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September 14, 2010
September 14, 2010

Smart Grid Summit Interview: The Smart Grid Decade Has Arrived

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

While the headlines continue to focus on cloud computing and Unified Communications (News - Alert), there are significant trends within the utility market that are overlapping with communications as technologies move forward. As for the most significant trend impacting the utility market, Smart Grid Library Managing Director Christine Hertzog pointed to the new and improved customer orientation. 

Hertzog recently participated in a TMCnet interview in which she shared that she would like to see all states decouple so utilities are not penalized for helping customers use less electricity. She does believe that the growth of 4G wireless is important to the success of the Smart Grid initiatives and stresses that if you increase the attack surface through interconnected and open communications networks for the grid, security threats may by increased. 

At the same time, the Smart Grid can reduce major security threats. The adoption curve for smart home products will be driven by pure economics as pricing programs must trigger changes in behaviors and purchase decisions. She does believe there is a future for electric cars and notes we are just at the beginning of the Smart Grid.When asked about smartphone/tablet wars, Hertzog pointed out that the Smart Grid technology leadership race is much more important. She also highlights that there is significant overlap between communications and the Smart Grid. 

As for the most overhyped technology, Hertzog pointed to the negative overhyping of smart meters. As for the upcoming Smart Grid Summit, Hertzog is moderating two sessions: Data and Personal Privacy and Wireless Broadband Opportunities. She believes both sessions are important because we all create energy use data and we adopt technology in our homes. The entire conversation follows:

What is the most significant trend impacting the utility market? Why? 

A new and improved customer orientation will be the most significant trend impacting utilities. They have to move from a ratepayer mindset to a consumer-friendly mindset and model. The introductions of new Smart Grid technologies, services, and programs are prompting these changes, and people expect to get advice on energy services from their local utility. Utilities will have to develop consumer enlightenment programs that build relationships in order to become and remain the trusted energy advisors to consumers. 

How much influence should regulators have over Smart Grid initiatives? 

I’d like to see all states decouple so utilities are not penalized for helping their customers use less electricity. That would drive activity beyond Smart Grid initiatives - it would dramatically impact energy efficiency investments too. 

How important is the growth of 4G wireless to the success of Smart Grid initiatives? 

It’s an important arrow in the telecom quiver, but there are many Smart Grid initiatives where success will hinge on human communications.

Don’t Smart Grids potentially present a major security threat? 

That depends on your perspective. On the one hand, you increase the attack surface through an interconnected and open communications network for the grid. On the other hand, a fully-realized Smart Grid would reduce major security threats because it would transform from a highly centralized electricity supply chain to a much more decentralized model with much more resiliency to cyber or physical attack.

How long do you think the adoption curve will be for smart home products? What will drive adoption?    

A number of surveys point to different motivations for consumers making purchase decisions on Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS), smart appliances, and communications devices. The early adopters believe it’s the right thing to do and cost is secondary. But for the majority of Americans, adoption will be driven by pure economics – when a pricing program triggers changes in their behaviors and influences purchase decisions about energy-efficient and responsive appliances and electronics. Utilities have opportunities to speed adoption curves for items such as programmable communicating thermostats when they offer these free or at a low cost for participation in various programs that result in a financial benefit for their customers.       

Is there a future for electric cars? 

Yes, and for electrification of transport in general.   I’d much rather plug in my car to “refuel” and run it with clean, renewable, and local sources of renewable energy than suffer the ongoing inconveniences of fueling and maintaining internal combustion engines and the many expensive externalities of fossil fuels.

Which will be the year of the Smart Grid? 

Because the Smart Grid covers generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption, we’re just in the beginning of the Smart Grid decade.

Who will win the smartphone wars? Tablet wars?

 A much more important question is who will win the Smart Grid technology leadership race. There is no guarantee that the USA will win this one. 

How do you see the communications market overlapping with the Smart Grid space if at all? 

There’s significant overlap. The simplest definition of the Smart Grid is a bi-directional electric and communication network. For the full definition, see the Smart Grid Dictionary, 2nd Edition. Communications will help make previously dumb devices and processes interactive for direct and remote monitoring and management – all across the grid. 

What is the most overhyped technology in your opinion? 

Smart meters have been extremely overhyped in negative ways and mainly because some initial deployments didn’t identify ratepayer reactions as a risk to mitigate nor prepare adequate customer communications in response to complaints. To date, I haven’t heard that smart meters are responsible for crop circles or earthquakes, but given time…. 

You are speaking at the upcoming Smart Grid Summit in Los Angeles. What is your session about? 

I’m moderating two sessions. Data and Personal Privacy on Monday, and Wireless Broadband Opportunities in the Smart Home on Tuesday. 

Why is it a can’t-miss session for attendees? 

The Data and Personal Privacy session is important because we’re all creating energy use data, and there are many questions about potential use and abuse of it. NIST has a privacy subgroup that has been working to develop guidelines around personal data privacy, and all the session participants have been involved in this effort, so you’ll learn the status of that effort plus gain insights into data use perspectives and challenges to educate all stakeholders about data privacy issues. The Wireless Broadband Opportunities in the Home session covers the applications that will be adopted in homes and addresses the challenges to adoption, including the business models that will prove most successful.   All the panelists have extensive background in this subject and will have thoughtful and provocative feedback about their experiences in the industry and spotting trends.  

To find out more about Christine Hertzog and Smart Grid, visit the company at the Smart Grid Summit. To be held Oct. 4 to 6 in Los Angeles and collocated with ITEXPO West 2010, the Smart Grid Summit is the first event of its kind to address the unprecedented opportunity coming from the intersection of two core building blocks of our economy – utilities and communications. This is the event you need to attend if you want to understand the role that IP communications technologies will play in how the Smart Grid evolves – not just for making utilities more efficient, but also for enabling the Smart Home and a new generation of communications innovations. Christine Hertzog is speaking during the Smart Grid Conference. Don’t wait. Register now.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny


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