It is my opinion that a key part of our conversion to renewable energy will be the improvement and enhancement of our national electrical grid. In it's current form, our grid is incapable of managing, or utilizing, a large amount of energy developed by wind, solar, or other alternative means. Currently the supply and demand of electricity has to be carefully balanced in a real time, second to second manner. Without the ability to control the outputs of these distributed generation sources, and without the ability to blend their output into existing sources, we will never be able to realize their full potential.
In my opinion, our future lies in distributed generation of electrical power from all types of renewable and environmentally sound sources - wind, solar, residential solar, hydro, biogas fuel cells, tidal, ocean thermal, and more. All can contribute electrical power to our national grid.
Our national electrical grid will then distribute the combined power from all these disparate sources to our homes, offices and factories. Electrical power can then be utilized in plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles for our transportation, electric buses, trains and monorails for urban transit, and a thousand other things we use in daily life - even our lawn mowers.
Smart grid is the overall moniker applied to various changes to today's grid and it's technology to allow better energy management, control and measurement. Implementation of Smart Grid technologies, strategies and methodologies is an important early step in sustainable energy.
This paper is an excellent overview of both our existing electrical distribution, how smart grid will change it, and the effects that change will have. It is not light reading, but, once you get past the introduction, I think you will find it interesting and informative.
So, get a fresh cup of whatever, sit back, get comfortable and check it out... Don't forget the munchies.