Smart Grid: Is it a technology or a social issue?
Smart Grid technologies are evolving and Utilities, across the world, are experimenting with many technologies. Specifically Advanced Metering infrastructure (AMI) has taken a front seat and large scale AMI projects are happening. But still Utilities are trying to figure out what this plethora of technologies mean to them and what should they be doing? No doubt this is a difficult question and there is no single answer for this. But the way I like to define Smart Grid is:
"Smart Grid is the application of technology to solve socio-economic problems"
It's very clear that that technology revolution will play a key role in transformation of the electricity industry but to get maximum value out of the technology investment it's important to think through the social, economic and policy aspects of the things.
Socio-economic situation will vary from place to place; it can be different for an area, region, state, country and customers (Gen X, Y, Z). I'll go a step further and argue that each customer is unique and has a different requirement so we have to be cognizant of this fact and try to treat every customer uniquely. There is no "one size fits all" solution for such problems. So, it's not technology alone but the application of technology to solve the socio-economic problems that will make the difference in the long run.
From Utility perspective, another important aspect is the cost of bringing such huge socio-economic change. While preparing business case for such investments, the benefits should not be limited to the value created for the company but it should also consider the larger "societal" benefits. Lot more disruptive thinking is required to think through the need for such investments and get benefits out of it. Another important aspect is to define clear performance measures/metrics to monitor the results of such a program and use it throughout the program lifecycle. A robust measurement and monitoring framework should be established within the organization and outside to monitor the progress.
To facilitate decision making for such investments, Pilot projects play an important role in proving the technology before wide scale deployment but it's often difficult to access the social acceptance and impact of the technology. The use of "Serious Gaming" can be explored to get an idea of challenges and opportunities that any such large scale technology transformation program can present.