A smart grid is a transactive grid.
- Lynne Kiesling
The Year of Social Utilities: Why The Smart Grid Needs A Facebook

As frequent readers know, we’ve long championed consumer engagement with the smart grid via durable remunerative incentives.  We believe lasting engagement will only truly be cemented by giving consumers transactional capabilities with the smart grid.  There is, however, another aspect that we have been watching and – to shine some light on it – we’re going to call 2011 the Year of Social Utilities.

With over half a billion users and open graph integration, Facebook is the Internet with social graph at its core. This is as much of a game-changer (due to a new distribution model based on the social graph) as going from offline to the Internet was in the 90s. A number of startup companies – social utilities – are leveraging the social graph to potentially disrupt traditional online businesses. In this case of the smart grid, I think utilities themselves will need to be more creative and more social to gain the Internet’s most world-changing benefit, the democratization of information — the production, distribution and consumption of data by everyday us, free from gatekeepers.  As this article notes:

“…The Internet’s emergence – and our misunderstanding of what it would become – may provide hints about the future of smart grid. After all, many parallels exist between the two.

The Internet offered up democratization of information; smart grid promises democratization of electricity, giving consumers the ability to control at their fingertips power production, distribution and consumption. Indeed, if smart grid’s vision plays out to its fullest, you in essence become the power plant. Your in-home generators produce power that is stored by your plug-in electric vehicle, and your home computer controls the electricity distribution. The end game is energy savings and lower costs.

Some argue that the smart grid revolution will have a more profound impact on how we live than did the Internet. The megawatt, after all, is more powerful then the megabyte. Without the megawatt, the megabyte could not be.

Forty- years ago we had a pretty bland vision of the coming Internet. Had we been worried then about getting people to use the Internet – the way we now worry about getting them to use smart grid devices — we probably would have plumbed the depths of behavioral psychology for strategies. We would have asked: Can we get people to use the Internet if we show them that their neighbors do? How about if we demonstrate to them how much money the Internet will save them? Will they shop on the Internet if we explain to them it is better for the environment than driving to the store?

And, of course, all of that hand-wringing would have been a waste of time. What did it take to get people to use the Internet? Some really smart kids in dorm rooms with bright ideas: Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg and the like.

The electric power industry needs its own crop of dorm room geniuses that will find ways to make the smart grid irresistible to the consumer. If they emerge, maybe the next generation of parents will be lecturing their kids to get off the kilowatt zapper and go outside and play. After all, you can’t spend your whole day eking energy savings from the house.”



This entry was posted on Sunday, December 12th, 2010 at 3:11 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Authors
Grid Unlocked is powered by two eco-preneurs who analyze and reference articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between smart meters, smart grids, and above all: smart markets.

Based on decades of experience and interest in conservation, Monty Simus and Jamie Workman believe that a truly “smart” grid must be a “transactive” grid, unshackled from its current status as a so-called “natural monopoly.”

In short, an unlocked grid must adopt and harness the power of markets to incentivize individual users, linked to each other on a large scale, who change consumptive behavior in creative ways that drive efficiency and bring equity to use of the planet's finite and increasingly scarce resources.