Focus on the smart grid

jonathan spencer

While the position will be clearer by the time this is in your hands, at the time of writing the 44 th United States president, Barack Obama, has just been inaugurated but has yet to put into place his economic recovery plan. There is much speculation on the detail of the plan but it is clear that it includes support for the smart grid, and that this support is substantial, with figures such as US$11 billion being talked about.

This is good news for our industry, which has seen much activity and developed considerable momentum over the past year. It will provide support in these difficult economic times for the ongoing deployment of AMI, on which many of the nation’s utilities have embarked. And it will provide the opportunity, if allocated wisely, to lay the foundation for the implementation of a successful national smart grid program.

Several recent reports have promised much from the deployment of smart grids in the United States, among others the creation over the next four years of up to 280,000 new jobs and the reduction by 2030 of annual energy consumption by 56 to 203 billion kWh, in addition to the many other benefits. But these are long term, and to get there the structures and funding that have been legislated must be put into place and the recommendations that have been made, most recently by the Electricity Advisory Committee to the Department of Energy, must be implemented. A roadmap for a coordinated nationwide smart grid deployment is needed, the Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program needs to be funded, and a comprehensive consumer campaign is needed.

While smart grids are moving ahead in North America, interest and activities also have been growing rapidly in Latin America, as evidenced at Smart Energy International’s first Smart Grids Latin America last November. So far, at least five countries in the region have smart grid pilots at various stages of development and a communication standard initiative is under way in Brazil. So far too, the region, while obviously affected, has escaped the worst of the economic meltdown of the north. While views appear to be mixed on the coming year in Latin America a slowdown is inevitable and what would be of interest now are some complementary in depth studies on the potential of smart grids in countries in the region.

Jonathan Spencer Jones
Editor North and South America