Smart Grid needs a Facebook

Dec. 2, 2010
By Elisa Wood We think we know how smart grid technology will change the utility industry. But do we really? Take a look at this documentary made in 1969. It’s a view of how the world perceived the coming Internet (It’s also a pretty amusing look at how sexist our society still was at that […]

By Elisa Wood
We think we know how smart grid technology will change the utility industry. But do we really?

Take a look at this documentary made in 1969. It’s a view of how the world perceived the coming Internet (It’s also a pretty amusing look at how sexist our society still was at that point.)  http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/04/before-the-internet.html.

While the film gets some concepts right, like online banking, it misses the Internet’s most world-changing benefit, the democratization of information — the production, distribution and consumption of data by everyday us, free from gatekeepers.

The film also misses the pizzazz and the fun of the coming Internet. There is no You Tube, no Google, no Wikipedia. And look at the kids. They are playing with physical toys. Why isn’t the Mom yelling at them for being on Facebook all day?

The Internet’s emergence – and our misunderstanding of what it would become – may provide hints about the future of smart grid. After all, many parallels exist between the two.
The Internet offered up democratization of information; smart grid promises democratization of electricity, giving consumers the ability to control at their fingertips power production, distribution and consumption. Indeed, if smart grid’s vision plays out to its fullest, you in essence become the power plant. Your in-home generators produce power that is stored by your plug-in electric vehicle, and your home computer controls the electricity distribution. The end game is energy savings and lower costs.

Some argue that the smart grid revolution will have a more profound impact on how we live than did the Internet. The megawatt, after all, is more powerful then the megabyte. Without the megawatt, the megabyte could not be.

Forty- years ago we had a pretty bland vision of the coming Internet. Had we been worried then about getting people to use the Internet – the way we now worry about getting them to use smart grid devices — we probably would have plumbed the depths of behavioral psychology for strategies. We would have asked: Can we get people to use the Internet if we show them that their neighbors do? How about if we demonstrate to them how much money the Internet will save them? Will they shop on the Internet if we explain to them it is better for the environment than driving to the store?

And, of course, all of that hand-wringing would have been a waste of time. What did it take to get people to use the Internet? Some really smart kids in dorm rooms with bright ideas: Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg and the like.

The electric power industry needs its own crop of dorm room geniuses that will find ways to make the smart grid irresistible to the consumer. If they emerge, maybe the next generation of parents will be lecturing their kids to get off the kilowatt zapper and go outside and play. After all, you can’t spend your whole day eking energy savings from the house.

Elisa Wood is co-author of “Energy Efficiency Incentives for Businesses 2010: Eastern States,” available at www.realenergywriters.com.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

Facebook:  Microgrids

Exploring the Potential of Community Microgrids Through Three Innovative Case Studies

April 8, 2024
Community microgrids represent a burgeoning solution to meet the energy needs of localized areas and regions. These microgrids are clusters of interconnected energy resources,...

Grid Beyond Wp Cover 2023 01 06 12 24 33

Global Energy Trends 2023

Over 2021-22, environmental, macro-economic, and geopolitical shocks have put the global energy transition under pressure.