Did you catch this article in Wired Magazine? A great explanation of smart grid concepts to the masses.
Filthy coal-fired power plants spew carbon into the air. A mish-mash of 9,200 generators streams vital electrons along 300,000 miles of aging, inefficient transmission lines and one untrimmed tree in the wrong place could plunge a quarter of the country into darkness. This is our electric grid. A whopping 40 percent of all the energy used in the US—be it oil, gas, wind, or solar—is converted into electrons that travel over these wires. Any attempt at energy reform must begin here.
But this keystone of our 21st-century economy has yet to advance much beyond its 19th-century roots. Considering how wasteful, unresponsive, and just plain dumb the grid is, it isn't surprising that outages—which have been increasing steadily over the past quarter century—cost us $150 billion a year. The real shock is that the damn thing works at all.