WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 – A panel discussion held Wednesday afternoon addressed advances in smart grid technology as well as the challenge ahead for the future, at the 10th annual National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid.
Jason Wilson, Senior Vice President of Business Management and Product Development for On-Ramp Wireless, said that much of the current smart grid growth is not necessarily a result of new technology but rather more affordable technology, allowing utility companies to pursue the creation of smart grids.
This increasing utilization of smart grid technology has led to improved service from utility companies. While they still perform the same functions, they are able to perform those functions much more efficiently and reliably, as Robert Ethier, Vice President of Market Developments for ISO New England, noted.
The panel also discussed the role of smart meters in the development of smart grid technology. A poll of the audience showed that the majority felt that smart meters were over emphasized. The panelists agreed that smart grid technology went far beyond simply utilizing smart meters, but Chris King, Global Chief Regulatory Officer for Siemens Smart Grid claimed that they are a necessary starting point as a means of gathering crucial data.
“[The smart meter] is not going to get you all the way there, but you can’t start without it, Mike Carlson, General Manager for Software Solutions at General Electric Digital Energy, said.
The need for standards was also a major subject of debate among the panelists. Carlson discussed both benefits and disadvantages to the imposition of strict standards. Although they could prevent needless losses, excessive standards may hinder pioneers from innovating, he noted.
Consequently, King praised the National Institute of Standards and Technology for their recommendations. NIST released a number of standards that have applied successfully within the industry without applying any strict mandates.
The panelists also addressed security and privacy concerns associated with smart grid data collection. Kara Rinaldi, Executive Director of the National Home Performance Council, dismissed as overblown and irrational concerns that some people have about others knowing when they are home based on energy use, since potential thieves are highly unlikely to have access to this information.
Rinaldi also noted that most companies in the industry are highly committed to security and must have such a commitment to be successful.
“If you can’t handle security and privacy, you shouldn’t be in this business,” she said.
Additionally, King argued that the benefits from such data collection are far too great to ignore. The more immediate and specific feedback consumers receive about their energy usage, the more likely they are to adjust their use, he noted.