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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smart Grid - Let’s not create an Energy Divide

Earlier this week I attended a joint GE/Google event in DC, Plug into the Smart Grid. The event had over 500 attendees and was literally standing room only. Just yesterday I received an invite to a Climate Group teleconference on Smart Grid. With the infrastructure spend and green spend in the stimulus package, a hot topic has become even hotter.

There are many great articles to read on Smart Grid across the Internet and Marc Gunther has written an excellent overview of the GE/Google event.

The focus on green energy, energy efficiency and consumer empowerment was invigorating. I did, however, believe that there was a sustainability angle missing. This was ensuring we do not create an energy divide. There was one question on the topic of protecting consumers and only one of the panelists responded.

The key social/economic sustainability issue in the ICT sector is the digital divide. There are 'haves' and 'have nots' in the ICT world, influenced by such things as prosperity, education, geography and age. Being on the 'have not' side of that divide (not having good access to a computer, broadband line and knowledge of how to use it all) is a self-reinforcing economic and social disadvantage.

As the intelligence of the smart grid is being designed all the participants need to ensure that we do not create an energy divide. And we cannot leave all the responsibility to the regulator. The corporations involved must take a leading role too. As much as we highlight the economic and green benefits of a smart grid, we need to pay corresponding attention to social sustainability matters to ensure we do not inadvertently widen existing social divides by adding an energy divide.

1 comment:

  1. There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. After a brief reprieve gas is inching back up. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now