The Smart Grid adds, well, “smarts” to the electricity grid. There are other networks with intelligence in them, such as telecom networks. What lessons can we learn from them as we create the Smart Grid? What can we do make sure we end up making the “Energy Internet” instead of inadvertently creating the “Energy Compuserve?”
The argument against openness of the grid is the requirement for “9 nines” of uptime. Because electricity is the foundation for everything in our society that’s not transportation, opening it up for innovative new products makes electric utilities nervous. However, open systems foster new companies and innovation at a scale that close systems tend not to.
Take the break up of AT&T, once the poster child of why you couldn’t innovate on the network. Back before the breakup, when you could only get two types of phones, the standard one and the Princess phone (both of which you didn’t actually purchase, but that you rented), there was little innovation in modems or other devices that hooked up to the network. Why? Because Ma Bell said it was too “dangerous” to allow other devices on the network for the fear that they could disrupt it. Sound familiar?
While the energy grid is not the telecommunications network, surely there are lessons to be learned from telecom, or network theory in general. That’s what Snodgrass, Fiolet, and I discussed.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the in the midst of defining the Smart Grid standards right now. They’re moving fast, but anyone can participate.