The Smart Grid Explosion, with 631,647,134 Smart Meters & Counting
Just as it is hard to imagine a world without personal computers and wireless access to the internet, some day it will be equally difficult to imagine a world without smart meters, smart energy distribution grids, home power generation, and bidirectional power management in and out of the home.
There are other similarities to the internet as well, especially with regards to how long it took before the general public even knew it existed — and even longer to start using it on a widespread basis. All while the entire infrastructure was in place, data was humming back and forth between its nodes, and multiple companies were already marking their turf to make billions of dollars in this emerging field.
Getting even more specific for this example, a recent Harris Poll said that 68% of people in the U.S. don’t know the term “Smart Grid” and 63% don’t know what a Smart Meter is. (See “The Smart Grid is Coming! What’s a Smart Grid?” for more details.)
Regular readers of this blog are definitely more “up” on new technologies and strategic innovation than the general public, of course. They understand the basics of the Smart Meter itself which, in its initial incarnation, allows for time-of-day monitoring of power use in homes and commercial buildings. They are also aware that other versions will be able to dynamically and remotely turn appliances on and off to regulate peak demand, to monitor excess power being generated by a home’s own power sources (which might include Solar Cells and micro Wind Turbines, among other things) and even regulate the transmission of that power into and out of the regional Smart (Electric) Grid, and even to provide on demand home power management information via the Internet. All of which they realize will enable dramatic power savings worldwide while creating the next wave of technology billionaires in the process.
What even those who are this aware probably do not realize about this industry is already how fast it is grown, so quietly in the background and even in their own backyard.
Did you know, for example, that Pacific Gas & Electric of California has installed 4.6 million Smart Meters as of January 2010. and that they also plan to install a total of 12 million Smart Meters covering some 80% of the state’s population by 2012?
On a worldwide scale, the number and complexity of Smart Grid projects is even more staggering. Before I give you the numbers, I invite you to play around with the following Google Map Mashup put together by Meterpedia.com. Wait for it to load, then check out the massive number of circles shown on the map, each of which marks the geographical center location for a given specific project. Click on any of the colored circles on the map and you will see further details and links to the specific Smart Grid activities in that region.
View Smart Metering Projects Map in a larger map
Zoom in and you’ll see more projects. Zoom out, move the map around, and you’ll see projects scattered in almost all major (and many minor) population centers around the world.
How big is all of what is shown in this map display? 245 projects representing over 630 million Smart Meters and with project budgets running to $35 billion. (Data again provided by Meterpedia.com.)
And… what is not yet on the map is even bigger. Pike Research, just one of many marketing firms studying this area, has recently estimated that over $200 billion will be spent in this technology area between the years of 2008 and 2015.
With proper system design and integration and with effective systems management protocols in place, these Smart Meters and Smart Grids are already changing how, when, and at what cost we use power in our homes, offices, and production facilities throughout the globe. All on a scale probably very few of you even imagined.
And so it is also that the last paragraph will also bring us to another topic for a future blog, about how poor systems strategy, sloppy tactical implementation, and inadequate engagement of the consumers themselves could dramatically curtail the ultimate effectiveness of such a Smart Grid revolution if we are not careful.
If that happens, you can be sure the failures in this arena will be far more noisy than the current very quiet success of the initial Smart Grid rollouts.
Our follow-up blog on this topic will be out during the week of March 15. (Update: The follow-up blog post was published. See “The Customer at the Center of the Smart Grid“.)