One of the most pressing concerns for our society is to find ways to meet our skyrocketing energy demands. The answers we seek must not only be efficient -- both technically and economically -- but also limit our impact on the environment. The development of advanced electricity systems, sometimes known as "Smart Grids," will necessarily be a key part of this solution. The defining element of a Smart Grid is the overlaying of a sophisticated information infrastructure atop the power infrastructure. This dual-purpose network will enable a host of new functions within the electricity grid, including improved integration of renewable generation resources; real-time monitoring, diagnosis and correction of disturbances and faults; demand-response programs that help balance supply and demand; and novel pricing mechanisms used at both wholesale and retail levels.
Tomorrow's electricity systems, then, will facilitate flows of both electrical power and information. A third flow in Smart Grids is money. As electricity markets become increasingly deregulated, the number of players in the electricity industry will continue to increase. A given kilowatt-hour of energy may be bought and sold multiple times among these players between its generation and usage. Understanding the flow of money throughout a Smart Grid will be as critical as understanding the flows of electricity and information.
The Lehigh University cluster on Integrated Networks for Electricity (INE) is a multidisciplinary team of engineers, mathematicians, and economists. We believe that such teams will play a central role in developing tomorrow's advanced electricity systems. The INE cluster was formed in 2011 with support from the Provost and the Deans of Engineering, Business and Economics, and Arts and Sciences. The cluster has positioned its research on the theme of "Integrated Networks for Electrical, Information, and Financial Flows."