E-Commerce Times Talkback
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The recent lull in smart meter deployments and smart grid projects has come to an end with an announcement from the Obama administration last month. The Department of Energy announced over $3 billion in funding for smart grid projects, which will be matched by private-sector funding to push the total amount of investment in smart grid project over $8 billion. The reason for the lull in activity? Technology developers and utilities were preoccupied preparing requirement documents and proposals for the stimulus funds.
The surge in interest and development in creating a smart grid of interconnected energy supplies, transport, and end use could not come at a better time. There are only positives, and no negatives (except at the extreme end, some privacy issues). The reduction of energy use and waste, real time monitoring of problems macro and micro, exponentially greater efficiency, a reduction in the use of oil (and the foreign policy headaches that follow the pipelines), greater control by consumers -- all with make the world a better place, right under our noses. The US economy now faces its greatest challenge: The drain of the world's best minds from our universities (and the lack of qualified minds from within our own borders) will sap the innovations that companies and utilities need to prosper; the fact that the US has always striven to innovate itself out of a recession-- with the exception of nanotech, the US does not have a commanding edge over other economies this time around, in fact is severely lagging in many industries; and the fact that the infrastructure in the US is hobbled by lack of political will (the biggest pork barrel of all--why is it empty?) and by short term balance sheets. Many companies are being too knee-jerk conservative to break out of the status quo into the new, very real, world. Yet the coming revolutions in green, nano, and smart grid are coming fast, and will actually SAVE companies millions of dollars in the long term. According to IBM's Rich Lechner, "for every dollar saved on energy, there's an additional $6 to $8 in operational savings" (Newsweek). We need massive funding (an "Apollo program") of R&D to make the systems interoperable, flexible and future-proof. If the shareholders could allow for long term investment at the temporary short term hit, we would all be better off.