid, few people know what that means, said speaker ML Chan. In simple terms, smart grid is the convergence of information and power technologies with the goal of improving system efficiencies. Some of the benefits of smart grid are it easily incorporates renewables and micro plants onto the grid, enhances system reliability, get electricity to rural areas and offering real-time pricing to consumers so that they can change their usage. Smart grid could reduce line losses significantly and save 600 million tons of CO2.

The major barrier to smart grid is lack of a standard for communication between the different parts of the grid, which could take 7 to 8 years to develop. Additionally, although the transmission grid is already in place, Chan does not believe the culture and market in urban areas is ready for real-time pricing.

Be the Aid, not the BandAid

At Mercy Corps, the real challenge to expanding climate work into all operations was to expand the thinking of people working in conflict areas to understand that climate change was more than Hurricane Katrina. Climate change affects past programming and future plans. Luckily, in many cases there are overlapping challenges. For example, look at youth and their job prospects, then look at agriculture disintegrating and the youth problem will get worse. Climate change is not Katrina, but a force multiplier on all of our programming.

Although supporters want to educate, that is not a priority of vulnerable populations. Instead, programs need instead to balance climate work with livelihood development and economic benefits. One example of how Mercy Corps has integrated climate into seemingly unrelated work is a project on health and poverty in Indonesia. The project has shifted to looking at subsidence and adaptation to rising sea levels.

Now Mercy Corps has a 20 to 30 year strategic plan and mandates climate risk assessment on all projects. Long term sustainability must be built government and private sector partners.


  • James Jarvie

    Mercy Corps
  • ML Chan

    Joint U.S.-China Cooperation on Clean Energy and Quantra Technology, LLC