Clean Energy; Sustainability; The Smart Grid

Clean energy continues to be hot, and Massachusetts hosted numerous clean energy events in November, a few of which are mentioned here…

UMass Amherst hosted its Clean Energy Connections” conference in Springfield.  One of the more interesting presentations was given by Truman Semans from Green Order (a management consulting firm which focuses on sustainability).  Truman’s presentation described corporate trends in sustainability and  gave case studies from  several Green Order clients.  Other presentations from the Clean Energy Connections conference can be found here.


IEEE Boston convened a forum at MIT on the topic of Moving Toward a Smarter Electric Grid.” Topics covered by the panelists included: the necessity of standards/interoperability, evaluation of the impacts which PHEV battery charging periods may have in system operation, and comparisons of smart grid deployments around the globe.

Several soundbites from the panelists:

  • NIST has currently identified 22 categories of stakeholders who must work together for Smart Grid interoperability.
  • The idle capacity of today’s grid could power 70% of the energy needs of today’s cars and trucks.
  • Some cleverly call the Smart Grid the “Enernet” (Energy Internet)
  • A true Smart Grid creates “ProSumers” (People become both producers and consumers.)
  • Utilities ranked “advanced control” (data management systems that provide automated decision-making) rather than Demand Response (DR) as the top smart grid application in a recent Pacific Crest Mosaic Smart Grid survey.


MIT hosted an FCC “Field Hearing on Energy ,the Environment and Smart Grid Communications.” Among the takeaways from the panel:

  • The government should find ways to incent broadband networks and utilities to work together in new ways.
  • Ubiquitous deployment of broadband  is a prerequisite to making the national smart grid a reality. (There are still areas in the US where broadband is accessible to less than 35% of the population!)
  • The Smart Grid will save energy ($20B  to $40B over the next decade) due  to remote monitoring, energy management and telecommuting.

Other quotables and factoids from the FCC hearing:

  • “Smart Grid and broadband are first cousins.”
    – (Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman, son of an MIT alumnus)
  • “Smart Grid is the Electricity Internet;” “We need to move from iPhones to iFridges;”  “Governor Deval Patrick is rebranding Massachusetts, from ‘The Bay State’ to ‘The Brain State’… and we need to re-brand ourselves as ‘The Brain Country.'”
    – Rep. Ed Markey, D, MA; former chair of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee and current chair of a special committee on energy and global warming
  • It is important to enable consumer price signals.
  • 15% of grid capacity is required for dealing with the 88 annual hours of 1% peak usage. This is where Demand Response (DR) has added value.
  • CleanTech is the biggest wedge in the VC “pie,” but Smart Grid does not yet account for as much of that CleanTech wedge as it should .
  • Open standards and “plug and play” interoperability are key.
  • Consumers need real-time visibility into their own energy consumption (which will incent energy conservation).
  • Tendril‘s fastest growing market provides smart-grid-like services by leveraging “chirps” from existing meters married to broadband (without AMI / smart meters).
  • Consumer pull will be the ultimate driver of change.
  • Innovation (and  risk!) must be allowed (which means large incumbents must be allowed to fail).
  • Zigbee protocols (or similar) should be natively integrated into broadband modems (to allow cheaper/easier grid interfaces).
  • Smart Grid related  companies at the Technology Showcase tables included Verisae, iControl, EnergyHub and others.

Additional coverage of the “FCC Field Hearing on Energy, the Environment and Smart Grid Communications” and related info is below:

Additional contact info:, Twitter: @tonyparham

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