I don't know about you, but between rising gas prices, rising food prices, and rising prices for everything else, I'm rather more interested in energy conservation and affiliated topics that I was before. And, judging by the fact that the Smart Grid movement is gaining momentum, I'm not the only one.
A Smarter Power Grid
First, let's be clear about what we mean when we talk about the so-called Smart Grid. We're talking about an electricity generating and distribution system that integrates communications and monitoring to provide a more robust, reliable, and responsive system. One that allows consumers and utilities to operate more efficiently by knowing how much power they're using, when, and where. The GridWise Alliance is a group of utility companies, automation companies, universities, communications and technology companies who are working with the U.S. Dept. of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability to figure out how to do this and do it well. Go take a look at the list of members to get an idea of how important an effort this is.
If you're interested in staying abreast of the news, check out the Smart Grid Newsletter which includes updates on regulatory issues, deployment, reliability, developing standards, security, and the whole ball of wax.
Getting Frugal with the Electrons
Fundamentally, our electricity infrastructure needs an upgrade. Currently, it'd old, it's creaky, and too many people are using too much power. Also, if you're a consumer trying to conserve energy, it's not particularly easy to track how much electricity you use and when. But it's not just a matter of revamping utilities—groups are forming to develop sustainable building automation systems, too. Earlier this month the EnOcean Alliance was formed to promote self-powered, interoperable wireless building control systems. The article "Intelligent Building Alliance" in New Electronics, gives a little more detail about the organization and its aims.
There's also the Virtual Energy Forum, a 2-day online event scheduled for June 10 and 11 that's designed to help companies learn better, greener energy management methods. These are only a few of the projects underway. If you know of some more worthy candidates, please drop me an email and let me know about them!
The Future Looks Greener?
As a society, we're pretty bad at doing things we should do and significantly better at doing things that we must do. We live in a shrinking world with limited resources. It behooves us to figure out how to use those resources more wisely. Luckily for us, the confluence of environmental awareness, increasing long-term economic pressures on energy prices, and the maturation of a slew of enabling technologies is lighting a fire under a large number of motivated and savvy problem solvers, some of whom have both smarts and deep pockets.