PECI, a national energy efficiency consultancy based in Portland, Oregon has completed one of the best analysis I've seen on the coming Smart Grid and what it means for buildings (both residential and commercial). The PDF of their report can be found here: Smartgrid Whitepaper. PECI is focused on residential, commercial retail, and large commercial clients. If you are in any way involved with conserving energy for your business, office building, or if you're just the energy manager for your home, this is a great read to understand what the future of conservation hold for our buildings.
In regards to how the smart grid will result in energy savings, the report says:
A comprehensive smart grid deployment would result in energy saving improvements from generation source to end-use of the electrical grid. This is due to reduced power line losses in transmission and distribution networks, more efficient voltage control, and lower energy consumption in individual buildings. This paper focuses on energy saving opportunities in buildings linked to the smart grid.
The paper also discusses "building commissioning", which is the idea of documenting a building's performance and ensuring it is operating as it was designed. For example, you can make a LEED building with all the fancy energy meters, temperature sensors, efficient AC units, etc., but if all of those systems malfunction and nobody is monitoring them, then they are pointless. Often times buildings have great energy saving gadgets installed, but nobody ever maintains them so when they malfunction, the gadgets become useless. You can learn more about building commissioning from the Building Commissioning Association website.
A large focus of the report is on communication, mainly how buildings will communicate their energy consumption and needs to their occupants and the smart grid. Mapawatt covers the importance of building communication for residential users in our Monitoring section. Since energy is basically transparent (you can't see electrons flowing through copper or natural gas through a pipeline), the tools that help individuals and utilties monitor and communicate energy usage are going to be a vital part in our efforts to use less and conserve more!