Monday, April 27, 2009

Smart Grid: The Path Forward

Faced with the daunting task of taking "Smart Grid" from the propaganda stage to the implementation stage, the experts are talking, and the "optimism" hardly seems to be the word of the day.

The Los Angeles Times quotes a senior consultant to the Departments of Energy and Commerce who will be responsible for some of the pilot projects that will determine if a naitonal smart grid rollout is even feasible. He notes that three big issues dog the future of Smart Grid:

1. Money. President Obama has promised more than $4 billion in federal Monopoly Money but the actual price tag of a national rollout is $165 billion. Calling it a "challenge," the consultant states that private investment in smart gird technology by utilities will be required to make this a reality.

2. Standards. "And one of the biggest challenges in rolling out a smart grid, energy experts say, is getting hundreds of industries, from power generators to appliance and auto manufacturers, to agree on a set of standards -- some already developed, many not ready yet." He continues, ""It will be a mess" [he] says, if auto manufacturers each come up with a unique standard for how plug-in hybrid technology will communicate with the smart grid. To avoid that scenario, the electric utility industry is working with automotive engineers to develop plug-in standards."

3. Time. "If you look at how vast the grid is, all the way from generator to consumer, to bring together a communication fabric so that information can be exchanged will take four to five years, easy"...

As always, the devil is in the details...