This past Wednesday, the California Energy Efficiency Council gathered California power industry experts and energy policy leaders together at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto to discuss opportunities for policy progress and business innovation for the smart grid.
As the policy wonk at Silver Spring Networks, I was delighted to participate in the business innovation panel. This was an ideal opportunity to explore far-ranging ideas with a receptive audience that was looking for some provocative thinking. The group already had been regaled by the Brattle Group’s Ahmad Faruqui, guided through the policy discussion by the CPUC’s Nick Chaset, and was looking forward to hearing perspectives from smart grid industry leaders, including larger firms such as Silver Spring Networks, as well as earlier stage companies such as AutoGrid, OhmConnect, and WattzOn.
I challenged the audience to consider how we might adapt the regulatory process to recognize that the evolution of the grid from analog to digital brings new opportunities to deploy multi-function platforms in place of the single-purpose systems of the past. While traditional least-cost planning has succeeded in building a remarkably effective electromechanical grid, this historical approach struggles to accurately value modern platform-oriented systems that integrate myriad functionalities today, and open the door for additional innovations in the future.
I also ventured that today’s disjointed energy policy environment can lack sufficient linkages with policies that encourage economic development and technology innovation. The policy does successfully accomplish grid infrastructure being built, but we face inherent challenges in furthering that smart grid foundation to usher in the Internet of Things. More direct policy coordination between electricity regulation and other areas, such as policies governing water, transportation, security, health, etc., will be vital to accelerate the intelligence of all this mission-critical infrastructure.
Most attendees at Wednesday’s event were in agreement with this line of thinking. Hopefully, the industry will find ways to build and execute on that smarter future, together.
Michael Jung is the Policy Director for Silver Spring Networks