The development and evolution of smart grid technologies, policies, and investments continues apace. Some interesting contributions to the discussion are:
- A Popular Science article on “reinventing the grid”: Despite the over-the-top rhetoric that incorrectly focuses on “reinvention” instead of evolution, this article provides a reasonable overview of the current technology and policy issues. It starts with the by-now well-worn fact that distributed digital intelligence is crucial for managing the interconnection of variable sources, such as wind and solar. It also falls into the false trap of conflating “smart grid” with constructing more transmission capacity to reach places where wind and solar farms are likely to be most efficient and profitable. And while the article does not add anything meaningful on the potential use of price signals and transactive technology to achieve coordination, at least it does admit for “both utilities and consumers” having more informed, timely, and granular control over both electricity supply and demand.
- A good Washington Monthly article by Mariah Blake: its hook is a really interesting discussion of the origins of Peter Corsell’s company GridPoint, but she then goes on to discuss the important institutional-regulatory-policy changes that would enable such entrepreneurs to unleash the potential value in consumer choice, digitally-enabled interconnected distributed generation, and a transactive electric power network. She also discusses the lessons we learned from the GridWise Olympic Peninsula Project. If you are looking for an in-depth profile that goes beyond the engineering, this is a good resource.
- The IEEE’s periodical Spectrum has a special smart grid issue, with three lead articles on various aspects of smart grid technology and policy. As with the Popular Science article noted above, the focus here is more on engineering and supply than on consumer behavior, pricing, and coordination, but the articles are thorough and well-written. Their intro notes, with reference to smart grid stimulus funding, that “… all that money will be well spent only if regulators are as inventive and intelligent as transmission and distribution engineers have been.” I am concerned that the focus here is too much on a top-down paradigm of regulators manifesting their “inventiveness and intelligence” by actively putting in place regulations, rather than thinking bottom-up and focusing on changing existing regulations and removing those that pose entry barriers to many of the new transactions and new value propositions made possible by smart grid technology.
The next couple of weeks will also see more developments in the smart grid interoperability standards work. Will keep you posted if important economics understanding is part of the story.