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President Obama long promised a "green grid", now he's finally prepared to unveil a plan for one.

Upgrades to the aging grid, particularly internet-connected load-balancing technologies could greatly reduce power transmission losses and power costs.  (Source: SDrelo)

Some fear that an internet-connected grid could allow for domestic surveillance or allow foreign nations to sabotage the U.S. power system.  (Source: AP Photo)
A "major" technology provider will reportedly be involved

The United States and other nations are preoccupied with how to deploy "greener" energy.  Many argue they should instead be looking at how to cut the approximately 6.5 percent of generated power that is wasted each year in transmission losses. 

Across the U.S. much of the grid is 50 years old or older.  This not only leads to unnecessary waste, it also makes it difficult to wire new power production facilities, such as nuclear, wind, or solar plants into the grid.  Further, it limits the locations where high-power facilities, like server farms, can be located.

I. Obama Ready to Make Good on Smart Grid Promise

When U.S. President Barack Obama took office he promised to address this issue.  Now three years later, under the leadership of Steven Chu, Ph.d, Secretary of the Department of Energy; Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and other officials, he finally appears ready to make good on that promise.

Later today President Obama's staff will deliver a presentation entitled "Building the 21st Century Electric Grid".  The event will be targeted at bringing together the private sector and government resources to help renovate the badly aging grid.

In a press release the government states:
The Administration will announce a number of new public- and private-sector initiatives designed to accelerate the modernization of the nation’s electric infrastructure, bolster electric-grid innovation, and advance a clean energy economy, in part by taking greater advantage of digital and communications or ’smart grid’ technologies.
...
Along with the announcement of new public and private initiatives aimed at building a smarter, expanded grid and empowering consumers, the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) will release a new report: ‘A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid.’ This policy framework charts a collaborative path forward for applying digital information or ’smart grid’ technologies to the nation’s electricity infrastructure to facilitate the integration of renewable sources of power into the grid; help accommodate the growing number of electric vehicles; help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur; and reduce the need for new power plants.
II. Google Gets Involved?

SmartGridNews.com's chief analyst, Jesse Berst, reports that the administration will partner with "at least one technology vendor."  If this is true it should be intriguing to see who that partner is.

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) is one familiar face in the smart grid movement, having long plugged greening the grid.  Newer players include Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "Hohm" service and Google Inc.'s (GOOG) "PowerMeter" service.

If one had to guess, Google seems the most likely partner for the job.  The white house press release hints at internet connectedness for the grid, and Google is the king of all things internet.  Further, President Obama has a close relationship with Google and its executive management.

A few leading utilities will also be brought on board.  We'd expected "green-minded" west coast players like Pacific Gas & Electric, Comp. (PCG) to get onboard here.

Mr. Berst claims, "Our sources say the announcements will include a new nonprofit to encourage rapid implementation of consumer tools for choice and control."

III. Privacy, Security Issues Loom

An important elephant in the closet few are discussing is that a connected grid could lead to some privacy and security issues. 

Many sources have pointed out that an internet-connected smart grid would be a far easier target for sabotage by foreign agents than a traditional "dumb grid".  If critical systems were broken into, there's a very real potential for loss of power -- and loss of life.

Further, with your power usage on the internet, it's possible for remote snooping by either the government or malicious individuals.  This is arguably a lesser risk, in that it would require a great deal of effort and ultimately offer relatively little reward (power usage statistics aren't exactly the most sensitive piece of private information).

That said, some critics feel connecting the grid to the internet will compromise their privacy.  Some argue that it's the government sticking its nose in one more place that it doesn't belong.

IV. Check Out the Press Conference Online

Press release will be posted online at whitehouse.gov/ostp and a live video stream will begin playing at whitehouse.gov/live at 10:00 a.m. EST.

UPDATED: Monday, June 13, 2011 10:10 a.m.-

The presentation thus far has had few surprises, and fewer still details.  Full of anecdotal tales and historical references, but short on actual concrete plans for smart grid implementation, the presentation felt more like "Grid 101" than a clear blueprint for progress.

The White House press release [PDF] does offer a few details on what the new plan entails, at least.  It writes that the U.S. government will:
  • Offer $250M USD in guaranteed government loans to utilities and IT partners to deploy smart grid technologies -- this is in addition to the $4.5B USD from the Recovery Act that was pledged to the smart grid.
  • Create a new executive branch entity called the "Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team" whose purpose is to clear the red tape, expediting the permitting process for new alternative energy installations and new grid upgrades.
  • Create a private sector initiative called Grid 21 to connect the public with smart grid players to get clear and informative data.
  • Hold local "peer-to-peer" meetings to involve local governments in the "smart grid" buildup.
This all sounds fine and good, but the Recovery Act "smart grid" investment didn't exactly transform the nation's decrepit grid in any substantial way, so it's unclear how 1/18th of that investment amount in guaranteed loans will make much difference.

Secretary Chu at least acknowledged the security concerns to some extent, stating, "I think all the utilities are very aware that you need the security so someone can't just hack in and see a customer's usage data."

Supporters of the "smart grid" movement will find it nice to see a verbal commitment and a bit of enthusiasm, but ultimately the policy appears mostly political posturing.  Real change will have to come from the private sector; unfortunately many utilities seem relatively unwilling to make major changes.  It appears that the best hope for a true smart grid will lie with tech innovators like Google, Microsoft, and IBM, who can pressure utilities to adopt new technologies in some areas.

Stay tuned for more details.


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RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/13/2011 10:56:54 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
The biggest issue is the issue of overpopulation. You have more and more people competing for a limited amount of resources. If you proactively limited the population you'd have a smaller number of people that enjoy a higher standard of living. With unrestrained population growth, the population will be resource starved and will still ultimately be limited by starvation, disease, etc.

Err... the U.S. population's annual growth rate is 0.963 percent... hardly a pressing emergency.

Source:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world...

Further, I think most educated people in industrialized nations agree that birth control is a wise idea to avoid unwanted pregnancy and use it. The problem is in the poverty and lack of education in the third world and developing nations, where the population is growing greatly.

But other than try to promote their greater prosperity, how exactly do you suggest we "control" the population? Your talk sounds dangerously close to the promotion of genocide...
quote:
It seems that people aren't willing to watch others die due to starvation, but when you suggest that you limit the population to an amount that's manageable, they don't like that either.

When the population exceeds the amount that the Earth can hold, it should be logical and feasible by then to colonize solar or extrasolar planets, moons, and asteroids...


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Spuke on 6/13/2011 11:25:21 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Err... the U.S. population's annual growth rate is 0.963 percent... hardly a pressing emergency.
Yep. And in some European countries, population "growth" is in the negative and has been for quite some time. Western nations are in the VAST minority here. Jesus, are we to blame for everything?


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 11:29:12 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Jesus, are we to blame for everything?


Of course we are. He's a Liberal, it's always our fault. Remember?


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By 91TTZ on 6/13/2011 11:41:29 AM , Rating: 2
Who's a liberal? I hope you didn't mean me.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 12:45:37 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, correction. You're just a moron. Population control? Seriously...


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By 91TTZ on 6/13/2011 2:30:52 PM , Rating: 1
You're the one sounding moronic right now. Why are you resorting to name calling in an otherwise civilized conversation? What is wrong with population control?

Population will be controlled one way or another, whether through planning (prevention) or through nature (disease/famine). I personally would rather have population controlled through planning and not have people suffering.

Personally, I think you're offended because you have very poor comprehension that you think that population control has to mean killing people off (as you mistakenly claimed in your earlier post). Your idiocy saddens me.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/11, Rating: 0
RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By 91TTZ on 6/13/2011 2:46:05 PM , Rating: 1
You participate in the discussion like an emotional 16 year old kid. You have a lot to learn about getting along with people.

Even when I see you reply to other people in other topics, you're nasty and abrasive. Your style makes you accumulate enemies and it's no surprise that you find yourself without allies in an argument. Even when I agree with the point you're trying to make, when I see you behaving this way I go out of my way to mod you down.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 5:58:49 PM , Rating: 1
Eric said:

quote:
Agreed, and we really don't need to do anything for this problem to fix itself. Just step back and let the fuckers annihilate themselves. It's always the bottom of the barrel that seems to be reproducing the most - an uncanny likeness to other pests like insects and rats.


THIS sounds like something like an "emotional 16 year old kid" would say. But because he's agreeing with you, you have no problem with "fuckers annihilating themselves" and his clearly bigoted views, that YOUR suggestions are supporting.

It's kinda hard to not get "emotional" when someone like you comes in with some "logical" suggestion that's off base, and goes against everything we believe in. Jason Mick and others haven't been "nasty and abrasive", yet you still don't seem to get it. Sometimes a punch in the face works better than a pat on the ass.

quote:
Even when I agree with the point you're trying to make, when I see you behaving this way I go out of my way to mod you down.


Now who's being emotional? So you have a grudge.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By 91TTZ on 6/14/2011 3:31:08 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
THIS sounds like something like an "emotional 16 year old kid" would say. But because he's agreeing with you, you have no problem with "fuckers annihilating themselves" and his clearly bigoted views, that YOUR suggestions are supporting.


Someone else said that, not me. I can't be held responsible for the comments of people I don't even know and have never talked to.

quote:
It's kinda hard to not get "emotional" when someone like you comes in with some "logical" suggestion that's off base, and goes against everything we believe in.


No, it goes against what you believe in.


By Reclaimer77 on 6/14/2011 3:37:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Someone else said that, not me. I can't be held responsible for the comments of people I don't even know and have never talked to.


You didn't' come down on him, but you're coming down on me. So it's agreement by omission. Don't play silly mind games with me, you completely agree with him. Even now you can't bring yourself to denounce his post.

quote:
No, it goes against what you believe in.


It's funny how you think this is a Right vs. Left issue. If you took a poll, the HUGE majority of this country would be against your population control proposals. You're an idiot if you think I'm in some minority here.


By Skywalker123 on 6/15/2011 9:49:41 PM , Rating: 2
You never want to discuss good ideas, just the stupid ones


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By 91TTZ on 6/13/2011 11:39:37 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Err... the U.S. population's annual growth rate is 0.963 percent... hardly a pressing emergency.


It isn't the population growth in the US or other developed countries that's the problem, it's the growth in places like China, India, and the Middle East. As these people begin to use more fuel, it raises the price of the commoditiy and makes it unaffordable by poorer people.

quote:
But other than try to promote their greater prosperity, how exactly do you suggest we "control" the population? Your talk sounds dangerously close to the promotion of genocide...


That's a pretty ridiculous leap in logic you just made. I clearly stated in my post "unrestrained population growth"; I did not say they should cull the existing population.

Alarmist claims like that serve only to make the problem worse. It shocks people and makes them afraid to take a planned approach to the problem. Instead, people temporarily rally around emotional causes, only to leave those people to fend for themselves when that movement loses its star appeal.


By EricMartello on 6/13/2011 2:19:58 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
It isn't the population growth in the US or other developed countries that's the problem, it's the growth in places like China, India, and the Middle East. As these people begin to use more fuel, it raises the price of the commoditiy and makes it unaffordable by poorer people.


Agreed, and we really don't need to do anything for this problem to fix itself. Just step back and let the fuckers annihilate themselves. It's always the bottom of the barrel that seems to be reproducing the most - an uncanny likeness to other pests like insects and rats.

quote:
No it's been slowly dying due to countless politicians like Obama who see NASA as a boondoggle taking money away from inner city "urban programs" and entitlement programs. The manned space flight program has been plagued from the very beginning by short sighted politicians who believed what little funding NASA did receive would be better spent on welfare and other entitlement programs for America's "urban" population to buy votes to the determent of mankind.


That brings up a good point - the population in the US may not be growing explosively, but a lot of it is dead weight being supported by these entitlement programs that exist at the expense of stuff like our space program. The morons of society reproduce the most and populate the ranks with even more stupid. Watch the movie "Idiocracy" to get an idea of where the US is headed on its current course.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By phantom505 on 6/13/2011 11:59:52 AM , Rating: 2
Read more Isaac Asimov. We'll dig into the crust and eat fungi before we put any effort to explore space in a meaningful way.


By kb9fcc on 6/13/2011 12:56:53 PM , Rating: 3
Yeast, actually. Wait a sec, yeast ... hmm ... beer. OK, I'm ready.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 12:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
Since the only manned exploration vessel in existence has just been cancelled by the Obama administration, I fear you might be right...


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By phantom505 on 6/13/2011 1:25:53 PM , Rating: 3
It was dead way before Obama.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 1:56:05 PM , Rating: 3
No it's been slowly dying due to countless politicians like Obama who see NASA as a boondoggle taking money away from inner city "urban programs" and entitlement programs. The manned space flight program has been plagued from the very beginning by short sighted politicians who believed what little funding NASA did receive would be better spent on welfare and other entitlement programs for America's "urban" population to buy votes to the determent of mankind.

It wasn't dead, yet. He killed it. The man could find a trillion dollars to spend on thin air, but keeping the shuttle going or building next-gen replacements wouldn't buy him a re-election now would it?


By highlander2107 on 6/13/2011 2:13:50 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong.

Project was over budget and behind schedule when Obama got it. Politicians had nothing to do with it.

Obama has SAVED NASA by forcing them to buy rockets from the FREE MARKET.

Right wing nutt-jobs never know what they're talking about. Must come with the territory.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 2:25:14 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.nss.org/resources/library/shuttledecisi...

Get a clue. Of course they were "over budget", their budget was ridiculously small for the massive scope they were tasked!

quote:
Obama has SAVED NASA by forcing them to buy rockets from the FREE MARKET.


Interesting that the ONLY free market approach the man has ever supported comes at the cost of space exploration. Saved NASA? You're insane! He's crippled it!! He turned it from space exploration to directing them to studying Earth sciences and the climate! Wtf do you get this stuff?

They no longer have the budget to explore space or even to explore the OPTIONS to exploring space. A free market rocket isn't even the point.


By ekv on 6/13/2011 3:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Interesting that the ONLY free market approach the man has ever supported comes at the cost of space exploration.
Of all the things that could've had a "free market approach" ... NASA was chosen to be the butt of Obama's budget-cutting. At the time of O's proposal it really struck me as odd. Why not a "free market approach" for health care, or smart grids, or ... ad nauseam. NASA hasn't been re-visited by O's hype/propaganda machine so I can only assume even he thinks it is effectively dealt with.

To me, O doesn't give a damn about the space program. It could be that his background taints his perspective on the utility of NASA. One of the few gov't agencies that has had a positive impact on our economy (given the number of tech spin-offs). Not to mention the jobs that are being lost here. It truly is tech that cannot be replaced and certainly cannot be recreated overnight. Once the engineers move on, that's it.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By delphinus100 on 6/13/2011 10:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
Constellation was underfunded from day one.

But that's okay, It would've been unaffordable by any administration.

Even left to itself, Ares-1/Orion would've been able to do Earth-orbit missions by 2017...Ares-V might have been able to get three guys to the Moon by 2030.

Three on the surface instead of two (no funding for the expendable Altair lander, BTW), with stay times not much longer than Apollo. One, maybe two missions per year.

This is your idea of manned exploration? Apollo 1.1, at maybe 2x Apollo price? (and nothing in there about Mars...Orion would never go there by itself...even a pair of them to a NEO is pushing it)

Come on. We can get more bang for the buck than that, and if we don't get sucked into the equally unnecessary SLS, we will. (I can live with Orion alone, as long as it launches on existing vehicles, like Delta IV Heavy.)

quote:
but keeping the shuttle going or building next-gen replacements wouldn't buy him a re-election now would it?


No, and no politician ever won or lost an election over their NASA support, or lack of it. It's important to you and me (though in clearly different ways), but the truth is, it's just not important to the majority of people. I remember the post-Apollo disinterest well enough to know that. Most think 'space is cool,' but not as many want to pay for it.

But again, it's okay. The current NASA budget is adequate to do all sorts of interesting and useful things in manned space flight, if we spend that money right. The real problem will be managing to maintain even its current budget (which Obama had increased, BTW), in a fiscal/political environment where every program will be subject to heavy scrutiny. (And yes, I know it's about 0.6% of the budget, but that does not change what I said.)


By YashBudini on 6/15/2011 1:25:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
if we spend that money right

You mean like when politicians leave politics out of the equation?

How many votes are yes or no based strictly on which party started the bill? Their hatred of the other guy?

Starting to wonder about the former in the phrase "United States."


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