The Smart Grid is the much-hyped upgrade to our tottering electrical network. Is it a silver bullet or the ultimate wrong turn in America’s technological history?
What worries me is the lack of debate. The Energy industry has managed to line everyone up in favor without any evidence that this is the best thing for the country for the next half century. I want to hear from people interested in challenging the stranglehold the energy industry has on this issue at the moment.
“It is like rebuilding our entire airplane fleet, along with our runways and air traffic system, while the planes are all up in the air filled with passengers,” says Peter Fox-Penner, a principal with the Brattle Group consulting firm. Is that meant to be confidence-inspiring? It sure scares me.
Corporate America wants to spend well over a trillion dollars adding a layer of intelligent technology to the existing grid, managing power flows more effectively and integrating renewable energy. The lobbying is intense as the Infotech companies begin jostling with the Utilities for control.
Critics say it will:
MAINTAIN existing inefficiencies which lose at least 50% of energy from end to end.
HIKE prices for most consumers
REDUCE Energy Security by creating hacker vulnerability
THREATEN individual privacy with a new ”spy in the home.”
Above all, it will cost huge amounts at a time when there are much cheaper alternatives.
Smart Grid boosters include GE, AEP, IBM and the DoE. “The benefits on our side of the meter are substantial,” said Michael Morris, chairman, president and CEO of AEP.
So the Utility companies feel it will benefit their bottom line – no surprises there. And nothing wrong with making a profit. But what if it damages the nation’s energy security?
“The Smart Grid will merely cement into place all the things that are currently wrong with the grid, and then add a few more,” says Carol Overland, a lawyer from Red Wing MN, who spends her professional life in Utility commission hearings trying to beat down the consumer price of electricity gas and water.
The $400 billion per year Electricity industry has not always had Americans best interests at heart. The history of the original US grid is one of shadowy forces led by GE uniting to create “an electrical consciousness” . In 2009 a barrage of Superbowl advertising heralded the new Smart Grid campaign. History is in danger of repeating itself.
I want to go back to the roots of the US power industry to analyse how we got here and where “They” want to take us next. As Telecom lawyer/lobbyist Paul Besozzi of Patton Boggs says: “We’re just kind of at the start of this process.”
Lobbying will be on a grand scale. Meanwhile the sort of small scale solutions that are enabled by new technology are in danger of being overlooked. The “Locavolts” movement in Marin County outside San Francisco is pioneering a direct alternative – local ”microgrids” under the control of the end-users offer a cheaper and cleaner alternative. They are “an antidote to the smart grid” says Peter Asmus – Senior Analyst at Pike Research, a respected energy consultancy.
My book OG contains a chapter which summarises the history of the American Grid, and lays out exactly why the Energy Lobby wants the taxpayer to fork out $1.5 TRILLION to cement the existing failed system into place. I have summarised the chapter here.
As America sleepwalks into the arms of Big Power, lets at least give the public the benefit of a debate.
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
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