The smart "aughts" or the smart "tweens and teens"?

H. Christine Richards | Dec 29, 2009

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As I checked out the news a few weeks ago, I kept coming across items like "top stories of the decade" or "top fashion guffaws of the decade." It took me a little bit to realize that we're not just coming to the end of another year, but the end of a decade. Whoa. Maybe I just didn't realize it because this decade still doesn't have a name. Is it "the aughts"? Or "the 2000s"? Or the "double zeros"? Or, perhaps I am still burnt out from the millennium change. Anyway, as the new year comes barreling our way, we can't just look at smart grid/intelligent utility changes from 2009 to 2010. We also need to look at changes from the decade we are in now, whatever it is called, to the next decade, the, er, "the 2010s" or "the two thousand tweens and teens" (as some people are threatening to call the next decade).

First of all, looking back at the year, smart grid efforts survived 2009. Looking into 2010, smart grid will still be moving ahead. Of course, the question is whether it will move ahead on its own free will or on government will? In 2010, it will likely be the latter. Recovery act-funded projects will probably dominate the next year, but some other utilities that didn't win funding are still looking to move forward with their projects, though the time frame of those projects will likely be pushed out. The key items to watch for this year -- as well as coming years -- are the outcomes of these recovery act-funded projects. Will they provide the promised benefits? Will consumers accept the changes going on with their electricity? Waiting on these findings pushes our time line further out into the next decade.

There are plenty of research firms out there who think the next decade will bring the smart grid spending peak. A Pike Research report, "Smart Grid Technologies", released on Monday, stated that smart grid infrastructure spending will grow from $10 billion in 2009 to a peak of $35 billion in 2013. The IDC Energy Insights report "North American Intelligent Grid Utility Spending Forecast" found that information and communications technologies spending on smart grid technology will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent to reach $17.5 billion by 2013.

But what about the peak of the smart grid hype? Warren Causey, our vice president for Sierra Energy Group (a division of Energy Central), noted in Monday's Intelligent Utility Daily article as well as one of his blogs last week that he has seen indicators that the smart grid "hype wave" is already beginning to wane. Causey commented that residential demand response will likely go no further than it did in the 1990s and that advanced metering infrastructure will continue to grow, but slowly.

What do you think? What is the connection between smart grid hype and spending? Has 2000 to 2009 been the decade of smart grid or will 2010 to 2019 be the decade of smart grid? Or will there even be a smart grid decade? If so, we have finally found a name for at least one of these decades. If not, then the decade name game will go on.

We look forward to discussing this and other issues with all the players in the emerging intelligent utility. If you have thoughts you'd like to share, please contact me by e-mail at crichards@energycentral.com or by telephone at 303-228-4762.

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