A European perspective on grid modernization
As the laws of physics are the same the world over, I guess it’s no surprise that many of the challenges the US faces as it builds out a smarter grid are the same ones that Europe faces. Now of course there are some unique challenges in the US. Here in Europe, we luckily do not have destructive hurricanes or tornadoes sweeping through vast areas of the grid like those that happen in many US states. We also have very different political systems and social philosophies which one can spend endless hours debating over, but I’d propose that fundamentally the biggest challenge facing both sides of the Atlantic is finding a sustainable business model that works within that country’s and state’s political, regulatory, and economic model.
Let’s face it. One could today, with an unlimited budget, build out a smarter grid that would meet almost all the different drivers one could possibly be faced with. But it would never be economically viable. So technology is not the biggest issue. The trick is to find what “you” can afford. The bigger trick is defining “you.” Depending on the perspective taken, “you” can be the end consumer, the industry, a utility, a state, a country. Each one of the macro or micro goals and challenges from these various perspectives can be very different. But doing nothing until someone somewhere comes up with the ideal sustainable business model that will work for the next 20 years is not an option.
As today’s grid is transformedto meet the needs of the future, I believe its promise hinges on ensuring the requisite connectivity, reliability, and cybersecurity, from generation and transmission to distribution and consumption. At Intel, along with McAfee and Wind River, both wholly owned Intel subsidiaries, we are helping lead the way by delivering building blocks needed for this future. We believe that the right technology can enable a smarter, modernized grid, one founded on connectivity, reliability, and security. I also personally foresee a future where there will be a number of technological breakthroughs in one or more areas of energy generation, energy transportation, energy storage, and energy usage. Just imagine if affordable, safe, and sustainable energy storage technology becomes available for the masses—the game changes completely. Business models change, issues change, and the problems of today will not be the problems of the future. Industry transformation has begun, and it’s only going to accelerate. What’s exciting to me is that ICT will be at the heart of this transformation.