Managing Market Expectactions
A question recently came to mind that I thought might inspire commentary. What do you expect from smart grid efforts? Simple question, but when posed to a variety of different groups can have a dearth of different answers.
In 2010, according to Smartgrid.gov (the US government's website for tracking smart grid spending), the US spent $8.17B on smart grid projects. A little more than half of those funds were supplied by the U.S. government through ARRA funds. Given the size of this expense, it is important to understand expectations of the public-at-large.
Did you expect to see plug-in electrics? Did you expect to see distributed generation? Were you expecting to plug in your electric car at a bank of electric charging stations and zip off after a year of bolstered spending on smart grid projects?
I really hope not, because according to smartgrid.gov, the majority of the money spent on smart grid efforts in 2010 was spent on AMI. And in my opinion this is a good thing. I hate to call AMI the enabler of smart grid, but what the heck, AMI is thought of as the enabler of most end consumer benefits expected from smart grid. The smart meter allows for a digital endpoint, which relays consumption on a near real-time basis. In the end, all portions of transmission and distribution will need an overlying sensor network to enable load balancing, distribution automation, and efficiently deliver electricity.
The end goal of banks of plug-in stations and seamlessly integrated renewable assets may be an end product of smart grid spending, but initial development efforts and spending is well placed on AMI. It really is a "learn to walk before you run" scenario for the utilities industry at large. The first result of smart grid must be improved reliability, followed by balanced capacity and finally the incorporation of new assets from electric vehicles to disassociated renewables.
Do you think smart grid funds were well spent on AMI?