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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?'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 and a live video stream will begin playing at 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 phantom505 on 6/13/2011 1:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
How many troops in Libya right now? How many sorties are US running over Libya? Who is the only head of state that has carried out terrorist actions that we have proof of? How many died in Iraq? Who ended the war in Iraq? Who killed Osama and crippled al Queda so badly they are on the run? Who's working on getting us out of Afghanistan? What exactly was the point of going into Iraq in the first place?

I'm guessing you don't like the answers to any of those questions.

The stimulus wasn't a trillion dollars, nor was it fully disbursed.

I have never said they can do no wrong, but the Republicans have done very very little correct. They are running congress right now and where are their bright ideas to fix this mess? Let's cut everything!!! Like that would work. And their 2nd plan? Oh they don't have one. Just some radical plan that has no hope of passing. But we can find time to redefine rape and try to jam the Federal and state governments into a woman's uterus. The congressional Republicans are worthless. The Republicans can't even find a candidate to run against Obama. What does that say?

At least I get my information from sources other than winger radio and Faux News. How does it feel to be a loser?

RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 1:15:16 PM , Rating: 2
Straw man, straw man, non-sequitor and straw man.

Got anything else?

RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By phantom505 on 6/13/11, Rating: 0
RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 1:27:39 PM , Rating: 1
You passed by all my questions and launched into a bunch of rhetorical bullshit, and I'm the one refusing to admit things? You didn't even touch on a SINGLE point.

Your guy campaigned that on "DAY ONE" of his presidency, we would be out of the Middle East. That alone nullifies every single point you are trying to make. And please, Bin Laden was NOT a priority, that was intelligence that just fell into his lap. Save the hero angle for other spongeheads.

You can debate me when you decide to stop talking like a Liberal. You can't debate Liberals, you can only beat them.

RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By phantom505 on 6/13/2011 1:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
I answered all your points actually. I'll break it out for ya so you can understand.

Ok so let's assume that Bush got us into a "trillion dollar" unfunded war. Obama then starts a war with Libya AFTER it's clear we're flat broke.

It not a war. Congress could stop it and didn't. See the bottom post to re-read how exactly that went down in the House. Additionally, the Iraq War was never funded except on emergency spending, every year Bush was in office. Nothing new here.

Without Congressional declaration, by the way. How is that any better?

Not even sure what you're asking. Is what any better? You're making much choose between lying us into a war or going after a real terrorist which has been convicted by our allies? Really? You there's a choice?

Tax breaks? Ok, so how exactly was taking a trillion MORE out of the economy for a "stimulus" make that situation any better?

I said it wasn't a trillion dollars, nor was it fully disbursed. I'll add that until that was done the economy kept sinking. Your economic religion apparently prevents you for realizing Keynesian economics have been well proven. Another fact you just won't come to terms with.

Does that meet your satisfaction? So will you kindly return the favor and answer my questions?

RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2011 2:17:09 PM , Rating: 2
Lol so the 4 million a day spent in Libya is coming out of Obama's personal piggy bank? Right...

You know what, I'm just gonna cut this off at the head because I know I'm wasting my time with an idiot. And this proves it;

Keynesian economics have been well proven

Idiot. Thank you for removing all doubt.

By Skywalker123 on 6/15/2011 9:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
You can't help but waste time with an idiot, since that is your greatest claim to fame.

RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By phantom505 on 6/13/2011 1:58:40 PM , Rating: 1
You can debate me when you decide to stop talking like a Liberal. You can't debate Liberals, you can only beat them.


RE: Why don't they address the bigger issues?
By 91TTZ on 6/13/2011 2:36:32 PM , Rating: 3
I 2nd him being an asshole. I'm not even liberal, he's just an abrasive, uneducated little twit.

By Skywalker123 on 6/15/2011 9:57:39 PM , Rating: 2
I will 3rd it.

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