Let me clue you in to a little journalistic secret: few topics on the business/sustainability beat as inherently uninteresting (ok, boring) than the smart grid.
Have you ever struck up a conversation with anyone, outside of work, about the smart grid? I didn’t think so. I mean, this diagram of the smart grid (double-click to enlarge it) from the Consumer Energy Report explains it well but it won’t get many hearts racing with desire.
This is not merely a problem from journalists like me who are occasionally feel obligated to write about the smart grid. It’s a problem for advocates as well–because if people don’t know what the smart grid can do, or they don’t care, or they find the subject so boring they can’t even be bothered to learn, they aren’t likely to support the idea. And since building a smart grid isn’t free–it’ll cost billions of dollars–building it will require people to pay either through their tax dollars or utility bills. So idea will ultimately need some popular support.
The best way to generate interest in the smart grid is, I think, by talking about electric cars. Electric cars are cool. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are going on sale soon. But to get full value of electric cars, we need a smart grid.
I made this argument in a story for News@Cisco, a technology website run by the networking giant. I’m an occasional contributor to the Cisco site; although it’s a corporate site (and Cisco has a strong interest in the smart grid), I’ve been promised by Cisco that I can write what I want on the site, so long as my stories are related to technology. So far they’ve kept that promise. Here’s how my story begins:
If American consumers are going to pay the costs of building a smart electricity grid—an endeavor that will cost billions of dollars—they will want an answer to the question: What’s in it for me?
Right now, most have no clue. Most, in fact, don’t know or care about the smart grid. It’s not a topic of barroom or cocktail chatter—except in a handful of places where smart meters are being blamed, unfairly, for rising electricity costs.
That will likely change with the arrival of plug-in electric cars from automakers including General Motors, Ford and Nissan, which last week announced that its Leaf, will arrive in U.S. and Japanese showrooms this month. Those owners, along with owners of the Chevy Volt and Ford’s Focus EV, set to arrive in showrooms in the next few months, will become advocates for the smart grid for a simple reason—their cool new vehicles will need a smarter grid to operate at maximum efficiency.
Smart Grid Success
The electric car is “the killer app for the smart grid,” says Robbie Diamond, the president and CEO of the Electrification Coalition, a business-backed group that lobbies for the mass deployment of electric cars. A smart grid overlays today’s electricity grid with two-way data communication that allows utilities to better manage the grid and consumers to better understand and control their electricity use.
“Over time, a smart grid is going to be essential if we want to realize the full value of electric cars,” Diamond says.
You can read the rest of the story here.