Executives: Smart Grid Will Take Off in the U.S.

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Steve LeVine on September 24

A key part of the Obama Administration’s green-energy policy is the development of a so-called “smart grid.” This is a new electric power system that would coordinate power demand with the fuel supply — for instance, from solar and wind, which only work when there is sun and wind. Green energy won’t work as a reliable electricity source absent an intelligent utility system that can switch back forth among such renewables and fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Today, the Administration sought to streamline the construction of such a system by releasing standards for a grid. Some 565 U.S. utilities are currently vying for $4 billion in Department of Energy grants to develop smart grid technologies.

In terms of concrete illustrations of what the Administration has in mind, as of now there is only one country-wide example of such a system in the world. That system is in Italy. And this week, Livio Gallo — who runs the Italian system for the utility Enel — was in Washington for a big industry conference called GridWeek.

Gallo and other Enel executives spend much of their time explaining to other Europeans and Americans how smart-grid systems work. One thing that I wondered was whether such a system would work in the U.S., the world’s most notoriously profligate user of fossil fuels. Here’s a clip of Gallo’s reply.

Smart grid proponents call it the biggest new technology since the Internet. They say that it will create huge wealth. Guido Bartels, IBM’s general manager for global energy and utilities, thinks the grid in fact will be bigger than the Internet revolution. Here’s a clip from Bartels.

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