Smart Energy and the rise of the Personal Smart Grid

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Like many of you, I’m thrilled to see technologies such as “smart electricity grids” finally receive such attention, in the highest halls of governments and mainstream press. As highlighted by Intel’s Sean Maloney in his closing keynote of the Cleantech Forum yesterday, technologies such as smart grids and smart buildings hold tremendous potential for enabling a lower-carbon future. But as worldwide government stimulus packages take aim at accelerating the deployment of renewable energy and related 21st-century infrastructures, society must ensure those investments are made “wisely”. The public electricity grid infrastructures we build today, and the technology standards we build upon, must serve us for decades. We have only one chance to do this (for a while at least), so we have to “get it right.”

For starters, to provide us the longest useful life before replacement, our new smart transmission, distribution, and metering infrastructures must be built upon today’s, not yesterday’s, technologies. Sounds simple, but the utility industry is regulated in many countries, and with regulation often comes a relative inability to quickly assimilate new technologies. Also, these new grid infrastructures must be “open” and “adaptable” enough to interoperate with new innovations, and support future applications and services. An example of innovation is seen in the latest smart-energy puzzle piece, essential to enabling a lower-carbon future: the smart energy consumer. Empowered by computer-based dashboards, home area networks, and social networks, consumers are taking control of their personal energy use, and collaborating with others to reduce their carbon footprints. The rise of the “Personal Smart Grid”, in which a consumer is able to monitor and control the behavior of their personal energy assets, spanning rooftop solar panels, smart appliances, and plug-in hybrid/electric vehicles, while taking advantage of the wider smart grid, is imminent if not already upon us.

To create a lower-carbon future, we need to harness, and create synergy between, all of these innovations.These are challenges that Intel is excited to play a leadership role in helping address. To that end, we have formed the Intel Open Energy Initiative.

2 Responses to Smart Energy and the rise of the Personal Smart Grid

  1. neil blecherman says:

    John-
    I agree we are at a crossroads of opportunity to really “get this right” for the next generation of smart power generation, management and distribution. Today’s grid loses significant power during distribution, doesn’t reach the geographic areas in the U.S. that will be producing tomorrow’s clean power and doesn’t easily allow for the “open” and “adaptable” requirements you specify above. IBM has been experimenting with smart grids. Their latest “test bed” on the Danish island of Bornholm http://eetimes.eu/uk/214600152 is a great test case to watch. Intel has the talent and technology to be a strong contributor in this space.

  2. John, Well said. I often see startups vying to play in these spaces, but hindered by the non-homogenous lay of the land among the power companies. (Perhaps there is an analogy to the early 80’s when the RBOCs were vying to wire high speed digital communication into homes, but until the open standard of the internet grew up as an alternative, innovation was not able to thrive in that space.) I believe open standards are key. I hope that Intel can use their influence to help promote open standards in the smart grid space, leading to accelerated innovation in energy distribution, usage, monitoring, control, etc. …Especially in my neighborhood!