The Great Promise of Smart Grid Begins to be Realized

Carl Weinschenk

The good news that the gross domestic product grew 3.5 percent this quarter is a welcome sign that our sinking ship of state may finally be starting to right itself. What is even better is that much of the stimulus money the government is handing out under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) has not actually been spent yet, so a recovery may get a nice boost down the road.

Boosts may come from broadband and smart grids. In a milestone for both the ARRA and environmentally-conscious efforts to upgrade the nation's electrical grid, the U.S. Department of Energy this week named winning applications for $3.4 billion in smart grid grants. This M2M piece says that 100 of 400 applying companies got grants that cover projects in 49 states. They include smart meters, grid infrastructure and smart appliance manufacturing. The story says most of the money went to utilities, but that a $25 million chunk will be dedicated to building a smart grid manufacturing industry.

The grants will accelerate an industry that is moving quite quickly of its own accord. For instance, yesterday OG&E-the largest utility in Oklahoma-Silver Spring Networks and GE Electrical Energy announced an agreement. The pact calls for GE and Silver Spring to help OG&E with its Positive Energy program set for full deployment next year in Norman, Okla. GE will provide 42,000 smart meters, which will measure energy use in homes and business and send the results through Silver Spring's IP network to OG&E's offices.

Such projects could become common. Even a cursory reading of this long Network World Q & A with George Arnold, the National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, demonstrates why vendors are so excited about the nascent field. Arnold says the smart grid network-which will be IP-based-in reality is a system of systems that must be made to work together. Much work will be done to create a cohesive national network.

<strong>Arnold says that a three-phase plan was set forth in April</strong>.A draft document on phase 1 is open for comment and will finalized by the end of the year. Phase 2 will focus on a permanent governance structure and phase 3 on testing and certification. In a broader sense, he says, the smart grid will be a never-ending development process because, like the Internet, it will continue to evolve and change.

It's still early in the process-or processes-but it's pretty obvious that there will be some significant ways in which smart grid, stimulus-induced projects and the general maturation of the national infrastructure will overlap. Indeed, this TMC piece points out that WiMax, one of the two emerging 4G networks (the other is Long Term Evolution, or LTE), will see significant use for backhauling smart grid data.


The smart grid is good business and good sense. The process that is starting today will be ongoing. That's good news for vendors, the economy, the environment, consultants, consumers and even the lawyers who will draft the documents.

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