Monday, May 18, 2009

Shaping the Smart Grid

Cisco today announced details for its plan to enter the emerging smart grid market that it estimates will grow to many multiples of the size of the internet and generate some $20 billion in revenue per year.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke spoke about the need to establish interoperability standards for the devices that will connect to the grid. Of particular concern is the resilience and robustness of the system. Their press conference was taped by C-SPAN and is available here.

The Energy Dept. also announced that "the $10 million it received to support the development of interoperability standards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been provided to NIST to help accelerate their efforts to coordinate these critical standards." NIST is holding a second workshop on standards development May 19-20.

The federal government is not alone in working on the creation of new standards. The IEEE, along with Intel will be holding a conference in June to work on these issues. The standards that utilities and regulators adopt will affect which companies succeed and the subsequent lock-in and path dependence that result will affect our energy policy for decades to come. Consider that our current system emerged from the War of Currents in the 1880s.

Finally, for some excellent background reading about the smart grid you can do no better than to see Lynne Kiesling's excellent posts at Knowledge Problem (start here for a five-part series). Note that much is at stake and large companies and aspiring startups will pursue a multi-pronged approach to get their standards and products adopted. Along these lines Google has already filed comments with DOE and they are not alone (Google).

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