A Sunday Smart Grid and Energy Sampler

Lynne Kiesling

Sitting at O’Hare, waiting for a plane … what better time to share the myriad links I’ve collected this week on smart grid topics?

Today I saw this post on smart grid technology at the Discovery News Powr Talk blog. Their post, titled “Grid, Ready to Talk”, hits hard on the point that an intelligent, communicating electric power network is necessary for achieving the kinds of new energy technologies and energy efficiency and lower carbon energy use that are increasingly on our minds. But the thing that really put me over the moon was the first comment on the post, from commenter “stomv”:

The grid can accomplish a whole lot by simply communicating variable pricing in real time, allowing the users on the grid to be smart.

Precisely. He then goes on to lay out a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) scenario that I recommend to you all for stoking the flames of your vision and creativity.

I’m thrilled to have found this blog, and surprised I haven’t stumbled on it before. Recently they have had posts on ways to promote renewables that minimize the involvement of Congress and the Federal government (an objective near and dear to my heart!), a post on Peter Corsell’s Technology Review article, which I discussed here back in August, and other interesting and though-provoking posts. I would not say that I’m in lock-step agreement with all of their arguments, but they certainly are bringing useful perspectives to the party.

Another interesting perspective comes from this editorial piece from Nature in mid-August. They make the important point that energy is not scarce per se, but the means of harnessing energy in forms based in something other than carbon are the challenge. Predictably, they decry the low level of government funding of research in such technologies; as you might imagine, I am skeptical that government funding of R&D is on balance going to lead to the development of scalable renewable energy technologies. $4 gasoline and expensive natural gas are doing more for renewable research today. Similarly, they argue for a new Department of Renewable Energy. Again … skeptical. More bureaucracy cannot unleash creativity in the myriad and unpredictable ways that lead to true innovation; to do that requires simultaneous parallel research generated through the distributed, decentralized incentives of intertemporal price signals, with risk-taking entrepreneurs driving such discovery.

Finally, I love this development: a dimmer switch for high intensity discharge (HID) lighting, such as outdoor lighting. Next step: a programmable dimmer switch that can both program the lighting to go up and down as need based on ambient light levels, and the capability in the switch to make the lighting transactive, so it can dim in response to a price signal.