Some smart grid reading recommendations

Lynne Kiesling

I am attending a meeting of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group today and tomorrow, and am speaking on a panel about smart grid this afternoon. Thus I’m going to take this opportunity to clear some of my long-open browser tabs and offer up a selection of the readings I’ve found most interesting in the past week or so.

  • Monday’s Smart Grid News notes have a lot of interesting comments. Note, in particular, the first item that stresses the risk we face that “the Smart Grid [sic] for distribution utilities could be shanghaied by an overemphasis on transmission”. This observation reiterates the same point that I made in my post last week about smart grid and renewables interconnection.
  • A New York Times/Greenwire story asks “will Americans learn to love the smart grid?” This story is important for two reasons. First, the author interviewed Eric Lightner at DOE, who notes that the way to sell smart grid to consumers is to stop talking about technology: “What people really want to hear is, ‘How is this going to reduce our costs, help us green the planet and plug in our hybrid vehicles if those come to market?'” Second, the author interviews Kurt Yeager, who makes the crucial observation that “[t]here’s a fair amount of skepticism because a lot of the initiatives are indeed focused on providing that intelligence to the utilities but not the consumer.”
  • This CNet article discusses 4 reasons that smart grid will create benefits, and includes a nice discussion with my PNL and GridWise colleague Steve Widergren. I think the 4 reasons the author highlights are good: reduce costly blackout impacts, information transparency on energy consumption and costs, helps businesses reduce their carbon footprints, and entrepreneurial opportunities for tech companies. I would, though, add two points: his discussion of increased information did not go far enough — he does not go so far as to discuss the benefits of having transactive, price-responsive end-use devices. The failure to discuss that means that, as one of the commenters notes, that other than the tech company point he is too focused on utility-centric benefits of smart grid.
  • This Philadelphia Inquirer column from Jeff Gelles is really, really great. He envisions an information-rich, technology-enabled electric power network and its valuable capabilities, and he’s very eloquent about it. He also does a good job of pointing out that the electric power network is a system of diverse systems, and therefore that smart grid is not a single, monolithic thing. A strongly recommended read.

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